Five months ago, my husband Yoni and I welcomed a baby boy, Noah, who was born with a good set of lungs. We spent many days trying new ways to calm him, to help him find a bit of peace in the chaos that comes as a newborn is trying to find his way in this world.
And ultimately, it came down to one song:
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”
When he hears that song, the tears melt away and peace comes over our baby boy. As a result, time has taken on a new meaning in our lives. A car ride from home to the synagogue is about 25 rounds of You are my sunshine. It takes about 10 rounds for Noah to fall asleep for a nap.
We humans seem to always be counting time. We have markers for different stages of life, and holidays that help us commemorate the time that has passed or look forward to what is to come. We make extra effort to make those days count. But how do we make the in-between days, the “mundane” time, count as well? And what can we do with that mundane time to help make the world a little bit better, one day, one hour, one minute at a time?
Rabbi Hillel gives a suggestion to how we might spend our days. In Pirkei Avot, he says, “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace (rodef sholom), loving the creatures and bringing them closer to Torah.”
We are to spend our days, our “mundane” time, pursuing peace. It is not only our duty to love peace but to pursue it as well. Peace is something that we are supposed to be intentional about creating, rather than passively waiting for it to “happen”. Something is never created out of nothing – it takes perseverance, determination, and practice. And the environment in which we are pursuing this peace doesn’t make it easy – we have to pursue peace in the face of an entire history of hatred, violence and opposition in this world.
So how might we spend our time pursuing peace in the face of all of these challenges? For baby Noah, a little bit of You are my sunshine does the trick (at least for now). In our services we pray for peace. But it starts with us, with you and with me, with our actions and our interactions with others that will begin to fix the brokenness.
Rosh Chodesh Elul is on September 3rd, thus beginning our month of intentional introspection and serious reflection as we count the days leading up to our High Holy Days one month from now. May we enter that sacred space with an intention of celebrating special time together and beginning the year anew, and may we each feel that we have not only hoped for peace, but that we have worked to bring even a little sunshine into the world and into our lives when skies might be grey.
Rabbi Lara Regev