Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | June 27, 2016



One way people celebrate special occasions is by setting off fireworks.  Fireworks have been around for millennia, but in Philadelphia, on July 4, 1777, on the anniversary of the United States declaring its independence from England, Congress authorized the setting off of thirteen rockets to symbolize the thirteen original colonies.  Since then, using fireworks to celebrate the United States’ independence has become a widespread custom.  Across the nation, all sizes of cities, towns, and other municipalities offer up spectacular shows of color and light around the Fourth of July.

So what exactly is it about fireworks that we love so much?  I think that on one hand it’s the experience of a show that promises the excitement of surprise as you wait to see what the next rocket will bring.  Will it be white or multicolored?  Will the fire form a shape?  What will it look like and how loud will it be?

On the other hand, there’s the thrill of looking up at the sky amidst a crowd of other people and knowing that something good is about to happen no matter what it looks like.  It’s the pleasure of knowing this is a spectacle designed to be enjoyed by you.

If you have noticed, over the past number of years, fireworks have become more and more elaborate.  Now, instead of just circles and cascading streamers of fire, shapes and designs can be seen.  This began in the 90’s when fireworks in the patterns of purple hearts and yellow bows were introduced to welcome home American troops from Desert Storm.

You see, even though to us on the ground, who are just spectators, the fireworks are a mystery and a surprise, the pyrotechnicians behind them have planned carefully and made arrangements to ensure us a good show.  By attaching ‘stars,’ their term for the combustible fireworks that will explode in mid-air, to tubes, they can set an explosion pattern.  They will use several cylinders and shells in different arrangements so that at least some of the patterns will be at the proper angle to be viewed by the audience and recognized as the intended shape.

They know what they’re doing and can anticipate and extrapolate what will happen when these shells go off and light up the night.  This is a very good skill for all of us to learn. You see, everything in life can have a ripple effect.  Just as the ingredients for the fireworks show start off contained in a small canister but with some heat they leave in a rush and spread out far and wide, visible to so many and from so far away, so do our actions have the potential to set off great shows of beauty, or perhaps wind up as a dud, not providing the glorious showing we’d hoped.  Sometimes, it can turn into a disaster when things go awry and people get hurt.

One day at the Post Office, I was heading to my car when the passenger door of a minivan opened, blocking me from getting to the driver’s door of my car.  Out popped a boy of perhaps eleven or twelve years of age, with a yarmulka perched on his head.

Seeing that he was getting out, I stopped in my tracks and backed up to let him pass.  He said “Thank you,” and went inside.  I could have just gone to my car and driven away, but I didn’t.  I walked up to the minivan and knocked on the passenger window.  The woman driver rolled down the window.

“He said, “Thank you,”” I said with a big smile.  “You’re doing something right.”  I then turned and got into my car.  When he came back, I could imagine the welcome he would get.  I’m sure his mother was beaming with pride and would let him know how she felt.

I imagined that when they got home, and sat around the Shabbos table, she would recount this story and his family would give him the glory he was due.  I pictured how the boy would be encouraged to continue thinking of others and being appreciative.  I envisioned this one phrase, wherein I took note of what he’d done and took the time to tell his mother, casting a huge glow of beauty over his life.

Like the fireworks that start out small but expand rapidly, the beauty we can share with others is extensive without requiring tremendous effort.  By planning ahead like the pyrotechnic artists, we can set up developments in advance to shower the world with brightness later on.

When you look at something, don’t just see it as it is now.  Imagine it as a fuse, able to ignite a chain reaction that will be seen over great distances.  You’ll be careful about causing pain, knowing that what you say or do are not isolated occurrences that remain in the present, and you’ll be mindful of purposely causing joy and satisfaction because you understand the mechanics of this art form.  And that will give you plenty of reasons to celebrate.



  1. What a beautiful post 🙂 You have some great gifts for writing!

    • Thank you! Talent on loan from G-d means we have to use it for things He’d approve of. 😇

      • Well said brother 🙂

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