Blog Post


Parshat Beha’alotcha: Everything Dies, Except…

The other day someone approached my daughter, Atara as she was getting out of her Saab 9-3 and told her, “Don’t ever sell that car because you will never find it again!” That, coupled with my granddaughter, Maya’s graduation from Kindergarten last week compelled me to share this piece I wrote  exactly 6 years ago.
Everything Dies, Except…
Nothing lasts forever. Everything has an end. Nothing but God and any spiritual expression of Him is eternal. I know this is sounding very serious but I am not here to talk about the important issues of life and death – not that they are not worthy subjects to discuss. I refer instead to less solemn endings.
Saab has officially died. Yes, I know many of you have thought they have been long gone and most of you could care less. But I drive a Saab, two in fact. And that doesn’t include the third one we got for Avi and Atara who motored this week cross-border to Canada with new-born little Maya to show her off to the Toronto mishpacha. We have an ’07 and two 2011’s, the last year they built Saabs. 
Saab was bought out by a Chinese-Swedish consortium, National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) after GM bailed in 2010. There was the idea they would make electric cars with the Saab moniker but that is not happening. The Saab badge reverts to the aircraft company it came from and will never again adorn a vehicle. It’s done. As I emailed my kids this week: It’s official, we are now driving classics. Take extra care of the Saab when you drive it – there will never be any more of them. BDE (Blessed is the True Judge).
Everybody loves Saabs. How can you dislike a guy driving a Saab? He is not out to prove anything. Of course you let him in when he signals that he wants to change lanes. How can you not love a car company that put the ignition switch between the two front seats? I have to inform the valet guys where it is after a couple occasions when they came back and asked  how to start up the car. And how can you not love the night panel feature – the button that turns most of the dash lights off, other than the speedometer. I once read it was for those long winter Swedish nights to make it easier on the driver’s eyes. The exact opposite of the IMAX theaters on display in modern cars today. 
But everything dies. Everything has an end. Even noble car companies. 
Which brings me to another death that was personal. The Bathurst Manor Plaza on Wilmington Avenue is closing. For those who did not grow up in the Jewish ghetto of Bathurst Manor (that would be all of you) this was the go-to plaza with all the important shops we went to as kids. It included Pollock Shoes which, of course, we pronounced Polack and where I got my first pair of PF Flyers. We ate hotdogs for lunch at the Dominion supermarket, near the barber shop where my dad would send us for a real haircut, because the modern hairstylists didn’t cut enough off for his liking back in the 70’s when everyone had long hair. “Go back and tell him to finish the job.” The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce was where I opened my first account with $1.30. And of course Fagot & Sons Hardware – yes that was its real name. I doubt they would call themselves that today. They would be cancelled. 
But the store we kids loved the most was the Cigar Store, that oddly named place which sold the candies, chocolate bars, popsicles and Lolas – those big triangular shaped fruit ices. But for me the Cigar Store was more than about ruining your teeth, for it was at the Cigar Store that I got my first real lesson in ethics and moral struggles. 
When I was about 7 years old, my friends said that you can easily steal stuff from the Cigar Store. All you had to do was wait for a big crowd – which was every day after school let out – position yourself among the horde of kids standing by the candies and quickly grab and slip one into your pocket. The owner won’t see because the other kids will shield you from his sight. I wasn’t so sure about it but thought I would give it a try. 
So one day I followed the well-executed plan and wormed my way among the crowd of kids next to the shelves of candies. I was so nervous and wondered if there were enough kids to block the owners from seeing anything. I looked furtively here and there still trying to appear as non-chalant as possible. My heart started to beat faster and faster, my palms were sweaty. I looked around a second and third time and then I went for it. I grabbed the candy and stuck it into my pocket. I made my way outside and when I got there breathed a heavy sigh of relief. I unwrapped the candy and shoved it into my mouth. 
But I quickly came to the realization that it did not taste so good. And that was because I recognized that it just wasn’t worth it. All the anxiety, the fear of being caught, the trepidation along with the knowledge of taking something that didn’t belong to me. It wasn’t just wrong, it was stupid because I realized then and there that it was much easier to just pay for the thing than to steal it. And so thankfully my life of crime was quickly over. It lasted about as long as the taste of that candy in my mouth. 
And this is precisely the point when it comes to the material things in life versus the spiritual. The physical and material is here today and gone tomorrow – often forgotten forever. I have no recollection of the hundreds of Coffee Crisp chocolate bars or candies or Double-Bubble gum or Popsicles I consumed in my childhood. But I can vividly recall and feel every moment of that life-changing day when I decided it wasn’t worth it to steal a nickel’s worth of candy. That indelible impression it made on me lasts forever. The moral lesson I gained that one day in the Cigar Store outweighs all the sweet sugar I consumed over many years.
Everything dies except the good we do in this world – for us and others – and the truth that we know and live by.  
So goodbye Bathurst Manor Plaza and goodbye Saab. It was a good run. There will come a time in a number of years from now when there will be no more Saabs on the road and they will be long forgotten. But Avi and Atara will always remember the first road trip they took with their first child, their brand new baby Maya in the back seat of their 2011 dark grey Saab 9-3 Turbo, with the sunroof open, the fresh summer wind blowing and the radio blaring… 
Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields…
In ‘69 I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned onto the road I’m on
Running on, Running on empty
Running into the sun but I’m Running behind
-Jackson Browne

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