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October 4, 2015

“Yet we also know that there is no gain without pain and that if we wish to be better people we must steel ourselves, to look at ourselves and our actions honestly and truthfully” – Rabbi Berel Wein

Sounds like a motivational quote….

As many of you know nearly 3 months ago I had a bicycle accident. How I actually injured myself I don’t know, I do know I went over a cyclist in front of me who had ridden over a piece of wood. In the process I broke 8 ribs, broke my clavicle (collarbone) and some tiny bones in my spine. I did not have a scratch on me? It was a pretty painful experience!
I thought I would try do a blog linking my injury and recovery to the Jewish festive season and some of the inspiration from the season. The Jewish festive season is a time for growth and inspiration, but we can learn and be inspired from all of life’s experiences.

Rabbi Goodhart spoke about gifts and I noticed a good quote that sums it all up.
“Judaism views life itself as the ultimate gift granted to us by Heaven. As such, it takes the highest prominence and priority. However, most humans, when not in situations of danger and emergency, hardly view their lives in such a perspective. Instead of seeing it as a gift, most humans simply see it as a given state of existence to which they are somehow entitled” – Rabbi Berel Wein

First and foremost I have to be grateful that this accident could have been way worse and thank goodness I am on the mend. But there is something else we can learn from Rabbi Wein’s words and that is we all need to look after ourselves, what are we eating?, are we exercising and are we growing.

2015-09-27 12.07.42In a Drosha on Rosh Hashanah at SpiritShul, Rabbi Menachem Wolf spoke of a Pomegranate. A Pomegranate is one of the holy foods we eat on the 1sy night of Rosh Hashanah. A pomegranate’s abundant seeds symbolize our hopes that we will come before G-d with abundant merits, but Rabbi Wolf asked us how it compares to life. He said that if we don’t get what he said, we will definitely think about it. Here I am writing my thoughts on what he said! One of the answers and something to think about in the context of both my injury and a healthy lifestyle is the seeds represent “us”, and if we look after ourselves we will be nice and juicy and if not we will be dry. The white represent “life” and life can be bitter or hard, but we all need to circumvent it. We are all going to have tough times or unfortunate accidents, but that is life.
During the Shul services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we utter these 3 very famous words – Tefilla (Prayer), Teshuva (Repentance) and Tzedakah (Charity).

In relation to the Tshuva process I noticed this beautiful quote. “I have discovered I am able to endure an incredible amount of punishment and misfortune as long as I am occasionally allowed a few quiet moments to myself – time to restore my spirit, to lick my wounds, to regroup. A little me time and I can deal with anything the world throws my way.” – Beau Taplin // Me Time (self-published author from Melbourne, Australia)

This time of recovery has allowed me to reflect. To tell you the truth, when I had the accident I did not know what had happened, but I truly did not get cross about what had transpired. I accepted that this was part of cycling and I would need to “lick my wounds” and get back up. Others say say Teshuva meant to return or get back. (at the accident scene I could not get up, so my cycling buddies knew that they had to call an ambulance – I thought I was just winded!). I am not going to say that the recovery has been easy and those first few days in hospital were tough. Before Yom Kippur one of the stand out points from a Drosha by Rabbi Noam Sendor was that as much as the fast is about being judged by Hashem, we all need to look and judge ourselves. The recovery process has allowed me to do this. I have also had to re-align my exercise and other goals. My 2015 Goals were gone – No Melbourne Marathon and No Shepp 70.3 Triathlon! There will be future events…and I will RETURN.

I really wanted to focus on the Tzedakah part. In a series of email from the Kolel Beth HaTalmud in Melbourne I learnt that Tzedakah also means Chesed (kindness). Included in acts of Kindness is visiting the sick. This was reiterated in one of the pre Yom Kippur Shiurs from visiting Rabbi Lawrence Perez. Rabbi Perez spoke about how Yom Kippur does not atone for sins between man and man. The point I learnt was how important relationships are and how important it is to foster these relationships and not look for fights, arguments etc.

Words cannot express how grateful I am for all the visits, reading material, meals, drug advice, lifts, help and assistance (forgot to mention the coffee in the hospital) that I have received over the last few months. At times like this my family and I are fortunate to have so many close friends that care … thanks.

Just before Rosh Hashanah in my Facebook post I said that just like the Shofar is not straight so we need to recognise that we have faults, strengths and weaknesses. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are times of “seriousness”, but there is a fast move from the “negative to positive” with Sukkot which is a holiday of Joy. On Sukkot we take the Lulav and Esrog. In contrast to the curved Shofar a Lulav must have a straight spine if it is bent over, then it is not valid for the performance of the mitzvah.
“The Lulav reminds us that we must stand tall, that there are times when contrition and meekness are not appropriate. We must conduct ourselves with principled commitment to our ideas and ideals, being straight and upright in our words and deeds.” – Rabbi Marc Angel

Just like I was bent over when I was injured, I think I have licked my wounds, recovered and now I need to stand tall and move on understanding that there are always going to be risks in doing some of the activities that we love.
In Rabbi Cardoza essay “Joy in insecurity” he makes a beautiful statement – “Indeed, the walls of our worldly sukkah may be shaking, but let us not forget that we have an obligation to decorate its interior.” There are many things that we can learn from what he has said, but one thought is that our bodies are fragile and we need to make sure that we look after ourselves physically and spiritually. We all feel “insecure” making changes or taking the road back to recovery and fitness. I get such joy from the exercise I do, the healthy food I eat and from my learning & growing.

As my friend Anton said – “soon you will be back at your happy place”

“As part of our human nature, we begin a new year with great optimism and hope, though experience has taught us that there is no year that does not contain its share of problems. And some of the challenges that we may face, the very severe ones, are not given to easy solutions. Nevertheless, that in no way dampens our hopes for a year of goodness, success, health and accomplishment.” – Rabbi Wein

To end a quote I have I am sure mentioned before “PAIN is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”
PS – I noticed a new coffee shop #lovegoodcoffee on Beach Road. I was wondering if the name “CHAIN OF FOOLS“ is trying to imply something. Thinking about King Solomon’s famous words while reading Koheles at Shul on Shabbat Chol Hamoed he says “Futility of futilities! – Said Koheles- Futility of futilities! All is futile! What profit has man from all his labor that he toils under the sun?” I think King Solomon is telling us quite the opposite, we need to add SUBSTANCE to our lives. If we don’t do this only then life is “futile”.


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