Sunday, January 26, 2020

We just returned from the magnificence of being at the ocean. We didn’t drive to Myrtle Beach. We weren’t whale watching in Maine and we were nowhere near Seal Island on the West Coast. Instead, on the spur of the moment we decided to drive to the Deal/Long Branch area to view the magnificence of another one of Hashem’s creations that sits nearly at our front door.

The temptation to travel in order to make a vacation really special doesn’t sit well with us unless we are visiting family a distance away or we are going to Eretz Yisrael, which is always our first choice. Often Nina comments on how sorry she is that there isn’t some sort of a bridge or tunnel that could get us to Israel in a much less costly fashion.

However, we do live a mere one and a half hours away from the breathtaking beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. We remember as children sitting on the beach with our parents both in Boston and on Long Island wondering whether, if we looked hard enough, we might be able to see Europe. Children are blessed with vivid imaginations, so at one point we were both sure that London or a port city in Europe was within our view.

Now, as adults, we looked out at the ocean and so appreciated the expanse of its beauty. The peace and tranquility that it brings to the psyche is much more calming than any piece of music or artistic masterpiece. We observed people running on the beach flying kites and reminisced about those days from our childhoods. We remembered sitting on the sand and building castles and hoping that we were not too close to the water that would gradually come up and destroy our creations. We brought picnics from home. Hard-boiled eggs, cut-up fruit and veggies, and maybe as a treat a package of Yankee Doodles. Rarely would anyone bring a meat sandwich, because then we were fleishig, eliminating the possibility of ice cream. There was never a consideration that the beach would have to be close to restaurants, as there were no restaurants to go to.

We are fortunate that we also have parks and mountains nearby that are magnificent. There are hiking trails, sculpture gardens and natural waterfalls throughout the Northeast corridor. Yet this local beauty seems to be overlooked by many in favor of going somewhere more “exotic.” Makes little sense to us, but the world, “it is a-changing.”

We have shared in the past our surprise at the excitement of Montrealers who would run in droves to see the ocean. Wildwood, which we had never heard of, seemed to be a mecca for the Montreal Sefardic community. Having grown up close to the ocean as children, we always took it for granted. Living in Montreal, the closest that anyone came to a body of water was Lake Champlain, which has its own natural beauty but certainly cannot compare to the ocean.

We believe that we might have mentioned in this column our wonder when our son was about 4 years old and we took him to Jones Beach, and his reaction was that he had never seen such a large pool before. That is when it hit us that Montrealers are seriously deprived by not living near the ocean.

Here we are surrounded by this amazing gift from Hashem. In a fairly short amount of drive time—toward Long Island, toward the Jersey shore, even to Brooklyn and Queens—we have the opportunity to say a bracha and take in such local beauty. Let this be a reminder that sometimes the grass is just as green in “our own backyards” as it is in those that are hundreds and thousands of costly miles away.

By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick

Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick are living in Bergenfield after many years of service to the Montreal Jewish community. Rabbi Glick was the rav of Congregation Ahavat Yisroel as well as a practicing clinical psychologist in private practice. He also taught at Champlain Regional College. The Glicks were frequent speakers at the OU marriage retreats. Nina coordinated all Yachad activities in Montreal and was a co/founder of Maison Shalom, a group home for young adults with special needs. They can be reached at [email protected]