Gam Zeh Ya’avor
June 5, 2020
By Mike Steklof

Gam Zeh Ya’avor: This too shall pass

Once upon a time, King Solomon (who according to the Bible ruled the United Kingdom of Israel from 970 to 931 B.C.E.) decided to challenge one of his ministers; he asked his humble servant to search for a ring that could turn a happy person sad, and a sad person happy. King Solomon was convinced that his minister would not be able to find such a ring but sent him anyway. The minster traveled all over the kingdom but alas, came up empty handed. When the minister returned to Jerusalem, he found himself in a neighborhood market. There, he noticed a simple ring for sale. Desperate, the minster explained to the salesperson that he was in search of a ring that could, “Make a happy man sad and a sad man happy”. The salesperson simply smiled and handed the minister the ring with the inscription: “Gam Zeh Ya’avor, This too shall pass.” The minster retuned to King Solomon and gave him the ring. King Solomon smiled as his minster completed the challenge and was immediately humbled by the reminder that his time as king would one day pass.

This story has always provided me with great comfort and I keep the phase, Gam Zeh Ya’avor close to me. When I am upset, it helps me recognize that the sadness is only temporary. When I am happy, it helps me to live in the present and recognize that time is fleeting and that the joyful moment may be over soon. During COVID19, this piece of Jewish wisdom has become even more important to me. It has helped to recognize that the current pandemic will not last forever but also that there has been much good to be savored even in these complex times

From the beginning of the pandemic, the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning (CJEL) has been focused on listening to what you need from Jewish life and Jewish learning in the time of COVID-19. We are leaning heavily into the idea that we should use Judaism to help increase joy and spread compassion in our world. As a result we have been meeting and celebrating virtually with hundreds of individuals and families (over 600 points of connection since the beginning of the quarantine) — from learning together, to spreading joy and compassion through many talented colleagues and friends across Jewish Buffalo. I am especially proud of Adam Beiter, a junior at Hamburg High School, part of Jewish Buffalo’s Student-to-Student program, who dedicated one of his weekly musical live streams to the Jewish Compassion Fund and raised $161.

While we were able to experience joy over the last few months, we know that as the calendar gets closer to summer, many are sad because the summer camps, programs or trips they were looking forward to have been cancelled. I for one, who for many years, lived 10 months for the two months of summer camp, cannot believe there will be no overnight camp this summer.

To continue our practice of listening and adding to the joy in our world, CJEL has created a survey for families who have children 18 or younger living at home.  CJEL in partnership with organizations and congregations across Jewish Buffalo, know that there is no substitute for camp/summer programs. However, we want to be helpful in enriching your child(ren)’s summer. Before attempting to design gatherings or Jewish experiences for the summer of 2020 we want to know more about your family’s needs and interests.

Many in Jewish Buffalo (over 160 families) have already completed the survey, but we want to hear from you too! If you have not done so already, please take a moment to complete this survey (it should take less than 10 minutes).

My wish for you, especially as we head into summer, is that when you are upset, you are able to recognize that the sadness is only temporary and when you are happy, you are able to appreciate the moment before it passes.

Mike Steklof is the Director of Teen Engagement and Inclusion at the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning, powered by the Buffalo Jewish Federation.

Gam Zeh Ya'avor - Jewish thought of the week graphic