The Choice: Embrace the Possible: Eger, Dr. Edith Eva ...

Dr. Edith Eger is a holocaust survivor, famous for writing a masterful and best-selling book, called 'The Choice'. Inspired by Dr. Viktor Frankl's monumental work 'Man's Search for Meaning' (which the Rebbe encouraged Dr. Frankl to publish), Dr. Eger's book takes the reader along on her life's harrowing journey.

She begins with her childhood in Hungary, continues to her being hauled to Auschwitz hours after the Passover Seder, the death camp, death marches, liberation by the US army, economic hardships in America, extreme post-war trauma, and using her unspeakable experiences to become a successful psychologist, helping people recover from their own sufferings.

Her main message in the book is that we all - always - have 'The Choice'. We are essentially free, and it is up to us - and only us - to make the best of our lives. True, we cannot control all of our circumstances, but we can control our reactions to them.

This belief in the unbeatable human spirit has been a hallmark of Jewish survival for millenia. Our very calendar, the way Jews mark the passage of time itself, is structured to reflect this idea (t oday we begin the Jewish month of 'Iyar', the eighth month on the Jewish calendar).

The Jewish calendar runs on a unique system. It's not just that we have a lunar calendar, beginning each month with the new moon, unlike the solar based Gregorian calendar. It's more than that. The Jewish calendar revolves around people seeing the new moon:

Millenia ago, the new month would be established when two credible witnesses would testify at the Jewish supreme court - the Sanhedrin - that they had seen the new moon appear in the night sky. It was essential that two witnesses would testify. It was their human word that clinched the new month's beginning. Without the words of a breathing person, time itself would be put on hold. The reason for this unique system, is to highlight the importance and power of people to chart their own destiny and make our world a better place.

This highlighting of the power of people to chart the future is not only present on the first night of the month, but at the mid-month full moon as well.

As the month progresses and the moon 'grows', there's a ceremony we perform called 'Kiddush Levana' (the Sanctification of the Moon). It consists of saying a special prayer outside, in the moonlight.

There's a fascinating part to this prayer, a custom the likes of which can only be found here. The custom is that - while standing outside, praying in the moonlight - one should turn around, find three separate individuals, and say 'Shalom Aleichem' (hello!) to them. They, in turn, should turn back to you and respond 'Aleichem Shalom!' (hello to you!). 

With that, one then returns to finish the prayer.

What a lesson. There we are, praying. Maybe we're in a great mood, looking for a chance to chat with someone, maybe in a not-so-good mood. We might have had a wonderful day, perhaps a challenging one. Uplifting or stressed. Inspiring or crushing. Yet there it is, right there on the prayer book page: We must, we need to find someone - three people! - to say hello to. 

The message is Dr. Eger's message. We always, always have 'The Choice'. There is never a time when we cannot turn to our fellow with a smile, and - for no reason - say, 'Shalom Aleichem!' Might it be hard sometimes? Of course. But we can always do it. It's what we choose to do that matters, it's our choice which charts the path of the future.

During these times when we can't connect with others as much as we'd like to, we still have the ability - the choice - to find someone to turn to, and tell them 'Shalom Aleichem!' The results could be powerful and far-reaching.

The four Hebrew letters which spell 'Iyar', stand for three Hebrew words: אני ה' רופאך - I am G‑d who heals you (the two middle letters spell G‑d's name). We pray that all those who need healing should be healed, and may our world know only good and happiness.

Rabbi Avrohom