With the festive holiday of Thanksgiving coming up, I thought that it would be only appropriate to give some long overdue thanks. Often in our lives we miss out on opportunities to give thanks and in other times we give thanks but we may not be entirely sincere in our tone or intent. A flippant “thank you” can sometimes be worse than saying nothing at all. I therefore wish to begin by writing that my intention here is simply to be thankful, with total sincerity. I would like to also write that this is but a small drop in the ocean of thanks that I have. If I were to write out thanks for all that I am thankful for, I would probably still be sitting here next week.
For me it would be impossible to start a list of those to thank without first mentioning G-d, the creator and sustainor of everything in the entirety of the Universe. As I was thinking of people to thank, the first people that came to mind were my parents, as will be written a little later. But if I should be thanking my parents for having raised me and given birth to me, surely then so too I should thank G-d, who created and allows everything to be as it is.
It hasn’t been entirely too long since I have been cognizant of my role as a ben chiuv, obligated in the commandments of the Torah, and I realize that I have been deficient in many ways, but I have tried to grow as best as I could. I continue to make efforts to grow as an Torah observant Jew. My article that I wrote two years ago about the process of becoming frum is one of the few articles that ever got any sort of response, and which to this day continues to get responses. One of the best e-mails I have ever received in response to an article came from a young girl who wrote to me about a year after the article was written. She simply wanted to know if it was worth it, everything that I had gone through to become an observant Jew. My answer was and continues to be, Thank G-d, it has certainly been worth it. Through all of the pain I have gone through and having my heart broken a couple of times, it certainly has been worth it.
I think it was Bill Cosby who once asked why it was that people going up to receive their Academy Awards never start off by saying, “I would like to thank my parents, without whom I would not be here today.” I sometimes watch the presentations just to see if there’s anyone who now would say that, but it always seems to be an endless line of thanks for producers, editors, actors, people in makeup, but never the two people who really did the production job for so many years in the person’s life. Maybe it has something to do with the way that my parents raised me, but I would personally immediately want to thank them, after G-d of course.
That being said, I would like to thank my parents. Over the last twenty six years they have been a tremendous source of strength and support for me. Over the past few years in particular, when so many people of my own age are working full time, getting married, and raising their own families, the fact that my parents haven’t at all come down on me or put on stress to “start living” so to speak has been truly a blessing. Of course, seeing all of my friends in these respective positions alone has been quite a bit of a motivator. My parents have been there for me when I have needed them. Whenever I have a question or I’m not sure about something, I often enough just pick up the phone and call them. They might not always know what the best thing to do is, but they are there, nevertheless, to offer support.
Most of the things that I don’t call my parents about I end up talking to my brother about, most likely because we’re a bit closer in terms of our experiences and generation. When we were younger, we quarreled a bit, but that seems to have stopped, for the most part. It’s interesting that there are a lot of siblings who argue their entire lives, but Michael and I seem to get along quite well. Second to my father, my brother is one of the top people I have the utmost respect for in the world and am never pleased a bit when someone says anything about him that could be construed in a less than pleasant manner. He celebrated his birthday a week ago – being three years older than me. I have so much to be thankful to him, for all of the things that he did for me when we were growing up, to the advice that he gave me while I was figuring out which way was up while in college.
I met Joe a little more than a year ago at Congregation Ohab Zedek. He stood outside on Sunday night together with another gentleman, one who was saying Kaddish. We would talk sometimes. One night after the evening prayers, Joe asked me what the “plan of attack” was, as is one of his expressions. I mentioned in a joking manner that he was surely going to come with me to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. He was more than delighted to, and we sat and talked, me about my search for a job and the person to match me – half soul to half soul. He would talk about life, business, real estate. We went to Starbucks after that on a semi-regular basis, and it was terrific fun.
When then time came for me to go to Monsey, he wished me well and of course asked me to stay in touch. I was less than good about that, but he wasn’t too angry. At one point he sent me a very lovely book that a psychologist wrote, commentary on the weekly Torah reading. That’s just the kind of person he is, thinking about the needs of other people. It was sometime in the springtime, around May, that I asked if I could stay in his apartment for a weekend. Staying was such a delightful fun time that I ended up staying once a month, or twice, during the holy Sabbath. I was able to reconnect to my favorite city in the world, Manhattan, and to enjoy the company of a friend as I seemed so incapable of doing while in Monsey. (Rhymes with lack-of-fun, see?) When the time came and I realized that rabbinical ordination was completely out of my league and I needed to go back to my favorite city to find work (and, again, the other side of the equation, as it were) Joe offered to let me stay in his apartment. I took him up on this offer and up until just this last week, have been staying in his apartment, doing things for him here and there but overall just being the best guest that I could be. I don’t think he has any idea how incredibly thankful I am for everything that he has done for me.
Sheldon Fine of the Young Israel Synagogue of the West Side has also been of tremendous help to me and therefore is also much deserving of thanks. I first met him when I started to pray at the Young Israel Synagogue in the morning, as they had a need for people to come to help make up the minimum of ten adult males that are required for certain parts of the morning service. We would sometimes sit and talk at various Starbucks locations (clearly my idea – makes me wonder how many times I have mentioned Starbucks in the last three years here at Go Inside Magazine) and at one point, Shelly mentioned that I could do things for the synagogue, and they would pay me. I continue to help out the synagogue and he continues to help me in many a way. When I went to the Board of Education to inquire about being a teacher, he went there with me. As someone who had been in the system, so to speak, he was tremendously helpful in finding out whom I should speak to, and where I should go. On top of that, he has excellent fashion sense.
As mentioned above, there are so many other people to mention that should be mentioned, but to mention them all would be to occupy terabytes of space, and to write several tomes lengthier than Infinite Jest. I have to admit that in the midst of writing this I suddenly realized that writing an article about how thankful I am to people is harder than I thought not because of a lack of material but because of having just a bit too much! And there’s the danger that I might, G-d forbid, insult someone because they will not find their name on the list. I would like to therefore thank everyone else who has been in my life and has been as wonderful as you have been, and of course, there is the possibility that I will write another such article in the future.