Friday, July 19, 2013

Shabbat Nachamu - Finding Comfort Through The Rock

It was a difficult week for our family as we lost Alissa's grandmother, Lila Sosna.  It was a very sudden loss for us, and she was very special to our whole family.  I will post her eulogy on this blog later this week.  Although she lived a long and fruitful life, she was taken far too soon.  Our whole family has been blown away by the support and comfort given from so many including family, friends, and congregations, mainly Beth Ahm Israel of Cooper City where Lila was a very active member, and Congregation Shaarei Kodesh where our family, including Lila's daughter and son in law (my in-laws), are active members.

After the funeral, on my way back to the car, I saw a bench with the last name Agler, and I took a seat on it to have some moments to myself, and this is what I saw:



I was blown away by the number and variety of stones.  In Judaism, rather than leave flowers, we leave stones when we visit a someone's kever (grave).  Flowers wither, but rocks are forever.  I was blown away by the variety of rocks representing all those who have visited over time.  Each one different, and from different places; representing the number of people that loved Talia.

Interestingly enough, one of the many names for God in Judaism is Tzur Israel and Tzur Olamim, the rock of Israel, and the everlasting rock.  Rocks give us a foundation during times of turmoil which is how we feel when we lose someone.  I sat on the bench and spoke to Talia, the daughter or Rabbi Richard and Mindy Agler who was tragically taken at a young age.  I talked about how much she has taught me, and how much I admired what she did in her short life.  She truly left a lasting legacy.  To read more about Talia and the ma'asim tovim she performed in her life, I urge you to visit Rabbi Richard Agler's Blog:  http://rabbiagler.net/talia-agler-zl/

It gave me a little happiness knowing that our congregation helped Richard and Mindy during their unimaginable grief as they prayed with us on Shabbat mornings.

We are in a very interesting time in the calendar.  We are moving on from Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av), a holiday commemorating the destruction of the Temples, the murder of millions of Jews throughout history, as well as our expulsions from various lands throughout time.  How did we make it through this these tragic events?!?  It seems almost unimaginable, but we did, and we are still here.  We are about to enter into Shabbat Nachamu, named after the Haftarah read tomorrow morning at kehillot (communities) around the world.  The first line of the Haftarah, from the book of Isaiah, "Comfort, oh comfort My people, Says your God..."  We get through difficult times because our communities comfort each other.  This is why shiva is such a beautiful ritual.  Friends, family, and community members who may not know those lost or even the mourners come to engage in the holy ritual of comforting others.

Eventually, we get up from shiva and mourning.  It comes in stages, but we take the lessons learned, and memories of those lost, and we become happy again.  This Monday, July 22nd, is a little know holiday called Tu Be'Av, the 15th of Av.  Here is what the Mishnah tells us about this day:

"There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)?"(Ta'anit, Chapter 4).

It is our version of Valentine's Day, when we began to create out of the depths of despair.  This is the beauty of Judaism - being able to fully embrace the sadness of loss, and the shear joy of happiness and love.  Life needs both the bitter and the sweet to be authentic.

On this Shabbat, I wish for you comfort and healing, and in the weeks ahead, I wish for you all, love, friendship, and happiness.  May God continue to be a rock for us in difficult times, and may God help us get up to find love once again.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi David Baum

To learn more about Tu B'Av, please visit:  http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Modern_Holidays/Tu_BAv.shtml