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A number of months ago my wife and I paid a visit to friends of ours who just completed building their home near our neighborhood. I had known them from my years as being a rabbi in Miami Beach a half-century ago. During that time as a rabbi at Beth Israel Congregation, I taught Talmud daily to the young men of the eleventh grade of the local yeshiva high school. I did so on a voluntary basis since the school could not afford to hire anyone to do so. My congregation was kind enough to allow this to happen even though it meant that I was not on the synagogue’s premises for a number of hours every morning.

In order to lighten the blow, I realized that in order to walk from the synagogue to the school building I had to cross the local public golf course. So I instructed the secretary at the synagogue to tell people who asked where I was in the morning, to respond that I was on the golf course. I knew that they would protest that less than if they were informed that I was somehow teaching at the boys’ high school.
In any event, the husband of the couple that we were visiting had been in that eleventh grade Talmud class of mine. So while we were reminiscing about the good old days – they certainly are old and were probably less good than our nostalgia ascribes to them currently – he excused himself and went upstairs to his study and returned with a photograph of me taken while I was teaching that class.
I stared at the picture. Was I ever that young? Was my hair ever that black? Was I ever that thin? In fact, who is that clean-shaven, short-sleeved young man in the picture? I faintly recognized that it was actually me but to tell the truth I was shocked and taken aback by the photograph. My wife insisted that we must have a copy of that picture and our friends dutifully made such a copy and even framed it for display in our home.
So now that I view this picture daily, I have been subjected to a flood of memories of events and people about whom I have long forgotten. I am able to relive those years and to think about what I did right and not so right and of the accomplishments and accompanying frustrations of synagogue and communal life. But the memory I most treasure is that of the morning hours that I spent teaching Talmud to those young men in the Miami Beach yeshiva high school.
There are many advantages to age and experience, especially in the rabbinate and educational professions. But there is no substitute for the enthusiasm, optimism and strength of purpose that one has in one's younger years. I believe that I am a great deal wiser in the ways of the world – especially the Jewish world – then I was fifty years ago. But I no longer possess that wonder and creative energy – the belief that there was no student that I could not reach and influence and no topic that I could not easily explain – that exudes from that picture of a young professional teaching the ancient Talmud to a new generation of Jewish young men.
The cryptic and somewhat cynical statement attributed to George Bernard Shaw that “…. youth is wasted on the young” certainly resonates within each and every one of us. The wisdom of life achieved through decades of experience and challenge cannot be taught to anyone in advance. Nevertheless, anyone that still retains the elements of youth – hope, optimism, a sense of adventure and ultimate self-confidence and self-belief – even until one's later years, has truly been blessed.
Seeing this picture of the young me encourages me to believe that somehow that there is still enough gas left in the tank to propel me forward in teaching, speaking and writing. Even though the old energy is no longer present, the urgency to do so can be rekindled and renewed. And if this article is any proof of the manner, that picture has served a greater purpose than just being a piece of personal memorabilia. The picture is a jolt from the past but it is also an inspiration – limited as it may be – for the future. Maybe that is why we all love to have pictures of ourselves, be they photographs or even oil paintings. It is certainly good to have such a picture around one's home.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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