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YIZKOR FOR SHAVUOT 5/28/2020

06/18/2020 11:18:26 AM

Jun18

Rabbi Weinberg

Naomi Levy, our Arnie Sweet Scholar in Residence just a few years ago composed the following beautiful prayer. To be recited when we light our Yizkor candle- which we did just a few minutes ago- I want to share her touching words with you.

 

I haven’t forgotten you, even though it’s been some time now since I’ve seen your face, touched your hand, heard your voice. You are with me all the time.

 

I used to think you left me. I know better now. You come to me. Sometimes in fleeting moments I feel your presence close by. But, I still miss you. And nothing, no person, no joy, no accomplishment, no distraction, not even God, can fill the gaping hole your absence has left in my life.

 

But, mixed together with all my sadness, there is a great joy for having known you. I want to thank you for the time we shared, for the love you gave, for the wisdom you spread.

 

Thank you for the magnificent moments and for the ordinary ones, too. There was beauty in our simplicity. Holiness in our unspectacular days. And, I will carry the lessons you taught me always.

 

Your life has ended, but your light can never be extinguished. It continues to shine upon me even on the darkest nights and illuminates my way.

 

I light this candle in your honor and in your memory. May God bless you as you have blessed me with love, with grace, and with peace. Amen

 

  1. powerful words capture the sentiments we share at this moment of Yizkor. We remember, we recall, we attempt to recapture the wonder that was, the love we experienced, the joy that we shared. Today, we only have memories, but how fortunate we are to have been blessed with the precious set of memories that remind us how fortunate is our lot in life.

 

Seven weeks ago, we began counting the omer- Sefirat HaOmer. Introduced at our second seder, we began to anticipate this Yom Tov of Shavuot. We counted 49 days, seven times seven knowing that we would re-enact Matan Torah, the giving of the Ten Commandments with the festival of Shavuot. We tried to make every day count as we assigned a number to each day. I remember saying during Pesah that maybe Lag BaOmer- the 33rd day in the counting of the Omer- would signal a break in the pandemic just as it came to symbolize the end of a terrible plague during the time of Rabbi Akiva when thousands of his students died in the land of Israel. We haven’t been so fortunate.

 

The numbers continue to rise. We, so far have been spared the devastating loss of life of some other communities across this country and the world. But, death is all around us. The fight for life is on every page of the newspaper, every digital broadcast we review, every report that is made public. What are the numbers, today? To be untouched by the reality that surrounds us is a testament of our insensitivity. Some of us may have to go back to work. Some of us may choose to imperil our lives. Some of us may have to make choices we would prefer not to make, but no one should ridicule another for making difficult choices. We can harangue one another for being less than conscientious with our actions, for taking the gift of life lightly, for refusing to act in a way that protects others in our midst.

 

Recently, the following words were posted by a young woman in New York City that bear our attention. Listen to these eloquent and compelling words Jacqueline Kamal:

 

When I saw an image of this front page on the internet, I thought it was from 100 years ago.
And then I got my copy.

Every year on the date, the 3,000 victims of September 11th are read aloud at the World Trade Center.
It takes 3 hours.
If we were to read the names of each person who has died of Covid-19 so far, it would take over 4 days, without stopping.
It would cover each Sunday issue for over the next two years.

Today I read 1% of those names.
Each of those names was allowed half a sentence to describe them.
Half a sentence for a lifetime on the front page of The New York Times.

I picked out some of my favorites:

-“We called him the grand Poobah”

-her backyard birds ate right from her hand

-could fix almost anything

-first black woman to graduate Harvard Law school

-quick with his fists in the ring

-her will was indomitable

-he could spit a watermelon seed halfway across a double lot

-agent who turned on the CIA

-her favorite quote was ‘I am as good as you are, and as bad as I am’

-cancer survivor who lived as a deacon

-nothing delighted him more than picking up the bill

-saved 56 Jewish families from the Gestapo

-could be a real jokester

-thought it was important to know a person’s life story

-maestro of a steel-pan band

-saw friends at their worst and made them their best

-engineer behind the first 200mph stock car

-discovered his true calling when he started driving a school bus

-made the best Baklava ever

-emergency room doctor who died in his husband’s arms

-leader in integrating schools

-architect behind Boston’s City Hall

-shared his produce with food banks and neighbors

-family believed she would have lived the traditional Navajo lifespan of 102 years.

-loved his wife and said ‘yes dear’ a lot

-mother to a generation of AIDS patients

-worked long hard hours and still made time for everyone

-walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on opening day

-liked his bacon and hash browns crispy

-more adept than many knew

-would stay awake the whole night shift because she didn’t want anyone to die alone

-freed from life in prison

-her last words were ‘thank you’
 

Seven small towns I thought no one else had heard of.
Six women who reminded me of my mother.
Five people my age.
Four holocaust survivors.
Three 9/11 responders.
Two couples who died together.
One person I’ve met.
And a 5 year old girl.

They didn't get a funeral.
They didn't get to say goodbye.

I've been in my apartment for 71 days. I've cried four times.
Three of those times, was while I read this.

Have fun at your barbecue.

 

Distributed this past weekend corresponding with Memorial Day, this woman appeals to all of us- value the gift of life. We have one opportunity. We are given one chance. Don’t mess it up. Don’t play politics with your life. Don’t play that game of demonstrating to others how courageous you are. Be smart. Be wise. And, be careful.

 

Exactly one week ago, I officiated at my first life cycle event in-person, over the course of the past ten weeks. It was Jonathan Grossfeld’s Bar Mitzvah which we conducted outside, in a beautiful garden space at Levine Academy. With every person present wearing a mask I began the minyan with a prayer not typically recited at a traditional Bar Mitzvah. But, then like now, I feel there is no more appropriate bracha to recite than the Sheheyanu prayer. The words are simply too powerful, too appropriate, too timely not to express at this moment of Yizkor, in the midst of this pandemic. Baruch……hazeh. Blessed are You, our God, Who has kept us in life, sustained us, and enabled us to share this moment with each other. Indeed, may we carry these words with us every day, waking up with a sense of gratitude and retiring at night with an expression of thankfulness, expressing our joy for the breaths we take and the sights we see.

Thu, April 15 2021 3 Iyyar 5781