By Dr. Michael Schiffman
On the morning of January 1, 2016, I sat on my lanai (a Floridian word for patio), smoking a cigar, drinking a cup of coffee, watching a bald eagle in its nest, while the eagle watched me. Its my morning ritual. As I thought about the eagle, standing on its solitary perch, watching for what comes its way, I identify with it. I have come through a lot this past year, but I look toward the future.
Saying goodbye to 2015 leaves me with mixed feelings. There were some very good things and some very difficult things I went through. My father died. That was difficult. Taking care of my mom has not been easy, but I feel good about it.
We started our congregation, Tikvat Shalom, in 2015, which has been a great blessing to us. Its hard to start a new congregation; its like building a house; you start with one brick, and add the others. In our impatience, we want to see a finished building, but we only just started. Our congregation is not “built,” and is not everything we want it to be, but we are moving in a good steady direction, and look forward to seeing what God will accomplish. As things stand, I love our congregation and everyone is a blessing.
The important thing about 2016, is that I’m not going it alone. I treasure my friendships. My cigar friends mean a lot to me, and have been with me through difficult times. My friends and congregants have been there for me, just as I have been there for them. Its important to be with people, not just when things are easy. One of the most helpful things we can do for one another is to just be there; not giving words of wisdom. Just being there.
I don’t make New Years resolutions, because no one keeps them, including me. I do intend to treat others the way I wish to be treated, and to be kind to people. I do intend to be there for people, even when its uncomfortable to do so. Being there is really all I have to offer.
I hope to see our congregation grow. Every Shabbat, I think what a good service we had. I just wish more people were there to enjoy it. Even if more people don’t come, I have the confidence of what we are doing is good, and we are being blessed.
I look at Chevra USA, our humanitarian work in Eastern Europe and Israel, and am thankful for the opportunity to help the Jewish poor. I hope and pray more people will support our work so we can do more to be a blessing to those in need. Being a very small ministry, we don’t have the funds to accomplish all we could do, but we do what we can.
Life is complex. We make our plans, but things happen that change our plans. Our job is to make the best of it, for ourselves, as well as for others. The people around us affect us. I plan to avoid people who are always negative; who drain the joy from my life, and spend more time with people who are happy and like others to be happy as well.
Mostly, I want my life to be a blessing. When people think of me, I want the thought to bring a smile to their faces. For that to happen, I need to be the kind of person who makes that happen. I am thankful for my life and its blessings. I pray others will be blessed as well.