Station Identification by Ruchi Koval
It’s my birthday! Not today, but soon, and I know this because my local Federation and my dentist have already wished me a happy 42nd. This brings me great joy, because I love birthdays! It’s Aug. 26, by the way, so mark your calendar.
I robustly welcome each year’s reminder of my age progressing, unlike many of my friends, and you’ll never, ever hear me lie about my age. I think age is a beautiful thing and I’m grateful and blessed to mark each passing year.
Forty-two is a special number. In this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, Moses reviews with his flock some of their sojourns over the previous 40 years. We all know the Jews wandered in the desert, but what many people don’t know is that they made 42 stops, each with a significant purpose, each to complete a certain spiritual task.
Exactly 1 year ago, my father-in-law reached a momentous milestone: He completed Seder Moed, which is a section of the Talmud. One-sixth of the entire Talmud, to be exact. My father-in-law is not a rabbi but rather a businessman, yet he makes time every single day to study Torah. For the past 30 years, he and his study partner (the father-in-law of beloved Dallas city leader Hudy Abrams!) have been working on the section, first in person when both lived in Cleveland, then continuing over the phone when Rabbi Abrams moved away. And now, after 30 years of tenacity and commitment, they had finished.
How to celebrate? My father-in-law considered many things and decided that, as a celebration, he wanted nothing more than to bring his entire family together – eight married children with spouses and grandchildren, from Cleveland, New York, New Jersey and Israel – for a Shabbat weekend. So, we all journeyed to Tarrytown, N.Y., and converged on the DoubleTree Hotel for a Shabbat we will never forget.
On Shabbat afternoon, I spoke. I mentioned this Torah portion and the 42-station project. I mentioned my upcoming 41st birthday wherein I would enter my 42nd year of life. I reflected on the many stations my life had taken until then: moving in right next to my future in-laws as a young girl of 7 from New York; marrying; Israel; Buffalo Grove, Ill.; and finally, Cleveland, where we were blessed to create a beautiful community of growing Jews with which to raise our family. I thanked my in-laws for being beacons and supports to us throughout those previous stations of our lives.
A year later, this past weekend, we again celebrated. This time, a Shabbaton in Burton, Ohio with couples from our own community. And one of our participants, JWRP alumna Shawna Rosner, also mentioned the 42-station journey. She reflected that you need to connect the dots – but that they can only be connected in hindsight. When Moses looked back, he was able to point out to the Jewish people that each station has its own identity and purpose, which is so hard to see while on the journey.
As I prepare to welcome my 43rd year, I welcome the opportunity to reflect back on my stations. To anticipate my as-yet-unknown stations. To connect the dots as much as I can. To recognize that many dots remain unconnected. And finally, to break out some awesome birthday cake.