What’s a picture worth?

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. It does not, however, tell the whole story. In the last week I have heard fourteen different commencement addresses and thousands of words about endings, beginnings, and all the living that needs to be done in between. I have also taken hundreds of snapshots (with my phone) of smiling faces, family, friends, triumphant moments and loving embraces. The speeches were of various lengths and tones, each resonating and inspiring in its own way. The pictures, too, conveyed messages that said so much about the passing of time, the love shared between brothers and the joy of being together.


The pictures, however, are snapshots (often staged!) of moments of joy. We delete the ones where someone’s eyes are closed or smile is off. They don’t tell the story of the energy and time, the arguments and lectures, the tears and laughter, and the worries and disappointments that every family experiences before reaching such moments. As I sat listening to the many words of wisdom being spoken to my son and his friends, I thought to myself, what will these experiences impart to us beyond the electronic photo album?

As my head was spinning with thoughts of how I would handle Scott’s transition out of college and Matthew’s transition into married life, all in the span of a very wonderful week, I came to realize that their transitions are also my own. And as such, I can offer the following as the most important life lesson for them to carry.

We are graced in life with moments of joy and we are burdened with an equal number of sorrows. We are disappointed and deflated when the ecstasy of our celebratory moment fades, leaving us with only pictures to relive the experience, while we allow the pain of our sorrows to gnaw and eat at us. But any picture-perfect happiness–when examined more closely–is pocked with imperfections, even as the darkest moments are pierced by rays of light, hope and kindness. The best advice I can offer is to take in the holiness of every moment. Recognize that our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows are so because they come from the same place of love. Life’s transitional moments of birth, death and everything in between are most special because they reflect our humanity and our divinity, our mortality and our Godliness. And, miraculously, that well of love is never emptied as we draw from it; it only fills to an ever-expanding capacity.

Shehechiyanu ve-kiyemanu ve-higeeyanu lazman hazeh.

Rabbi Craig Scheff

7 responses to “What’s a picture worth?”

  1. Ruth Hess says :

    You always write and speak “pearls of
    wisdom.” You are such a gifted writer.
    We love you!

    Congratulations to Scott upon his graduation and to Matthew on his wedding day! What a special family you are!
    Ruth and Karl

  2. Lydia Katz says :

    Once again your words offer me such help. I know that my feelings of sorrow over Lou do come from a place of love. If we did not have such a great love when he was here I probably would not be hurting so much now. Thank you for that I will bask in the memory of our love for each other and the fact that I do feel his presence.

    Congratulations on all your simchas. You certainly deserve them.


  3. Sa says :

    Thank you for expressing so beautifully what is truly universal. Mazel Tov all around!
    Love, Susan

  4. J. Scott Strauss says :

    Mazel Tov on your family’s news. Pictures are indeed worth more than a billion dollars remembering your sons and newly gained daughter. Of course in this life, we only have just moments to appreciate life. Nothing can be predicted. HaShem gave us tools to deal as anything comes. You and Nancy are truly truly blessed. So enjoy!

  5. Beth says :

    As we so often measure our lives through those of our children, it seems like only yesterday that Matthew and Scott were just little boys. In fact, it was ten years ago yesterday that Shara had her Bat Mitzvah at the OJC. Thank you for sharing your warm words of wisdom and for being part of all of our lives.
    With love, Beth & Lloyd

  6. Barbara Rosen says :

    Your words create such a picture for me and seem to often touch a very deep place within me.
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your experiences and deep thoughts with us all.
    I cannot help but try to understand the kind of emotional month you have experienced.
    This trip would have been Dayenu, and you and Nancy had the blessings of Scott’s graduation and
    Matt’s marriagegraduation

  7. Barbara Rosen says :

    All I can say is, ” thank you for sharing so much with us and Mazel Tov to all of you “.
    G-d Bless you and your entire family.
    Barbara Rosen

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