Remaining by Daniel's side throughout this ordeal was his girlfriend Mindy, now age 33, whom he had met some eighteen months earlier through a mutual friend. Like Daniel, Mindy was also dedicated to a life of service, helping underprivileged families and disadvantaged children as a social worker. She too faces her own challenging, debilitating diagnosis, living each day with multiple sclerosis.
Yet nothing seemed to be able to diminish this couple's drive or spirits. Daniel said, “We love to help people and working together has made us both stronger, providing us the opportunity to go out in the community and bring people together, which includes friends and family." Capitalizing on this shared strength, and having the space to appreciate a break in Daniel's ongoing treatment, Daniel and Mindy were married in a small ceremony in Freehold, New Jersey on Tuesday. Although no one can know what the future will bring, they said simply, "All we need to do is to live every moment with hope for the future. Each day is the first day of the rest of our lives."
Such a sentiment is echoed in this week's reading from the Torah, Parashat Bo. After enduring hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt, Pharaoh released the Israelites from captivity. The Torah recounts, "This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be for you the first of the months of the year" (Exodus 12:2). Without liberation from bondage, without the Exodus from Egypt, there is no story that defines our identity as a sacred people, as a nation. It is fitting that this moment, the moment in which the Israelites are redeemed from slavery, is to be regarded as the first moment of the rest of their lives, an opportunity to begin again.
But what do we make of the Israelites' suffering, toiling through hundreds of years of embattled and embittered slavery in Egypt? How could they continue to live with hope for the future, when their experience was so dreadful?
It is not just the positive moments in life that offer new beginnings. "Negative" life experiences may achieve the same outcome. Throughout their journeys in the wilderness, the Israelites will face many other moments, both positive and negative, that will cause them to reflect and regroup, to reconsider what they have seen or encountered -- defining and mystifying moments like the splitting of the sea or the revelation at Sinai, stymieing and defeating moments like Moses' shattering of the tablets or the issuing of the decree that will preclude the Israelites from entering the Promised Land. Each moment brings new opportunities, and with those new opportunities, new hope.
With New Year's Day falling this week, many people are placing emphasis on the need to change certain behaviors and practices. Significant "milestone" moments, like New Year's Day in January, birthdays, anniversaries, and even Rosh Hashanah in the autumn, offer us a chance to reflect on our lives, to refocus our attention on what truly matters, and to begin again. We ask ourselves, "How will 2014 be different to 2013?" "Where will we strive to grow, to be better, to do differently?" What resolutions do we need to make, and more importantly, what resolutions do we need to keep?
Perhaps the impact of Mindy and Daniel's story, and the lesson of this week's Torah portion, can lead all of us to say "thank you" more often, to continue to live with gratitude, appreciation and faith, even amidst hardship and suffering. While we may encounter trials and tribulations, we would do well to recognize and appreciate that each day holds promise and potential and that each day is the first day of the rest of our lives.