Yesterday's trip to the Apple Store was supposed to be a quick one. I had been having some technical challenges with my phone, and the (non-existent) available memory in my iCloud account seemed to be the culprit. So I scheduled an appointment, and headed over. Knowing that, although the time of the appointment would be cutting it close to when the eclipse would start here in Boston, I would be in good company if I needed to pause the appointment and step outside.
I had two pairs of solar filter glasses (one of the many perks of working at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy), and I kid you not - the moment I pulled them out of my bag, I became the most popular person in the store. It was if store employees had a special sensor, as one by one, the majority of them came over to where I sat. "Before my manager comes out from the back, can I borrow those and take a quick peek?" Watching the reactions of each individual - as they experienced emotions ranging from excitement, shock, awe and everything in between - was a highlight of my week. Pretty soon, customers caught on to what they were doing, and quickly lined up to be able to share in the magnificent sight. At one point, the line to use my glasses was 12 people deep.
It was a moment in time, free of judgement and hate. People let down their guards, and allowed themselves to experience awe with those around them. Last year at about this time, I wrote about how we might be able to see the world around us if we take the time to look. As we welcome the month of Elul tonight, a time of introspection and reflection, this seems quite timely.
My two sets of solar glasses were passed around amidst quiet yet animated conversation. A woman I had never before interacted with walked up to me. "Excuse me, sir?" I looked around, not expecting that she was speaking to me. "Yes?," I replied. "What you've done here today - simply sharing your glasses with others - it's a miracle. In our world that is filled with so many problems...you let people experience joy today. You shared that with them." Wow. I smiled, thanked her, and we both went on our ways. But we both knew that what had just occurred was truly awesome, and much needed given the recent tensions in our broken world.
Jewish tradition and current practice, along with other religions, have varied and conflicting views on the meaning and spiritual presence behind such a spectacular event. There are (surprisingly to me) a large number of references to the general topic in Jewish text. While there is no specific blessing to say while watching the eclipse, I find meaning and connection in a number of texts and brachot, including the creation of light, Hashkiveinu and the wonders of creation.
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ...get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” - Abraham Joshua Heschel
For another half hour, I quietly sat with my laptop at the table in the back of the Apple Store, going back and forth between responding to emails for work and glancing up and appreciating this special moment. The store manager eventually retrieved the glasses for me, and thanked me for "sharing the sun with them today." I returned the gratitude and thanked her for providing a space for this to happen, and for inspiring creativity and connection every day for thousands of people. She smiled, shook my hand, and told me she hoped she would see me again soon.
Our curiosity and shared appreciation can build meaningful connections, even if it is for a small window of time. Even though I was just a customer attending a scheduled appointment, I left with so much more than just a fixed iCloud. I just had to take the time to experience it.