by Rabbi Jack Cohen
Headaches have the tendency to make us forget that we have heads.
Our car gets scratched, and we are so stressed about getting it fixed and what it costs, we lose sight of the fact that we have a car in the first place or the money to pay for it – even if it stings to dish it out. Instead of an hour and fifteen minute commute each way on a crowded bus, we can get to work in twenty minutes, adjust the temperature to our liking, and don’t have to listen to other people’s phone conversations.
There is an embrace of love that surrounds us always, but because it’s always there, it is as invisible to us as the oxygen we breathe.
The living metaphor in nature for this love is dew.
In our modern American lives, most of us live far away from “archaic” agricultural sensitivities. Water comes from the tap. There are also those of us for whom our artesian water comes from volcanic reservoirs, and is carefully bottled for our urban enjoyment.
However, when your life is more closely tied to the earth, if it doesn’t rain, you live off of the dew. In the cold darkness of night, water condenses out of thin air, and as the morning light illuminates our spinning planet, you catch the vista of millions of glittering gems of water droplets generously sprinkled everywhere.
Even when there’s no rain descending from heaven, there is life-giving water that was all around us, but previously invisible.*
We had a small fire during Passover in our apartment.** Thankfully, no one got hurt, and almost no property was permanently damaged. In the midst of three days of cleaning up soot from literally everything we own, and not being able to sleep in our own beds, Calanit and I woke up from our initial annoyed state, complaining about having to deal with this, and realized — whoa — we have a home! Whoa — we have a lot of stuff! Whoa — this could have been so much worse!
Let’s keep our eyes peeled for the dew all around us. If we dew, we may start to see our headaches as opportunities to appreciate that we have heads to ache in the first place.***
*The word for dew in Hebrew is “Tal” טל which is numerically the number 39. (Every Hebrew letter has a corresponding numerical value.) 39 represents the central idea of the central mantra of Judaism, “Hashem is One” ה׳ אחד which also equals 39 (26+13). “God is One” means that God is everywhere –– even where you don’t think He is –– which is precisely the idea of dew. The 39 creative categories we refrain from on Shabbat allow us to appreciate that God’s creativity is everywhere we look in the universe. One last example of many is that the common custom for tying tzitzit, the fringed garments that men wear, is to make 39 loops in between the knots, which spell out — you guessed it — “Hashem is One” ה׳ אחד — we are surrounded by Hashem. We just have to open our eyes to see His love wherever we turn.
**Public service announcement: be very careful with oil candles. Always use a metal tray with borders that would contain any spill from the candles. And, make sure your smoke detectors are working.
***This line is credited to Noah Dinerstein who suffers from serious headaches but manages to keep smiling despite them, and brings smiles to all those around him.