A Farewell to Sh’ma

“Teach us to treasure each day, that our hearts are open to Your wisdom.”

“Limnot yameinu kein hoda v’navi l’vav chochmah.”

I’ve circled around Psalm 90:12, “Limnot yameinu” for decades, wondering what it would mean for me when my time came: Had I measured my days by the love, the wisdom, the opportunities surrounding me? Especially in dark times, like this political moment, had I remembered to layer optimism over cynicism? Had I reminded myself that counting each day didn’t make the days longer but might make each day richer? And so, when I considered the sensibility that would inspire this, the final issue of Sh’ma and thus the last that I will edit, I settled quickly on “Limnot yameinu.” I’ve counted about 7,500 days since I began editing Sh’ma in September 1998: 195 thematic issues; some 2,000 writers who have shared their experiences and wisdom; and probably close to 3,000 topics and open questions, which I’ve explored or asked others to ponder. Sure, there have been some gloomy days, uncertain days, troubled days. But most days at my desk I sat down and very quickly opened a window through which to explore the world: My senses and creativity awake to each topic as I reached out to potential writers, thinkers, spiritual seekers, political pundits — rabbis, academics, and lay leaders, always seeking to mingle emerging voices with those more seasoned. I always tried, when I could, to meet writers for tea, and I now count more than a few as friends. Over the years, I’ve gained confidence in meeting deadlines and structuring conversations, and I’ve learned a deep patience for coaxing words from those whose words at first fail them. I’ve also grown bolder in raising my own voice as I broached difficult topics for an increasingly diverse readership. Over the course of my tenure as editor of Sh’ma, the journal has also changed: what began in 1970 as a stand-alone 8-page biweekly print publication became, in 1998, a 16-page monthly — sometimes numbering 24 stapled pages — and then in 2016, a 4-page insert in the Forward; for the past year, it has been published as a digital-only edition on the Forward’s website. And now, in its 50th year — its Jubilee year — Sh’ma is as David Ellenson writes ceasing publication. With changing reading patterns, the kinds of rich Jewish conversations Sh’ma has sought to spur have become more accessible and even widespread in newer digital formats. Which is to say: our days, too, have been numbered. Over the past 21 years, with the release of each new issue, I’ve enjoyed the incomparable pleasure of holding in my hands the work of my heart. That is, I know, an extraordinary way of measuring one’s days.

Author

Susan Berrin

Susan Berrin

Susan is Editor-in-chief of Sh’ma Now. She is also Editor of two landmark Jewish anthologies, Celebrating the New Moon: A Rosh Chodesh Anthology (Jason Aronson Publishers) and A Heart of Wisdom: Making the Jewish Journey from Midlife through the Elder Years (Jewish Lights Publishing). Her writing has been included in several anthologies including Praise Her Works: Conversations With Biblical Women and The Women’s Passover Companion: Women’s Reflections on the Festival of Freedom. Susan is a board member of the Jewish Studio Project, based in Berkeley where she lives.

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A Farewell to Sh’ma

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