There is an old joke that all of our parents have told at some point about how when they were young, they had to walk to school, in the snow, uphill both ways. Though, I never believed it was exactly true, I do remember always being amazed at the types of things my parents really didn’t have that I always took for granted. Color TV, seat belts in cars, and microwave ovens are all things that I have taken for granted my entire life.
In a roundabout way, I was reminded of this last Friday, when the Supreme Court announced its decision to guarantee marriage as a right for all citizens. I have a one year old son, and it occurred to me, that along with things like smart phones, electric cars and social media my son will never know a world without marriage equality in the United States. As many have been saying already, for him there will be no Gay-Marriage because there will just simply be marriage for everyone.
As my Facebook feed turned to rainbows last Friday, I also found more challenging posts reminding me that there is still more work to be done for GLBT equality and many other minorities as well. Really, I thought, can’t we just celebrate this moment and take the week off from beating the drums for social justice?
After thinking about it more over the weekend, as a father, an American and of course a Jew, the answer must be yes and no. In fact, in the same moment that thousands of celebrations erupted all over the country after the announcement on the steps of the Supreme Court, thousands of people were in mourning as Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was being eulogized in South Carolina. Neither action was any less wrong or appropriate, given the context.
Judaism has a special blessing that is said for the types of celebrations that don’t happen every day. Most Jewish Holidays include this prayer and I have also heard it said at weddings and bar mitzvahs. It is called the Shehecheyanu and in English the prayer translates to mean:
Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.
There is also a quote in Judaism from one of the ancient Rabbis that says:
It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.
While there are many things that my son will take for granted, there are many injustices in the world things that have yet to be resolved. Working through organizations like Jews United for Justice and American Jewish World Service, to name a couple, I will continue to work on them. I hope he follows that example and works to bring about change for the causes for which he cares most. I also hope he gets to celebrate many moments of Shehecheyanu along the way.
Andy Kirschner is a life coach at 100 Reasons to Win, helping professionals take action in order to achieve their health and/or career goals. He’s been in the DC area for 4 years. When he isn’t coaching individuals or facilitating groups, he can be found running long distances through Rock Creek Park, volunteering for social justice minded organizations or spending time with his wife and one year old son.