Ben-Zion’s 80th Birthday Greetings

 ben-zion-freedmanGirls and boys , we have won a lottery ! Yes , we have won a lottery. Which one , you wonder ? The SUPREME lottery . . Being  Born ! Experiencing Existence ! Living Life ! Truly , a once-in-a-lifetime surprise prize !

Are you not amazed . . RADICALLY AMAZED . . . at being born . . feeling blessed and thankful at being alive . . experiencing  existence . . . blessed with intelligence and self-awareness .

Here’s more good news: social relationships . . living inter-connected.  We are all related, all members of this big family Homo sapiens sapiens: human beings, with intelligence , with feelings .

Now, None of us asked to be born . . yet, here we are !  HERE WE ARE: The Lucky Ones ! Blessed with birth; given the Gift of Life ; ! Especially today, I am HIGH on CHAI . Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught: “our goal should be to live life in Radical Amazement . . Everything is phenomenal . . . Never treat life casually; always be amazed” , says Heschel .

I often reflect: Why is there Something instead of Nothing? Heschel, a True Believer , believes in God as Creator On the other hand , Richard Dawkins , an atheist evolutionary biologist , believes in Nature as Creator.  They both agree on the Excitement of Existence; the mystery of being alive . Yes, a theist and an atheist can agree . With passion, Dawkins wrote: “We are going to die , and that makes us the Lucky Ones .

Most people are never going to die BECAUSE MOST PEOPLE ARE NEVER GOING TO BE BORN.  ( Let me emphasize : MOST PEOPLE ARE NEVER GOING TO BE BORN. ) Dawkins explains: “ We know this as a fact because the set of  possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people . In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I who are here.  The odds of being born are so tiny tiny that they defy mathematical calculation. The statistical odds of your being born approach zero. Yet , here you are ! HERE YOU ARE !

We are the privileged few, the living, who have won the Lottery of Life against all odds. “So wrote Richard Dawkins. Sometimes you may feel ordinary, but you are truly extra-ordinary. Gratitude follows good fortune: Heschel says: thank God. Dawkins says: thank Nature. Some simply say: Thanks.

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard taught : “ Life is not a problem to be solved , but a MYSTERY to be lived . “ Joel and Ethan Coen wrote “accept the mystery “ . I agree: It is good to embrace this sweet mystery .

But as we all know , our lives are limited . So, is there an afterlife, by some miracle? I don’t know , but I do believe that TO LIVE THIS LIFE IS MIRACLE ENOUGH .


I love living life , and I KNOW exactly when I will die. Yes, I do.


So henini . . here I am , 80 years later , a husband and father of 3 wonderful children . Debra, Fate created you first, and I think that you taught me more than I taught you . You are a natural “ people person “ , forming lasting meaningful relationships . Ben, our hockey star, how exciting watching you skate for the Little Flyers . “He shoots , he scores ! “ Josh, in Chicago now, we think of your dry wit and achievements in your chosen career .

Now who’s left? . Oh, yes, you Jane . Jane, you are my shining star. Jane, I won the lottery of life, and also the Lottery of Wife. Like so many spouses , I feel that I have been blessed with the best . YOU are the real reason for this Simcha of Celebration. You have brought starlight and sunshine into the lives of everyone here today . . and to countless others . And . . and . . you alone continue to tolerate all my shtick and mishigas , such as { put on moose hat , menorah ha} .

Finally: no pranks , only thanks . So, everyone , let’s feel YOUR breath of life as we chant an ancient Thank-You for the Wonder of THIS World : Sheh-heh-he-yanu : Baruch Atah Adonai , Elohaynu Melech Haolam Sheh-heh-he-ya-nu v’key-ma-nu v’he-gee-ya-nu laz-man ha-zeh . We love you all !