Life moves forward. Phases come and go. Situations change. And time continues to move.
I look back and see how I always thought that wherever I was, I would be there forever. I would forever be in elementary school. Then, of course, I’d be forever in high school. As a young newlywed, I thought I’d be at that stage forever – and I certainly couldn’t imagine being the mother of teenagers.
But time does not stand still – and neither do we.
Sometimes we find ourselves in troubling circumstances. A difficult teacher, a fight with a friend or a painful family situation. We might think we’ll be in that situation forever.
Or we can find ourselves in a great situation and loving it. Maybe we have wonderful social status, a great family or a teacher we’re thriving under. We might be lulled into thinking that things will always be pleasant and easy for us.
But I learned that life propels us forward. Ready or not, the phases come and go. It doesn’t only have to do with age. Situations change. The minutes blend into each other, creating hours. The hours merge together forming days. And suddenly we are at a different stage of life.
Actually, I cannot lay sole claim to these observations. Take a look at Pirkei Avos, ה: משנה כה – פרק “בן חמש שנים למקרא, בן עשר שנים למשנה…בן שמונה עשרה לחופה, בן עשרים לרדף…”. The mishnah talks about the stages in life and tells us what a person is ready for at each stage. During each stage there are changes that happen to us, preparing us for the next stage.
As life progresses we are presented with various situations, some difficult and some joyous. But through each one Hashem wants us to grow emotionally, to work on ourselves to change and be ready for the next situation that life will bring. And more: the way we handle the experiences that life hands us will hopefully make us into better ovdei Hashem.
As we came into the season of Purim this year, I remembered how the conversations in my house used to sound. The big decisions were about whether to dress up as a lion or a tiger or maybe even a British soldier.
Boy, how times have changed. Now the conversations are centered around other topics. “Ma, I’ll get drunk anyway, so can’t you buy me schnapps? “Guess what! This year I am smoking on Purim.” I look at my teenage boys and wonder when they got so big. When did we stop deciding which costume they would choose?
Then Purim ended, and I was thrown into Pesach. I remember how Shushan PUrim used to be the start of the countdown for going to spend yom tov with my parents. Now, Shushan Purim is panic day because somewhere along the lines of time I learned how to make Pesach, and it’s time to do it again.
It only seems like minutes from season to season. I have to stop and ask myself – Am I changing, growing emotionally, as my life pulls me along? Did a year’s worth of experiences prepare me for the next set of experiences? Have I grown closer to Hashem? Have I become more compassionate toward others?
The Mishnah can be used as a constant reminder to look at ourselves and evaluate if we are continuing to grow and change through each stage in life.
The Torah gives us all the tools we need to navigate everything we’ll experience. How will we make the most of each life situation? That’s up to us. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes said, “The great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”
Let’s make sure that we are moving in the right direction.