Friday, April 9, 2010

Parshas Shmini 5770

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shmini – Avos perek 1

25 Nissan (10th day of omer) 5770/ April 9, 2010

No matter where you go these days people are taking pictures. We live in a world of “snappers” and just can't seem to stop taking (and emailing) pictures. Today you don't even need a camera in order to take a picture, because most phones today have picture (and video) taking capability.

Why are we so addicted to pictures?

I believe that one of the main reasons we 'snap' is because we want to preserve the moment. When our child does something cute, we witness stunning scenery, we spend time with good friends, or we are enjoying a wonderful vacation or family time, we take pictures to freeze some of those moments so that we can enjoy them and reflect back on them in the future.

The only problem is that we are often so busy trying to preserve the present for the future, that we fail to fully appreciate and enjoy the present.

I write these words knowing full well that I am being somewhat hypocritical, because I myself am a “snapper”. Please do not misunderstand me. I do not mean to say that pictures are a complete waste of time and energy. Our family has many beautiful albums that we enjoy looking at from time to time, and indeed there are many wonderful memories that we are reminded of when looking at those pictures. But I know that I am often too focused on the pictures.

During trips and outings, Chani often nudges me to put away the camera; “We have enough pictures already. Just enjoy the moment.” I struggle to adhere to her wise advice, fearing that I may lose out on a great snapshot.

You can imagine my chagrin then when during one of our Chol Hamo'ed outings last week my sister took out our camera and realized that I had forgotten to replace the camera's battery which was charging overnight. I had no one to be annoyed at other than myself. I wasn't too keen when everyone laughed and said that I would just have to enjoy the trip without the camera. [By the way, they did regret not having the camera when I donned roller blades and tried to keep up with my son. Suffice it to say that I inadvertently ended up seated on the pavement.]

I should add that, although I sometimes wish it wasn't so, I think it is a hidden blessing that it is prohibited to take pictures on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Our family pictures in front of the Chanukah menorah are very beautiful, but there is no question that there is something subtle lost in the fact that we take pictures during those sublime moments. [I know we could just not take pictures. Thanks for your advice but let's be realistic...]

This year our children made a mock Seder a week before Pesach so that we could compile a 'Staum family haggadah' complete with pictures from their Seder on every page, which we dedicated and gave to our children's grandparents. Although it was beautiful and much appreciated there is undoubtedly something gained by the fact that during the real Seder our complete focus is on the moment, since we cannot take pictures on Yom Tov anyway.

I look at it this way: The Seder is an elite and holy night when we must work on instilling in our progeny the most important tenets of our faith. During the night when we are creating memories for the future we cannot be distracted by efforts to preserve the present.

In closing let me just say that we indeed have some very beautiful pictures from that Chol Hamo'ed outing - thanks to my mother who is a certified “Bubby-snapper” and joined us!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum