Oy! What’s Your Problem?


Gratitude. It’s a difficult thing to remember. I recall that Oprah, when she had her regular show, had a series on gratitude and there were those that made fun, me included. It was a bit too touchy-feely for me. But life is busy, time passes, we change, and it’s hard to remember to be grateful. In the midst of alarm clocks, subways, deadlines, and crazy holiday crowds in NYC, an attitude of gratitude can be lost. Thankfully, my friend and colleague Susan Cosden reminds me to be grateful every day. On Facebook, she posts daily about what she has to be grateful for. She reminds me that I must force myself to sift through the good,the bad, and the really annoying, to find moments of gratitude. And I am grateful to Susan for her reminders.

I shouldn’t have to search very deeply to find out that I have much to be grateful for. Somedays it seems that I do. But the truth is, I shouldn’t have to. At this ripe old age of, well, let’s just say, it’s ripe, my parents are still alive and sort of healthy. I have a loving life partner who will soon stand next to me under the chuppah. My siblings and their spouses are both healthy and employed. All three of us even have graduate degrees! And I have 5 brilliant, gorgeous adult nieces who are all well on their way (sort of) to finding their life’s path. And let’s not forget two of the sweetest cats you could ever meet.

And yes, my cats wake me up way too early. And yes, my parents still have the ability to drive me nuts sometimes. My job could be…There was another school shooting…Have you seen the JETS and Giants this year. And yes, I wish….and I want… But there is still much to be grateful for. And it is times like this that remind me that I must be grateful.

In Judaism, we have a legal concept called the eruv. The eruv is an artificial border, often a wire, that rings a community to make it one. It could be the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem or the seawall of Manhattan. The purpose of the eruv is to allow people to carry or share from house to house on Shabbat, as if the community was one domain. (Carrying is one of the halachic – legal – prohibitions on Shabbat.) As we move into the future, I wonder if perhaps Facebook has become the new eruv. After all, it allows us to share information without borders, as if we are one domain. It allows us to extend our family and friends, keep in touch with someone you meet at a conference, make a new connection, or keep up with an old one. And it is through Facebook that I have more than once heard of a new baby, a grand child, a wedding. I have also learned sad, sometimes heartbreaking news. News from a parent, a friend, whose child died. Sometimes expected, sometimes not. Heartbreakingly, this has happened more than once. And we draw them close into the eruv.

And now, news of a parent, a member of the Jewish community, whose child has died. Many of us were brought together by the plight of Superman Sam who lost his fight with leukemia. I did not know the Sommer family personally, but they are part of the eruv.

Another rabbi posted about having to officiate at the funeral of his nephew, instead of his bris. I do not know him either,  although I suspect our trays brushed together once at the JTS cafeteria.  He too is part of the eruv.

Two friends lost a parent. We bring them in with virtual hugs.

Yes, there are things to bitch and moan about. A friend was snarky. I had to wait a long time for a bus. The cats got into the garbage yet again. But on the whole, there is much to be grateful for. And there are people out there in real pain who need us.  Maybe if we remember that, we can overcome the truly sucky parts of this project we call life. Then maybe, when sucky times come, we will have the strength to be there for one another.

About Gail F. Nalven

Jewish Educator, Rabbi, Tefillah Leader, Songleader, Teacher, and Freelance Jew
This entry was posted in Judaism, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Oy! What’s Your Problem?

  1. Lynn Lancaster says:


    Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2013 02:07:45 +0000 To: lshl@msn.com

  2. Ann Krauser says:

    No one has come up with a convincing reason for me to join Facebook yet. This might just be it. I mostly find it annoying and overused but it does have its good points as well.

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