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Being There

Monday, 16 November 2009

You know that passage that you’ve read time and time again but only truly understand it after a particular experience?

Page 37 in Gates of Prayer for Weekdays and at a House of Mourning. How many times I have shared this reading at a shiva minyan. Yet a conversation I had just minutes before brought a tangible appreciation.

Who among us has not passed through trials and bereavements? Some bear fresh wounds in their hearts, and therefore feel more keenly the kinship of sorrow; Others, whose days of mourning are more remote, still recall the comfort that sympathy brought to their sorrowing hearts.

The house was filled with the usual suspects; mourners, extended family, friends of the deceased, friends of the mourners. And then two young people who did not fall into any of those categories. I greeted them and said that I was glad that they were there.

The young woman, gesturing towards her brother, said, “We made a pact after our grandfather died. So many people came to support us and it meant so much to our family. Now we will try to attend every minyan that we can.”

When I got to this passage tonight, the words hit me differently. Here are these two young adults who are living the words in our siddur. They could have been doing any number of things this evening, but chose, instead, to bring comfort to others by being counted in the minyan.

Our community has long railed against the idea of obligation. Reform theology has stressed the concept of choice to the point that many Reform Jews abhor the idea of their religion holding them accountable for their actions. For good or for ill, we Reform Jews want to do only those things which infuse our lives with meaning. (A debate for another day.) In this case, I am encouraged by the seriousness of these two young Jews whose recent life experience has shown them the importance of communal obligation.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, 17 November 2009 8:31 pm


  2. Tuesday, 17 November 2009 10:29 pm

    A powerful post. Thanks!

  3. Frume Sarah permalink*
    Wednesday, 18 November 2009 2:18 pm

    I know. I was rendered speechless by the response. Like…hey, someone finally got it!

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