Nava Tehilah’s beautiful Oseh Shalom.
May we all find perfect peace this Shabbat and someday always.
Like so many other of his students, I mourn the loss of our teacher Rabbi Dr. Eugene Borowitz. An extraordinary thinker, he pressed all of us to critically examine modern Judaism. His moving eulogy by Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, Ph.D., http://huc.edu/news/2016/01/25/eulogy-rabbi-professor-eugene-b-borowitz-delivered-rabbi-rachel-sabath-beit-halachmi is an eloquent tribute.
We all have stories about our interactions with Dr. Borowitz and his influence upon us. I am no exception. One of the great gifts he has left me was the moment when he stood up among us a few short years ago and reversed his position on gays in the rabbinate. He had long-held fast to his considered and principled position, but after continued reflection, that day he rose from his chair and said simply, “I was wrong.”
The ability of a man of such stature to publicly recant his position was a testament to him and an extraordinary lesson for us. I was deeply moved by his change of heart. I also learned profound lessons that day on humility and our ability to continue to grow and push boundaries and not rest on laurels or reputation.
We will all miss Dr. Borowitz greatly.
Zichrono Livrachah, May his memory be for a blessing.
I was saddened to learn of Glenn Frey’s passing. His music and artistry were amazing gifts he shared with us all as a solo artist and through the Eagles. I watched the documentary and thought we will never see him perform again or share new poetry with us. But his legacy of music will endure. I could not help but turn inward and wonder what is my legacy?
This accounting is often referred to as Cheshbon HaNefesh in the Jewish Tradition. But it is more than looking back and making a list; the Cheshbon is more than a list, it is an assessment by us of ourselves. Such a perspective is much more than a posthumous accounting or someone else’s reflection; it means that we can be proactive managing this list and our lives for whatever time we have. We are active, not passive in the process of this accounting. Since it “ain’t over ‘till it’s over,” as the American Philosopher Yogi Berra said, we could change the course of our lives if we are willing to do so.
Often we leave important conversations unspoken. The discomforts we believe these conversations will cause make us shy away from them. But then we miss an extraordinary opportunity. It is never too late to tell those we love that indeed we do love them, until they are gone. We can talk about our lives, the triumphs and the tribulations, the things in which we had success and the times when we missed the mark. We can give them an understanding of their meaning to us; for too often those thoughts are not expressed. By sharing our aspirations and our vulnerabilities we can elevate our relationships by bringing those we care about close to us.
Not all of us possess the gifts of a Glenn Frey and not all of us will have the ability or opportunity to change the whole world. But we do have the capacity to change our piece of the world. We can decide what kind of relationships we create or nurture with those we care about. We choose to add our voice and our support to the people and causes we care about. Through these we change our piece of the world and our legacy is written by us.
This week marks the fifth anniversary of my father’s passing, z”l. I lit a candle and will say Kaddish commemorating his Yarhzeit. Around the same time dad died, another person, Debbie Friedman also passed away. She was indeed a special individual, an iconic figure in the Reform Movement, and her passing is marked by several public acknowledgements this week.
I recall returning to my studies at the seminary after Shiva and hearing the buzz about the ceremonies planned to mark Debbie’s passing and feeling the sense of loss that pervaded the institution. Her contribution to Judaism was great and many of us, including me, will miss her. I could not help but notice the disparity in the treatment of the two. Although my dad touched fewer lives, he did touch lives and many cared about him. And what’s more of course, he was my dad and the loss is profound for me.
As a Reform Jew I usually stand on behalf of those for whom there is no one left to say Kaddish as a respectful reminder of the victims of persecutions throughout our history. I also stand with those who mourn. This week I will also do it as a son remembering his father. It is acknowledging this personal loss that makes Kaddish Yatom, the orphan’s Kaddish.
Our losses whether personal or communal can be intimate, closely felt. Many people may figure prominently in our lives, deeply affecting us even if we never met them. My father and Debbie both died that week five years ago. The loss of one does not impact the loss of the other. Each person who touches us can be a blessing and an inspiration for us to remember, their best motivating us to live our lives better and more fully. Zichronam Livrachah, May their memories be a blessing.