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My Spiritual Photo Album

My Spiritual Photo Album

Ethics 4:2

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So, it’s time for another family outing. Sunscreen? Check. Snacks and water bottles? Check. Cash? Ummmmm . . . Check. One second, I almost forgot the most important item of all . . . Camera and spare memory card? Check, check!

After all, what value is there to a Kodak moment if there is no Kodak?

Every notable moment of the vacation—If there is no photo of the event, it never really happenedand many of the not-so-notable ones—must be frozen in time for posterity. If the little one feeding the goat wasn’t digitally captured the first time around, we must coax him (and the goat) to do a repeat. For if there is no photo of the event, it never really happened; it may as well have been a dream.

(Ironically, as I was in the middle of writing this piece, the following was posted on my family’s blog by the one arranging our family’s annual summer get-away: “The Silberberg family will soon be invading the great Up North. Our destination is ———. The dates are ———. The way the weather has been, I would advise all to bring sunscreen, bathing attire, and cool clothes. Don’t forget your cameras, too, as we plan to record memories . . .”)

How strange. Most of the time finds us going about our everyday business, while looking forward to those times when we can get away from the drudgery and enjoy some fun and quality family time. Yet, when the awaited time arrives, one of our primary concerns is recording the moment—we’re again looking forward to the future, seeking to ensure that we’ll be able to re-savor the moments when we’re back at home (at which time we will, of course, be hankering for the next vacation).

Do we ever truly live in the present? Think: With the help of some clever advertising, we’ve come to define precious moments as “Kodak moments”!

Children are a different story. It’s yet to happen that any of my children (ranging from ages three to nine) should stop what they’re doing and request that a picture be taken. They’re too busy relishing the moment, taking it all in.

Is it a wonder, then, that time flies for adults, while children experience each day as an eternity? A minute truly experienced lasts way longer than a minute that you have simply passed through while en route to another.


Which leads me to wonder: Am I approaching Judaism and spirituality like a child, or like an adult?

If I honestly analyze my life, I can see that it’s all part of one great plan.The good deeds I do, and the Torah I study, are all leading somewhere The good deeds I do, and the Torah I study, are all leading somewhere. I might be motivated by reward in the next world, or the contentment and fulfillment that derives from leading a spiritual and selfless lifestyle.

I’m building my spiritual photo album. Hopefully, all the pictures will be high resolution, and all graced with genuine smiles.

But perhaps I’m missing out on something. Maybe I could just be living in the present.

Our sages tell us (Ethics 4:2), “The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah.” The chassidic masters explain this to mean that the truest reward of a mitzvah, the reward that surpasses by far all the other returns that a mitzvah garners, is the mitzvah itself.

The ability to connect with an infinite G‑d. The fact that a cosmic speck of dust can bring pleasure to the supreme King of kings—and thereby assume utmost significance.

Delighting in each mitzvah simply for what it is.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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Sue Kanata December 27, 2015

wonderful That whole essay was delightful. Thank you from an ardent photographer (and Mother)! Reply

Ethics of the Fathers is a tractate of the Mishna that details the Torah's views on ethics and interpersonal relationships. Enjoy insights, audio classes and stories on these fascinating topics.