Whether or not we learn daf yomi, we're all climbers, struggling one day at a time to achieve our goals
As told to C.S. Teitelbaum by David Feiner
I wish I could take a day, really I do, I’m sorry.”
“I think it’s a beautiful idea, but I can’t commit right now.”
It’s not that I don’t want to, but I can’t. Whether it’s dividing sefer Tehillim, or committing to an hour of machsom lefi, or taking on Pirkei Avos learning, each of these are noble, worthwhile ventures usually undertaken for the best of causes — causes dear to my own heart. But I’ve been down this road, and I’ve learned that I have to be honest.
It’s oh-so-easy to say yes, easy and a whole lot more comfortable. But if I capitulate, I know all too well how the scenario will play out. The first few days — maybe even the first week or two — I’ll keep the commitment, but then it won’t get done. Or it will — seven times in one shot the once a week I get to it, or some other incomplete version of the project. Dancing between six children under the age of ten, working, and being spread thin in many productive capacities, how can I take a blanket already too short and snip away at it, even for an objective worthy as this? I can’t be the one to ruin the wholeness and zechus for a person so desperately in need, often a person I love.
So with a great dose of embarrassment and plummeting self-respect that can take me days to get over, I force myself to meekly decline these golden offers.
Then we find out the news. Baba is sick. My loving, gracious grandmother, with her uncanny ability to leave a trail of good feelings, geniality, and clear boxes of pastel-colored mint lentils in her wake, is suffering. Unexpectedly, I find myself making calls and spreadsheets, not as a result of suddenly having the time and structure to fulfill this burning mission, but because… because, well — Baba!
And day after day I fulfill my part in completing sefer Tehillim along with my siblings and cousins. Not surprisingly, I occasionally miss my daily allotment and make it up twice on the morrow, and each Shabbos I say my chelek an extra time, to be on the safe side. But on the whole, my dedication to fulfilling my section means so much to me; I so badly need to do something for Baba.
There are days that I fall into bed late at night with lots left unfinished, because my battery has simply run out. I collapse with barely the energy left to mouth the words of Krias Shema. And as I sink into dreamland, the thought comes flitting through the haze… I didn’t say my Tehillim….
I can’t. I know I can’t. It’s not humanly possible. The weak murmur of consciousness.
But the other voice — the one that never sleeps — fights back.
Can’t?! For Baba?!
And barely prying my eyes open, up and out of bed I climb, and say my Tehillim. For Baba. Yes, I can. And do. Over, over and over again. What I knew was an impossibility becomes reality, colored with love and urgency.
Months later, Baba is no longer with us, but my commitment hasn’t wavered. My life is just as busy, the blanket just as short, but I still hold tight to that impossible reality. I’m still saying those special kapitlach for my special Baba. Every single day.
(Originally featured in 'One Day Closer', Special Supplement, Chanuka/Siyum HaShas 5780)
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