Just yesterday, I sat with a bereaved family. A moment designed to place the mourning process front in center in the mourners' lives. We talked about the usual. Keriah ribbons and Psalms. Hespedim and El Male Rachamim. Shiva. There were questions, too. What recollections bring smiles? What legacies remain to for us to sustain? And, what must we do to make our memories a blessing? This last question seemed to hit home with the widow, as she said tearfully to me: "Having to make my husband's memory a blessing means that he's really gone" I gave her a hug and said to her and her children: "I wish we could just celebrate the Cubs' great victory. But here we are."
Indeed, it's hard to ignore the great joy in the air. An historic victory at Wrigley Field. This festival of Sukkot. Our z'man simchateinu, our time of happiness. And yet, even as this simcha abounds, life and loss still present us with moments of great sadness. Even amidst our celebration of life, we confront death. Life begins. Life ends. And, yet, as we seek to make life and loss matter, Sukkot offers us the wisdom of Qohelet, which on first blush, tells us that all is vanity. That life is futile. That our work under the sun is meaningless. And, for good measure, that our lives just come and go. Insight hardly joyous or comforting. Until we take a closer look, that is. Consider what Rashi has to say. Commenting on the phrase tachat ha-shemesh, the medieval French sage draws a parallel between the sun, the shemesh, and Torah. Like the sun, Torah is a light. And, and just as the sun nourishes us, so, too, does the light of Torah bring us a life of reward.
Case in point. Today's kriat ha-Torah experience. As you witnessed, we completed Deuteronomy and commenced Genesis. They say that the Torah ends with a rewarding act of g'milut chasadim, of grace and lovingkindness. And, it begins with another act of g'milut chasadim ...
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