Mourning for my mother, Leah bas Aryeh Mordechai Chaim, a”h, over the past year was the saddest honor of my life. While the sadness of Mom’s lack of physical presence will linger forever, it is recalling and emulating her unwavering practices of the twin pillars of Judaism – the human practices of Bein Adam La’Makom (man’s relationship with God) and Bein Adam La’chaveiro (interpersonal relationships) – that will honor her memory best.
Ramban stresses the basic ways a Jew must act in order to fulfill his or her religious obligations as it pertains to the aforementioned Judaic principles. He had in mind the character of my mom and others like her, when setting down these timeless values.
Kedushah: Sanctifying God’s Name through one’s holy actions. As an unflinching practitioner of ahavas, emunas,v’yiras Hashem, Mom helped raise the standard of one’s avodas Hashem. Her endless emphasis on furthering the ideals – in thought, study and deed – and observance of Torah was boundless. And Mom always strove in pursuit of these invaluable goals by following King David’s plea to “serve Hashem with gladness, come before Him with joyous song” (Psalms 100:2). She truly enjoyed the obligation of sanctifying God’s Name by doing more than her share to further His mission.
Shabbos: Remembering and keeping yom menuchah u’kedushah (the day of tranquility and holiness). It is written, “Every person must carry the holiness of Shabbos to hallow the other days of the week” (Rebbe Nachman of Breslov). From her unconditional commitment to dually remember (zachor) and keep (shamor) Shabbos, Mom never failed to enjoy extending that day’s holiness to serving Hashem to the rest of the week. She accomplished this as an eved Hashem par excellence – in her roles as a wholeheartedly devoted daughter and sibling, valorous wife to an equally principled husband, endlessly loving mother and grandmother, and devoted rebbetzin, teacher and friend to her constituents and students.
In short, Mom did her share of keeping Hashem’s spiritual flame of Shabbos brightly lit 365/7 by complementing His mandate of kedushas Shabbos and all its virtues with spreading that directive to many of His creations.
Ha’tov v’hayashar: Acting with goodness in upright fashion. Mom took the meritorious path of decency taught her by loving parents, and applied it to every walk of life. She reveled and played a leading role in the successes of her blissful marriage to and life partnership with her mutually adoring husband, our dear dad Rabbi Aaron Chomsky, while standing tall when confronting life’s inevitable adversities. And throughout the roller coaster called life, Mom never ceased imbuing the upright ideals of right over wrong and good above bad in her children and grandson – Alizah, Zephyr, Iris and me, Herschel, and Benjamin.
To Mom it was always about us, not her. It was always our time, not hers. This mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice) was displayed with heartfelt dignity in the great spirit of tov v’yashar.
The mixed emotions of the indescribable sadness at Mom’s passing and the honor of forever calling her my mom was perhaps on full display when I merited performing shemirah (the watching over the body) between her death and burial. With my endearing verbal expressions of hakaras hatov (appreciation) merging with a stream of tears, no other voice could be heard.
For once, I wish Mom did not let me have the last word.
May Mom’s neshamah have the ultimate aliyah.