When a parent buries a child, our hearts break. It’s not supposed to be this way. We expect one day, after a long life, we will need to bury our parents with love and respect. But we never expect to bury a child. This shakes our beliefs to the core. We cry out, “Why do some schnooks live long lives, while others who are true mensches die too young?” Sadly, and painfully, there are things we can not explain. Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” to help people cope with tragedy and loss. Kushner wrote this book after the painful loss of his teenage son, Aaron, to a degenerative disease. When I worked as a Rabbi in Boston where Kushner lives, I heard him speak about the book’s title. He explained that he called it “When bad things happen…” and not “Why bad things happen.” The “Why” is a question for God. “When,” on the other hand is a question for us. “When bad things happen,” what will we do? Our Jewish tradition calls us to do deeds of loving kindness (Gemilut Chasadim) to comfort those in need. Nichum Avelim, comforting mourners, is a Mitzvah, one of our sacred obligations. We are to act with Rachmones (compassion) when our family or friends are struggling with Tzuris (troubles.)
I am proud that our congregation practices compassion with a passion. This is what it means to be a Kehila Kedoisha, a sacred community. We support each other in the most difficult times. When a mourner is in the raw period of Shiva (first week) it is important that they do not feel alone. By coming to a Shiva Minyan, we give them a message of compassion. When we come to Shabbat services and stand with the mourners for Kaddish, we are giving them comfort and support. After services, I gently urge you to not be shy, and to go over to one who has been saying Kaddish and offer words of caring. Even if you do not know the person, saying “Sorry for your loss,” can go a long way when one is in pain.
Like Charoset mixed with Marror at Pesach, life is a mix of bitter and sweet. As a Sacred Community we are there for each other at all times. Tonight, at services, we will give love and comfort to the mourner’s in our community, and we will also celebrate Dr. Joe Grossman’s 90th Birthday. Joe is generously sponsoring our Shabbat Dinner to celebrate this milestone with our community. Please come. Also, any children who went to camp this summer will be called up to the Bima for a “Welcome Home from Camp” blessing.
Our Torah portion this week, Re’eh, is about Blessings and Curses. The real world is filled with both – blessings and curses. My prayer is, “May we we may become blessings for each other.” Please come tonight to the Temple for community and a Shabbes Dinner BBQ. May we share food, friendship and life, and nourish each other spiritually.
Rabbi David Wilfond