Jump ahead a week with me. In the Torah, in the portion called Chayyei Sarah, the Life of Sarah, we actually learn of her death. Bookending that, at the end of the portion, we are told of the death of Abraham. In a few weeks, when we get to the end of Sefer Breishit, (the Book of Genesis), Jacob will ask his son, Joseph, to see that at the time of his death, he is treated with chesed shel emet, true kindness. In each case, our patriarchs and matriarchs were treated with due respect, tended to by family, and buried in the Cave of Machpelah.
Over the years, I have periodically felt the need to reflect on the many blessings our congregation offers. Among them, we are present in meaningful ways to walk with families as they face the death of loved ones. We have our historic cemetery, which is how we date our Jewish community back to colonial days. Thanks to the oversight of Jim Baumgartner, it is well cared for. It is a place in which we can take pride. Jim, though, does much more than see to landscaping. He is often called upon to support families when they find that they need to purchase cemetery plots on an emergency basis. He always does so with the deepest care.
We have the Women of Shaarai Shomayim’s Bereavement Committee, currently led by Lisa Rohde. This committee provides the Seudat Havra’ah (the meal of consolation) after a funeral, or if the funeral is out of town, some refreshments for a night of shiva. Remember that with funerals often within 48 hours, this means a lot of effort on short notice. Add to this the number of times we have had strings of multiple funerals over the course of a few weeks, and you understand the magnitude of their work. They set up, clean up, shop, and cook. They are respectful and gentle as they make it possible for the mourners, their families, and their friends to begin the process of grieving without worry.
Sarah, Abraham, and Jacob died at good old ages, having lived full lives. This week, we buried a man who didn’t have the chance to live that long life. Understanding the depth of this tragedy, our congregation, from our kids to our adults, stood together with Myra, Aaron, and Noah Goldman as they mourned for their husband and father, Ted. We’ll need to be sure to stand with them in the days, weeks, and months to come as well.
The way that we handle death as a congregation tells me with absolute certainty that we understand the meaning of being part of a Kehillah K’doshah, a holy community. The fact is that we do life pretty well too! L’chaim! To Life! And thank you, once again, for making me proud to be your rabbi.
Shabbat Shalom u’m’vorach. Have a Shabbat of peace and of blessing.
Jack P. Paskoff,