It’s incredible to think that it’s been over three years since the onset of the pandemic. It’s already becoming hard to remember just how difficult and anxiety-provoking that time period was.
Yet, there were also some blessings of that period that I remember fondly. One of them was having the opportunity to go for a walk every morning with my wife. After Shacharis and breakfast, we had time to take a stroll around our neighborhood, before all the Zoom and phone call-ins began.
It was this time of the year, and it was a real opportunity for me to watch the dormant trees come to life. I learned the names of many of the trees and recognized the differences between them. I was well aware of the resplendent colors of the leaves in the autumn, just before the leaves fall off the trees and die. But I had never realized how stunning and vivacious the trees were at the beginning of spring.
One morning, as we walked down Tioken Road, about a ten-minute walk from our home, we were surprised to see a small cemetery in between two houses. Were it not for the sign on the edge of the property that read “DeRonde Cemetery: In memory of the veterans interred at this cemetery,” it would be hard to realize that it was anything more than empty land in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
We walked through the old cemetery and tried to make out the worn-out names and dates. Many of the headstones had fallen over and their writing was hardly legible.
I searched online for some information about the cemetery. I learned that there are 48 plots in the cemetery. The first to be buried there was seven-year-old Jane Van Houten on November 2, 1777. The last to be buried there was Margaret De Ronde Bird on December 16, 1893.
I found an email address for a descendant of the De Ronde family. I contacted him and he replied that the family cemetery is on what at one time was the farm of his ancestor, Jacob De Ronde. The De Ronde family was prominent in Rockland County. There were four brothers who served in the nascent army of the colonists during the American Revolution, including Jacob. All those buried there are members of the original De Ronde family.
I wonder what would happen if one day, while walking past the cemetery, I suddenly heard rumbling. A moment later, I would see some groggy-looking individuals wearing antiquated clothing, looking around in confusion. Unbelievably, the dead have been resurrected. They dust off their clothes and begin walking out of the cemetery, trying to digest the vast changes that have occurred since they were last there.
While that may seem like a fantastical story, it’s actually somewhat true, albeit not in the cemetery itself.
Anything extraordinary that occurs only excites us and is considered noteworthy until it is given a scientific name and explanation. Once the “experts” tell us that what occurred has a rational natural explanation, we are no longer impressed, as though now it’s expected.
The advent of spring is no less a miracle than the resurrection of the dead. We fail to appreciate it as such, because it’s a natural occurrence with a rational natural explanation.
If I stand in the same spot where I stood just one month ago, the landscape I see is completely different. Barren branches and bare lawns have transformed into a verdant paradise of stunning pink, red, white, and green.
Someone once commented to Rav Ahron Soloveitchik that he felt that the most beautiful brachah recited during the year is the brachah recited at the conclusion of Maggid at the Seder on Pesach. In that brachah, we thank Hashem for having granted us the unique mitzvos of the night to eat matzah and maror. Then we passionately pray for the day when we will have the opportunity to offer the Korban Pesach and sing a new song of gratitude to Hashem for the miracles of the future redemption.
Rav Ahron replied that, while he agreed that it is a special and moving brachah, in his opinion there is an even more beautiful brachah: the brachah of Asher Yatzar, recited after each time one goes to the bathroom.
Most of us don’t recognize the beauty of that brachah because we fail to recognize the ongoing natural miracle of our bodily functions.
Miracles surround us constantly, but we have to be in tune to recognize them. One should not whistle past the graveyard, nor should one whittle away abounding miracles, particularly during the spring revival.