Rogatchi's Talking to the Heights art work , her homage to S.Y. Agnon
Rogatchi's Talking to the Heights art work , her homage to S.Y. AgnonCourtesy of Inna Rogatchi

“Why should I wish to see God better than this day?

I see something of God each hour of the twenty four,

and each moment then;

In the faces of men and women I see God,

and in my own face in the glass;

I find letters from God dropped in the street,

and everyone is signed by God’s name;

And I leave them where they are,

for I know that wheresoe’er I go

Others will punctually come forever and ever.”

(Walt Whitman)

The clouds are brilliant white this morning, laced with a touch of gray. A pale blue sky shimmering with light, in a faint translucent color which is infinite in nature. The sky is of grandness beyond which we can see. Its depth is indiscernible. As one gazes, one’s soul melts into the vastness of eternity.

Perhaps it will rain. Perhaps not.

Perhaps the wind is an indication of showers.

Perhaps the wind will dispel the showers.

What is for certain is only the Now. The Now of wind, of clouds and sky.

Against the backdrop of fear and uncertainty mixed with hope and faith in which we find ourselves today, the clouds are drifting by ever so slowly, an awesome spectacle of bright white and dark gray against the hope of glistening blue whiteness.

The future is unknown, the past open to interpretation. We have only the present, which has just become the past, and paves the way towards the future which has just become the present.

One tries to grasp the moment, only to find that it is elusive. As the glint of sunshine. As the brief touch of a drifting feather.

As the echo of a memory.

We were high school students on a school-bus, my friend Ronda and I, traveling back from a Soviet Jewry rally in New York. (My mother was an ardent activist. "Let My People Go" was the campaign, the vision of enabling our brethren to live freely as Jews in the Promised Land.)

It was a long bus ride. Perhaps we were in a traffic jam.

Our conversation turned towards the meaning of life. We were at that age when we believed life has some meaning which can be understood. Or perhaps that life is meaningless unless its meaning can be understood. And that we actually have the ability to fathom the meaning of life……. something along those lines.

Before I came to the understanding that, on an intimate level, the ‘meaning of life’ is not merely to be fathomed, but also to be created. We are blessed to give meaning to our own lives. Can we truly understand the Divine Purpose of existence? The essential Nature of Life? The essence to this answer may be beyond our grasp, not comprehensible by Man. It is at the moment where the meaning of Life is a mystery that we can find glimmers of its meaning, elusive and permanent, as is Time.

We were on a school-bus.

While discussing the Meaning of Life, we began to discuss the Meaning of Time. Time, constantly changing. Time, by its very nature permanent, eternal, everlasting. And by its same nature temporary, fleeting, evanescent. Try to grasp it and it is gone. Just let it be, and it is here, forever. In the change is the permanence.

We spoke about how Man likes to cherish certain moments in time. These moments do not blend into the backdrop of forgotten moments. Significant occurrences in our lives, a beautiful experience, a breathtaking scene. Important events in our lives, such as jubilant birthdays, holidays. Significant time with people who are important to us. These moments remain in our minds and hearts forever. Throughout our lives.

And yet, one’s own life cannot be recalled in its entirety. It would take an entire lifetime to remember one’s life minute by minute. Such is the nature of memory, which grasps only a passing moment. And the nature of time itself, which is fleeting.

But…… wait.

What determines memory? How do we decide which moments in time to capture, to cherish, to preserve in our thoughts, in our memory?

Can just a random moment be cherished? A moment of no great importance. A moment of no special significance to our lives. Purely a moment in time. The beauty of life in its “Life-ness’”, the now in its “Now-ness”. The wonder of this moment, for no special reason at all other than the fact that it just Is. And by its just being, is Precious.

Can that feeling be remembered forever?

Can we choose a random Moment in Time, and remember it for the rest of our lives?
Such as, for instance…...this moment, Right Now?

"A man's origin is from dust and his destiny is back to dust,… he is likened to…a dissipating cloud, a blowing wind, flying dust, and a fleeting dream." (Unetanneh Tokef prayer said by Ashkenazim on the High Holy Days)

In these days of Suspended Life. When the present has an air of surrealism and timelessness to it. May we be blessed with the wonder and beauty of Life. May we be blessed to find meaning and light shimmering in those moments of seeming insignificance, even of darkness.

To see the beauty which shines through clouds which are both gray and white. In which splendor sparkles through the soft blue of a sky which is changing and yet permanent, ephemeral and yet eternal.

Decades later, my friend Ronda will ask me:

"Do You Remember?"

Dr. Devorah Ungar is an American-born scientist and musician.who mved to Israel 30 years ago.