Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, now exhale slowly… That was easy, wasn’t it? Not for everyone…
Last month, when I was in Jerusalem, I naturally went to the Kotel, a place I always felt was home, since my paternal ancestors were Kohanim. The Beit Hamikdash and its environs were the “alte heim” for me.
This time, I came as an orphan in mourning, having lost my remaining parent, my mother, after
Pesach. Finding an empty spot by the Wall, I leaned forward and pressed my face against the smooth cool stones and closed my eyes while the sun warmed my back, like a soft blanket. I suddenly sensed my parents nearby, the way a slumbering child, eyes closed and heavy with sleep, senses his parents at the doorway, watching over him, protecting him, loving him. For me, it was like an embrace that comforted me.
The feeling that I had connected with my parents is one that I now experience when I go to the
cemetery. There are so many mitzvot that Hashem has given us, whose reason is not immediately apparent, like not mixing dairy foods with meat, or separating wool from linen in garments. But I now have better understanding of G-d’s commandment to bury our beloved dead, as opposed to cremating the remains – which after all is quick, inexpensive and does not take up land and space that could be used for other purposes.
Whereas adherents of other religions have the option of cremating the remains of their loved ones, or even mandate it, Jews are required to return to the earth those who have passed away and to erect a timely monument that bears witness to their existence. Those who pass by and read the name carved on the stone become aware that a holy neshama (soul) had been sent down by Hashem, had completed the tasks that He had assigned to it, and had finally returned “home.”
And for us who were left behind, the G-d given gift is that burial ensures that we not feel totally cut off from those who were so much part of our earthly lives. For we have a sacred place to visit those whose lives were entwined with ours, and to speak to them – to ask for their help, for a bracha, for comfort.
We humans need to have some sort of a physical manifestation, some piece of solid reality in order to feel connected. Several years ago, a popular movie came out that depicted the fight for physical and emotional survival of the sole survivor of a small plane crash that left him stranded on a deserted island. His extreme loneliness, his overwhelming sense of isolation was relieved when a basketball washed up on shore and using mud and grass, he gave it a face and talked to it. Having something tangible to look at soothed him emotionally.
So too I find that when I am at the cemetery, or the Bais Hachayim – the House of Life as it is called – and see and touch the matzevot that signal my parents’ eternal dwelling place. I feel that I am in a sense “knocking at the door” and I am being welcomed. If I am troubled, or feeling anxious or have news, I can “go” to my parents and share my life’s events with them. I feel linked. No doubt this sense of association is why countless ehrliche Yidden travel
thousands of miles to visit the kevarim of Gedolim – because the physical manifestation of their existence facilitates an emotional one.
Those who have cremated their loved ones and scattered their ashes are truly orphaned and bereft. Such is the sad plight of the generation of Holocaust survivors whose family members were totally physically erased, as if they never existed. When they celebrated milestones like the birth of children, graduations, weddings, the survivors had no place to go to “invite” their loved ones – as was the minhag in many communities. They could only silently invoke
their names. (Baalei simcha would go to the cemetery and invite their relatives to participate and no doubt, many felt the spiritual presence of the beloved family member at the simcha).
How blessed are we that we, through Hashem’s guidance – can always visit “home.”
About the Author:
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Aside from my own 485-page tome on the subject, Red Army, I think Jamie Glazov did an excellent job at framing things in United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.
We studied his seforim together, we listened to famous cantorial masters and we spoke of his illustrious yichus, his pedigree, dating back to the famous commentator, Rashi.
Cantor Moti Boyer came from the East Coast to support the event.
Personally I wish that I had a mother like my wife.
What’s the difference between the first and second ten-year-old?
What makes this diary so historically significant is that it is not just the private memoir of Dr. Seidman. Rather, it is a reflection of the suffering of Klal Yisrael at that time.
Rabbi Lau is a world class speaker. When he relates stories, even concentration camp stories, the audience is mesmerized. As we would soon discover, he is in the movie as well.
Each essay, some adapted from lectures Furst prepared for live audiences, begins with several basic questions around a key topic.
For the last several years, four Jewish schools in the Baltimore Jewish community have been expelling students who have not received their vaccinations.
There are fathers who bravely step up to the plate and fill in the maternal vacuum with their love and devotion.
Divorce from a vindictive, cruel spouse can be a lifelong nightmare when there are offspring.
Not knowing any better, I assumed that Molly and her mother must be voracious readers.
Unpleasant happenings are quickly discarded if they do not affect us directly.
I have always insisted that everything that happens to anyone or anything is min Shamayim.
It is so hurtful to heighten people’s sense of inadequacy and guilt in a matzav that is already horrendous and difficult to bear.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/visiting-home/2004/02/18/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: