This Shabbos I celebrated life.
Shabbos was spent in New York celebrating with family my mother in law’s eighty fifth birthday. Mama, as we lovingly call her, is a very special woman whose life has but one purpose – family – her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She is the definition of unconditional love in its truest sense. Though age has begun to creep up on her and to slow her down a little physically, it has done nothing to change her life’s focus and purpose – intensely, unconditionally and generously loving her family. She and Papa have and will always be extraordinary role models. May they be blessed to celebrate many more birthdays and happy events ad meah v’eesrim (untill age 120) in good health and happiness.
This Sunday I again experienced the loss of my mother a”h.
Sunday I went through my mother’s papers and along with my brother and our wives started the process of disposing of my mother’s “things”. I use that word intentionally because I find this task to be a somewhat complicated, emotional and thought provoking experience; one that involves feelings of nostalgia, sadness- for what was and is no more, and an occasional laugh and chuckle. For me, the most compelling aspect of this activity is that it starkly demonstrates how unimportant material “things” really are in the grand scheme of life. When one’s life ends and he or she is returned to his Creator what difference do all those “things” make? What eternal value (or for that matter pleasure) do any of those “things” have? Who cares how large or small the house was; what make of car was driven; what designer’s label was on the suit; or how many carets the diamond was? Sunday’s exercise made it abundantly clear that for the departed, all those things that had been “important” during life are utterly meaningless after death.
And yet we, the living, still value them; still want them; still work hard to obtain them. Are we missing the point?
And this Sunday evening I grieved. With Jews across the world, I mourned the death of eighteen young brave Israeli soldiers who fell in battle in Gaza defending the land of Israel and the Jewish People.
How all the more intense my feelings became as I heard the news of the death of eighteen IDF soldiers. Eighteen – Chai – a word that means life not death. Eighteen young, brave men gave their lives for the Jewish People and the land of Israel. What greater, more meaningful life one can live…or die?
Another eighteen families will be reciting kaddish alongside of me this year. For them, as for me, every day will revolve around saying kaddish.