She was 96 years old. I approached her bed and introduced myself and my son Jeremiah, explaining that we had come to sound the Shofar for her, if she wished, and to bring her New Year greetings. She was blind but her eyes filled with light.
"How happy I am ; happy New year to you; you should have a healthy and happy New Year! " she exclaimed excitedly. Facing my son she said without seeing him: "Remember that when you are little love seems tiny; but love is bigger than the whole world!" Her worn and wrinkled face radiated joy and tenderness, and my heart was filled with the sweetness of this woman's holy presence.
We continued to another hospital room where we found a 94 year old woman at whose bedside sat her devoted daughter. She informed her mother of our presence and when she heard that my son was with me she proceeded to quote Shakespeare:"Sharper than a serpent's tongue are the words of a thankless child" -and continued to recite a soliloquy from Hamlet. " I remember these words from when I attended college over 70 years ago, majoring in English." We exchanged New Year greetings, sounded the piercing notes of the Shofar and left. What a moment of holiday inspiration.
I attended a remarkable service at Romemu-a spiritual renewal synagogue in Manhattan, and derived much gratefulness from the spirited enthusiasm and open hearted ness of the rabbi and all the congregation's participants. It was indeed an uplifting experience.
But my heart was most deeply touched in the quiet encounter with the two elderly ladies in their hospital beds. I realized again that the greatest gift I received this Rosh Hashanah for which I was most deeply grateful was the gift of gratitude shared by those alone and infirm on a festival day. I certainly received so much more than I gave.