Friday, January 11, 2013

Loss in Our Community…some Thoughts by Rabbi Ralph Dalin, Community Chaplain

Many of us are “shell-shocked” by the death of three prominent members of our Jewish community in the last three weeks: Murray Galinson z”l, Gail Littman z”l and Lori Bolotin z”l. These come after other major losses for us earlier in 2012, and for many of us, other, more personal losses as well.

Rashi notes how the Torah teaches us that the departure of a righteous person from the community makes an impression, and with that person’s departure the community loses some of its glory and splendor and beauty.

If that is true of the departure of one such person, how do we as a community process the departure of a number of such individuals in such a short time? How do we cope with the sense that we are bereft at the loss of the “glory and beauty and splendor” they brought to us?

While we may not be “mourners” in the narrow, traditional definition of primary relatives, we are members of a shared community of vision and values. We need to mourn and to find a constructive outlet for our grief. We are blessed to have the wisdom of our tradition upon which to draw.

Like individual mourners, we need to take time to express our sense of loss. For some this is through sharing tears and/or hugs. For others it is recounting some of the occasions we shared with, or ways we were influenced by, these individuals. For others it is to go to the synagogue when we might not otherwise do so or, for regular shul-goers, to have additional kavannah (focused intent) during the recital of the Kaddish. For many it is by doing what we can to support and comfort their immediate families who shared their loved ones with the rest of us.

Among the values which Murray, Gail and Lori had in common was a strong commitment to kehlillah (community), tzedakkah (sharing what we have with those in need) and tikkun olam (improving the world). We can demonstrate how positively influenced we were by them through emulating them and acting upon their example. By encouraging and prodding ourselves to give generously to strengthen our Jewish community – locally, in Israel and around the world -- we have the opportunity to channel our grief into a continuous living memorial to these remarkable human beings.

The measure of our grief is also a measure of our blessing. Our sense of void and loss is so great precisely because we were so blessed to have these individuals as friends and leaders and role models.

Zikhronam l’vrakhah - may their memories be a source of continued blessing for all of us.

Shabbat Shalom.


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