Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's Hard to be a Jew

Last Shabbat, i.e. yesterday, Wife2B and I spent a day in my old home-suburb of Pisgat Ze'ev.  We went to my old shul, Pisgat Moriah, to hear a very gripping announcement.  On the seventh day of Pesach, one of the congregants, a mild-mannered 51 year-old father of four boys had suffered from a heart attack on the seventh day of Pesach.  He had been up late studying, when he felt something tickle in his chest.  His wife offered to give him a ride to the hospital, but he said to call the ambulance.  By the time paramedics arrived, he had expired. 


I had not known him personally, but he always carried himself with great dignity, and stood out in the crowd.  When his name was mentioned, I immediately knew about whom they were speaking.  As I later learned, he and his wife had met at age two and grown up together in Uruguay prior to his making aliyah to Israel.  After aliyah, he had continued in his intense Torah study, and maintained contact with his former congregation back in Uruguay, answering whatever questions in halachah or spirituality might arise in the community.


The body is considered muktzeh, an object which can not be touched on Shabbat, so after attempts to resuscitate him failed, he could not be removed from the house until after Shabbat (although I have heard conflicting opinions on this matter.)  So the family had to wait with their deceased father in the house.


Even worse, his youngest son's Bar Mitzvah was scheduled for Shabbat two days later.  The family is now sitting shiva, the mourning period of intense bereavement following the death of an immediate family member, but all mourning is suspended on Shabbat.  For the boy to have not read the Torah at his Bar Mitzvah would have been a sign of mourning, and is expressly forbidden due to this suspension of mourning practices.  He was called up to the Torah and read beautifully, with great clarity and precision.  But he didn't smile.  It was an impossible situation, but it happened.


It's said that anyone who feels they are suffering from the burdens of life needs to understand that Hashem (God) provides him with exactly his measure of suffering.  We look out at others and assume that the smiling exterior of our friends belies inner tranquility, but in reality, none of us could handle the burdens of any other.  Sometimes it seems like just a nice thing to tell ourselves, but once in a while I get a peek behind the veil into the real burdens of another, and realize the truth of this.

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