I returned late from Columbus on Tuesday night only to get ready to leave for New Jersey where we were going to pack up my mother’s house. Wednesday morning I davened at my regular Shachris minyan and then went to the office. Thankfully, there was a mincha minyan at Agudah which meant that we could leave in the afternoon and I would be able to catch a late maariv minyan in New Jersey. We arrived at 8:00 pm in New Jersey and I was able to easily make maariv in Ahavas Torah in Englewood.
Thursday morning I drove to Forest Hills (where I grew up) to daven shachris at the shiva house where my father-in-law was sitting shiva for his older brother. As a brother he must sit shiva and observe thirty days of morning but he does not recite kaddish which is reserved for the children of the departed; another reminder of the unique responsibility placed on a child to bring honor and respect to his parents not only during their lifetime but after they have passed away, as well. This obligation begins with the saying of kaddish for eleven months but continues well after the saying of kaddish ends.
Upon my rerun to New Jersey we made our way to my mother’s house in Teaneck; more about that later. Mincha maariv was at Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck and then back to my mother’s house.
Shabbos we were in Englewood. Today I made the 7:00 am shachris minyan in Englewood and will likely go to a 1:45 pm mincha in Teaneck, drive home and make the 10:00 pm maariv at the Yeshiva.
So much for my travel minyan logistics.
Three days of packing up my mother’s house have been a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions. The experience can best be summarized as “the inherent worthlessness of things“. Once again aveilus has underscored the finite value of so much that we, in our daily lives, regard as valuable. Ninety plus years of my mother’s things are now boxed up to be given away or thrown out. A relatively small selection of items have been chosen by or distributed to family members either for their sentimental value or for use; but the vast majority of my mother’s possessions simply have no use or place in the lives of her children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.
Can there be a more powerful lesson in the finite “value” of things in one’s life?
Can it be any more obvious that for one’s life to have true fulfillment and purpose it must be centered on that which is eternal and not on the temporal?
This lesson was brought home to me rather dramatically when I took a break Thursday night to go with my friend Rabbi Heshy Turner to Monsey to hear a late night Parshas Hasahavoua shiur (Torah lecture) by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Shlesinger shlita. The shiur began at 10:30 pm and ended after midnight and was attended by several hundred people. Rav Shlesinger is a brilliant Torah scholar, extraordinary orator; and a mayan hamsigaber (an overflowing wellspring). For a spellbinding hour and a half he lifted his listeners up and away to a higher place where only the eternal exists and things cannot be found.
Driving back to New Jersey I thought to myself, “This hour and half will stay with me forever; long after my things are packed up.”