As a young child, my family would vacation in the Pocono Mountains- crisp air, long days playing in the sand and swimming in the lake at Elm Beach. My parents met at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, and those mountains became a sacred place for us. The drive was only two hours from our home in Syracuse, NY, but as a 3 year old, it felt like a cross country trip. The kids would be entertained by our favorite cassette tapes playing from the stereo in our station wagon.
While I cannot tell you my favorite album or song, I can still vividly hear the sounds of the most popular cassette on those trips, “Best of Friends: The Smurfs.” Eyal, my brother, of blessed memory, chose this tape, and for several years, the Smurfs became the Pocono soundtrack.
Eyal, soon after these trips began at age 4, became ill. For 32 of his 36 years on this earth, he lived as a quadriplegic, completely paralyzed from head to toe. His vocal chords were frozen, and we read his lips to “hear” what he had to say. As his younger brother, I yearn to hear his voice, yet I have no recollection of it. All I hear is the silent voice I knew all of my life. I see his lips moving, uttering no sound. And yet, today, I hear a different sound- the songs of the Smurfs.
Sunday, May 3 is Eyal’s birthday. He would be 39 years old. I was reminded of those epic songs this week when my younger son asked me, “Who are the Smurfs?” My mind immediately flooded back to those Poconos car rides. I called my mother, and within minutes, she located the Smurfs cassette tape, song titles scratched out by age. A quick search on YouTube and I struck gold, discovering the original recording of “Best of Friends: The Smurfs.” After an examination of the song lyrics, I found the song Believe.
It goes, “Nothing all around the world will take you by surprise, you won’t believe your eyes, that in the end, we will be very good friends. Believe, believe, believe whatever you do, your dreams will come true. Believe, believe, believe, that’s all you must do and your dreams will come true.”
As a 3 year old, the word believe meant very little to me. Belief to a child is simply magic. But as a 38 year old marking the birthday of my late brother, belief is the only word that brings me comfort. Belief is not a word created by the Smurfs. Belief is a word and thought that is essential to us as Jews. Belief means tomorrow can be better than today. Belief means yesterday will add to the depth of today. Belief allows us to dream, to hear the sounds of our loved ones, to feel their embrace, to know that they too hear our thoughts, our feelings, our dreams.
This Shabbat I will sing these rediscovered songs to my children, singing and dancing, knowing how much richer I am to once again hear Eyal’s voice.