Avi Narrow-Tilonsky is a member of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Class XX. He is a first year student at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University and also studying Public Administration at Baruch College. Avi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A youth group counselor once wrote in my yearbook “It is special kids like you that keep me coming back.” Among the hundreds of “KIT, have an awesome summer. :)” and other high school-speak comments, this stuck out. It was tremendously powerful for me to be noticed and feel that I made a difference. Even now, many years later, I remember this moment of inspiration.
I once watched a humorous video in which a Jewish comedian asked other Jews if they celebrated Mothers’ Day or if they felt it was a gentile holiday and should not be celebrated. One interviewee commented that he didn’t celebrate since to him every day is mothers’ day. The problem with that is that if every day is mothers’ day then no day is mothers’ day. Special means distinguished or different from what is ordinary. If everything is special then nothing is special. Granted, we should always appreciate our mothers, but that is no reason not to raise the bar on occasion and especially concentrate on our mothers once a year. On the day after Mothers’ Day we should be on a mother loving high. We should be best at loving our mothers on the Monday after the second Sunday in May.
As mothers’ day creates recognition of our mothers’ contributions and accomplishments, the Jewish holidays punctuate the calendar with flashes of brief religious intensity. Holidays charge our spiritual batteries for the rest of the year.
As Jewish leaders, we are charged with the notion of imitatio dei, to echo the acts of God. “Just as He is merciful, so should you be merciful (Shabbat 133b).” Just as Judaism creates for us moments of inspiration that get us through the year, we must create moments of inspiration that empower our congregants, members, friends, and acquaintances. Let’s go write a message in a yearbook. Let’s create a moment that enables a life of Jewish involvement. A fire is lit with a single spark. Let’s be that spark.