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What Was Saved from the Hurricane
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

What Was Saved from the Hurricane

What’s the most precious thing we own?


Our homes are cluttered with “stuff.” We pride ourselves on many possessions. For some we paid very hefty prices. We tend to think of these as extremely valuable. The more they cost, the more we are inclined to treasure them.

In a world that all too often confuses price with true worth, we can easily lose our proper perspective.

Hurricane Sandy gave too many of us the sudden wisdom and stark certainty which of our belongings is actually the most invaluable.

Imagine the terror that took hold of those in her path. Picture what it must be like to see the torrential waters about to wash away your home. The first thought, without a doubt, is to save your life and the lives of your loved ones. Following that comes the desire to preserve those things you can’t possibly imagine being forever without.

And what were they? Most people tried to hold on to memories far more than to material possessions.

Fleeing residents quickly grabbed irreplaceable photo albums and scrapbooks. Souvenirs of memorable moments were seen as more intrinsically valuable than jewelry. And for those who were just barely able to get out with their lives, these were the things they kept searching for in the storm’s aftermath among the shattered remnants and debris of their now uninhabitable dwellings.

Memories take precious moments and grant them eternity.

People cried for their destroyed “stuff” but they were inconsolable for the loss of their heirlooms. Intuitively they understood a truth that our materialistic society so often chooses to forget. It isn’t things that really make us happy. J.M. Barrie put it beautifully when he wrote, “God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.” Memories take precious moments and grant them eternity. Memories are rooted in people we love and who loved us. Memories allow us to relive the most glorious times of our lives. Memories aren’t possessions but reminders of joyous occasions that continue to possess us.

Photos and scrapbooks and diaries and objects that were owned and handled by those we never want to forget hold the key to our happiness. We build our tomorrows with the bricks of our remembrance of the past.

Why do we spend so much time striving to accumulate more and more of the physical objects that in the grand scheme of things aren’t as important as the loving relationships that cost us nothing but time and effort?

I will never forget the beautiful insight of one of my teachers who defined our mission in life as “creating beautiful memories.” Whether it be for our families, our friends or the people with whom we interact in our lives, it is only through the memories of beautiful moments that we leave behind something of permanent value. “A happy memory,” he told us, “is a hiding place for unforgotten treasures.”

Today our task is to rebuild. And for all that we have lost, let us remember that while acquiring new possessions will be costly, creating new memories infused with love, caring and concern for others is thankfully free – and priceless.

November 17, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 7

(5) Anonymous, November 20, 2012 7:57 PM

thank you

You have said it all - thank you for the reminder. I do remember but it does slip the mind.

(4) Anonymous, November 20, 2012 4:37 PM

Wonderful memories are those memories that are a kiddush H-shem

Rabbi Blech does not need me to defend him, but I am sure that what he meant by a goal of creating memories are those memories that are a kiddush H'shem. Having children, sitting at a family dinner, a Shabbos meal, having company, making a Bar Mitzvah, spending time with a grandparent/child, going on a family vacation where you are spending quality time having fun and yet keeping all the mitzvah and teaching your children how to make a kiddush H-shem, walking you child down the aisle, showing your children the importance of studying torah, praying, actually sitting and learning, etc. are all examples of memories that we should strive to create.

(3) Dee, November 18, 2012 7:53 PM

life is not about 'creating beautiful memories'

Whilst I enjoyed the above article and agree that memories are pricless etc, it is wrong to state that our mission in life is 'creating beautiful memories' - our mission in life is to create a kiddush Hashem and to serve Hashem to the very best of our abilities. Whilst creating beautiful memories is lovely and nice, not always does doing the right thing involve creating beautiful memories. We should thank Hashem for the beautiful memories we have, but realise they are in no way the means nor the end but just a special gift we are sometimes given along the journey of life.

Y g, November 19, 2012 2:52 PM

I agree

Definitely agree. I lost tons possesion in the storm- we threw out all our furniture and hundreds of dollars worth of possessions. Yet I'm grateful that I still have my family.

Shoshana - Jerusalem, November 19, 2012 4:48 PM

a beautiful idea

While we as Jews can't say that that is our mission in life, we can maybe learn from that statement. As we go through our every day lives, with all the tensions and things that can come up, perhaps we can remember not to loose ourselves and leave a bad memory, but instead try to turn even difficult moments into beautiful ones. Not to react with anger that our husbands and children will always remember, and so on. Also we can hold onto beautiful moments, review them in our minds, so that we will never forget them and in that way create for ourselves a private storage place of beautiful memories. P.S Even running to a bomb shelter, while it's not so beautiful with only a minute to get there before the missle hits, Gd forbidd, afterwards you can hug the kids and laugh and say something funny to lighten the situation, and the memory will not be so bad. Of course, if it really hits, you have a different situation which requires great strength and skill to handle. I hope that Hshem will give all of you the strength you need to forget the horror and fear of seeing the waters rising, and strength and money to rebuild your homes. And if someone needs post-trauma treatment, don't be embarrassed because it can make a difference in your whole future life, as we see here after terrorist attacks. Don't think it will go away by itself because it very often doesn't. Hshem should bless all of you and may we all be protected

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