Although I have been living in Monsey most of my life, for my first eight years, my family lived on the Lower East Side. During those years, the fall season meant that the leaves on that one tree on the corner would fall off because winter was coming. For the most part, however, things looked the same as always.
When our family moved to Monsey, the fall season became a vastly different experience. We had a spacious backyard with more trees than all of lower Manhattan. Sunday afternoons in November were spent raking the endless fallen leaves into piles. There isn’t quite anything like jumping into a large pile of leaves and getting buried in them.
These days, I don’t know if my children know what a rake looks like. But I still love the stunning foliage during this season. The different colors of the leaves on the trees have a majestic glow that transforms the whole landscape. The knowledge that in a few weeks the trees will be bare, and all that beauty will be just a memory, forces the viewer to appreciate the moment.
This week, our family celebrated the bas mitzvah of our daughter Chayala. Such milestones always generate reflection and perspective. Looking at pictures of years past and trying to figure out where they went is also a reminder that we need to appreciate the beauty and gift of the moment.
It’s also incredible how each of our children is so different. Sometimes we wonder how it’s possible that they are all siblings. But such is the wonder of the way we were created. The beauty of a family lies in the synergistic melding of all the divergent colors, producing a most resplendent hue.
This is not only true about families but about the Jewish people generally. Our nation shares the same roots, firm beliefs, and traditions. But from there, we branch out in many different directions, producing many offshoots, each with its own unique hue and color.
Around the year 1200, Rabbi Avraham HaYarchi published his Sefer HaManhig – (The Book of Customs).
Rabbi Avraham lived primarily in Provence, Southern France, but he traveled extensively and visited many Jewish communities. During his journeys, Rabbi Avraham made a point to observe the customs of every community, noting the variances between them. In Sefer HaManhig, he records the different customs of Jews in Northern France, Southern France, Germany, England, and Spain.
The beauty of the sefer is that the author does not state personal opinions about the legitimacy of any particular custom. In fact, he records that his mission is to demonstrate how each custom has a halachic basis.
In a sense, our different customs and practices comprise the stunning landscape of our nation.
There is tremendous beauty in diversity of color, as long as the color “remains within the lines” and follows a distinct pattern. Although most people have a favorite color, they can also recognize and appreciate other colors, as well.
Allegorically, we need to appreciate the different colors within the Jewish people, within our communities, and, perhaps most significantly, within our own homes.
As long as the leaves remain attached to the tree, their magnificent color will radiate and shine.