From the Rabbi - July/August 2009 Print

Dear Friends:

I saw a hummingbird. He is light green with a red patch under his chin. He flits from bush to bush outside my office, plunging his long beak into the red flowers that have recently appeared at the end of every branch. He’s in constant motion, a second here, a second there, seemingly everywhere at once, gone and then back again. I wonder if hummingbirds ever land and sit still. What do they do at night? Is there a hummingbird spa where they go to rejuvenate their tired wings?

I’m fascinated by this little bird because, in so many ways, he’s like many of us. Many people dash from one activity to the next, hardly ever taking time to sit down and rest or think. In the whirlwind of our daily existence, we are all motion, not much quiet or stillness.

In many ways, that’s too bad, because we never get much of a chance to get to know ourselves. When you are constantly racing from one activity to the next, there is little opportunity to have a conversation with your deeper self; you tend to stay on the surface, talking about the weather and sports and all sorts of superficial things and never really taking the time to talk, even with yourself, about what matters most in your life. And even should you begin that important conversation, someone else will often sidle up and, with a well-meaning smile, exclaim: “I don’t mean to interrupt, but….” End of conversation.

Summer is a good time to spend some time with yourself.Many activities slow down or cease altogether. The heat is so oppressive that there is a lot of time to spend indoors in air conditioned comfort or soaking in the pool or lounging on vacation. In summer, you can stop acting like a hummingbird and ask a couple of important questions: What’s really important in my life? Am I getting nearer to that goal? Have I abandoned my dreams, or are they still real…and what am I going to do about them? Have I made the most out of the relationships that are most central to my life?

This is a good time of the year to remember what Rabbi Tarfon said in Mishnah Pirke Avot 2:16: “It is not required of you to finish the task, but you are not free to desist from it.” Summer is a good time to remember this saying and to turn from the hummingbird’s frenetic flight to a peaceful and deeper consideration of important questions.

I wish you luck and joyous discoveries in your inner self.


Kenneth D. Roseman, Rabbi