When the renowned Rabbi Milton Steinberg recovered following his heart attack he walked out into the bright midday sun. He thought, “how precious — how careless.” Life is so precious, and we are so careless with it. How can we be so heedless when we know that everything must end? Perhaps we fear that if we care too much, the losses of life will be unbearable.
How should we live, knowing everything can vanish in an instant? This is how Steinberg concludes in words written more than half a century ago: “And only with God can we ease the intolerable tension of our existence. For only when He is given, can we hold life at once infinitely precious and yet as a thing lightly to be surrendered. Only because of Him is it possible for us to clasp the world, but with relaxed hands; to embrace it, but with open arms.”
As this Shabbat approaches, remember Steinberg’s legacy: the wisdom to cherish and to let go. The wisdom of holding with open arms.
Rabbi David Wolpe’s musings are shared in My Jewish Learning’s Shabbat newsletter, Recharge, a weekly collection of readings to refresh your soul. Sign up to receive the newsletter.