An exploration of why the seventh day of Adar was specifically chosen further reveals the extraordinary devotion of the organization’s volunteers. Rabbi Raphael Davidovich, rabbi of Heights Jewish Center in University Heights, Ohio, explains that the source for the date is a medrash in Shemos Rabbah (20:16). The medrash states the Moshe took it upon himself to bring the bones of Yosef to Eretz Yisrael, yet he had no obligation to do so. As a reward for this kindness, God stated that He Himself would take responsibility to bury Moshe. Rabbi Davidovich concludes, “Since God personally involved Himself in the mitzvah of burying the dead, [it illustrates] that all those who involve themselves in this mitzvah are thus emulating HaKadosh Baruch Hu [God Himself].”
Besides the inevitable painful experiences, being personally involved in a chevra kadisha has been a comfort to both Ireland and Weiss when a loved one has passed away. The period of mourning is such a confusing, overwhelming time, yet the knowledge that a prescribed and exact ritual is going to be performed often offers a small comfort. Knowing exactly what to expect, and what is going to happen has helped them cope during some very difficult times.
Lastly, Weiss mentions one more cathartic and meaningful component of being involved in a chevra kadisha – the perspective he gains. For him, the whole process is a constant reminder that death is a great equalizer. During a person’s life, he can be rich, he can be poor; he can have had much health and success or suffer through illness and strife, and yet it all ends the same way. Every Jew who passes away is subject to, and honored with, the tahara process, no matter what sort of life he or she led. Weiss says this reality has helped him remember what is truly important.
The ability of those like Ireland and Weiss to change shoes and do what needs to be done at the darkest of times has allowed Jewish communities world-wide to uphold the ancient and crucial end-of-life rites and to continue to be a Godly and dignified nation.Sara Ireland-Cooperman
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