Shloshim and the Power of Moments

Posted on February 13, 2024
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Dr. Eliezer Jones

Have you ever experienced the enchantment of the Magic Castle in Los Angeles? It’s an exclusive magic club accessible by invitation from a member. Several years ago, my wife and I were graciously invited by the manager, and let me tell you, it was truly magical, pun intended. How about the Magic Castle Hotel? While I haven’t had the pleasure of staying at the Hotel myself,  I have stayed there vicariously through a story told by Chip and Dan Heath in their book, “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.” 

What sets the Magic Castle Hotel apart is not its lavishness or opulence, as the physical Hotel is unremarkable, but rather the exceptional experiences it curates for its guests. Among these, one that particularly resonated with me is the “Popsicle Hotline.” Picture this: by the poolside, there’s a conspicuous red phone. When you lift the receiver, a cheerful voice answers, “Popsicle Hotline,” with a simple request, a frosty treat is promptly delivered to you on a silver tray by a server adorned in pristine white gloves. Moments like these elevate guest satisfaction to unparalleled heights. Currently a 4.5/5 with 3,692 reviews on Tripadvisor.

As Jews, we have a rich tradition of meaningful moments. Whether through the observance of holidays, special ceremonies like the Pesach Seder, or the profoundly symbolic rituals of our daily lives, we infuse our existence with purpose and significance. These moments not only serve to fulfill divine commandments or commemorate our history but to ensure that our experiences resonate across generations. However, it wasn’t until I found myself observing Shloshim—the thirty-day period following my Mother’s passing—that I truly grasped the profound importance of these moments in Judaism and in life.

Initially, I approached Shloshim with apprehension. The preceding weeks had been fraught with grief, and the prospect of prolonging the pain was daunting. Yet, as the days passed, I came to realize that Shloshim offered precisely the solace I needed. 

Shloshim marked not only thirty days since my Mother’s passing but also a gradual easing of the mourning customs. As is customary, our Sholshim would be commemorated with a Siyum (a marked moment of celebrating the completion of a unit of Jewish learning) in honor of my Mother’s memory. It also included friends and family gathering to share stories of my Mom. Ultimately, what I dreaded proved to be a poignant testament to this transformative period and left the moment a little lighter than when I began. 

As Lori Palatnik aptly describes, the 30 days is because “the Jewish calendar is marked by lunar time. As the moon waxes and wanes in a cycle, the 30 day period of mourning is an opportunity to emotionally come full circle. The process begins with the funeral and first days of Shiva, when not even a glimmer of light is seen. As time goes on, the light slowly comes back, fuller and fuller. The 30 days is an important central cycle of time, a time to renew and to come to grips with a new reality.”

At my Mother’s Shloshim, the Siyum and the shared stories were not merely acts of remembrance but beacons of light illuminating our path forward. We were not just commemorating her life; we were affirming our resilience in the face of loss. It was a “glimmer of light” and a “new reality.”

Organizations like NCSY excel at creating such powerful moments. From pre-shabbos ruach, ebbing, Havdalah, in my day, the “multimedia” and the kumzitz, to name a few, we create meaningful moments that instill inspiration that resonates for generations. NCSY thinks in moments, and as the Heaths write, “This is what we mean by ‘thinking in moments’: to recognize where the prose of life needs punctuation.”

Whether you find yourself at the helm of an organization like NCSY, leading elsewhere, or just embarking on a personal journey, remember the significance of marking moments—be it for celebration, mourning, inspiration, or reflection. It is the mark of a true leader who recognizes and captures these moments.