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Shalom from Israel Part 3

 

This is my final “Shalom from Israel!” (for this trip). G-d willing, I’ll be back in shul this coming Tuesday morning for Shacharit. Johni, however, will be remaining in Israel for a few more weeks. Hopefully, my daughter Shalhevet will give birth before I depart.                                                                      

Baruch Hashem, the seven-day celebration of Tehela & Eitan’s wedding went well, especially the Shabbat following the wedding. Johni & I hosted our nuclear family (all thirty-three of us), plus Eitan’s family and some guests. If you’re wondering how we hosted over 50+ people for three meals – we rented out a local yeshiva (the students go home for Shabbat). The yeshiva has a large dining room, commercial kitchen, guestrooms, and we hired a caterer – I didn’t ask my wife to prepare all the food. Now that the partying is over, Tehela will go back to work and Eitan will return to his yeshiva and college studies. 

The experience of having all of our family together has been magical. Thank G-d, our children and grandchild all enjoy being together and look forward to coming together again sometime in the future. Johni and I are grateful that the Shul was able to allow us to have this time together.

One of the more intense moments during the trip was visiting my parents’ graves together with my sons. The reason for this is twofold. First, my parents are buried in the Kibbutz Lavi cemetery located near Tiberius in northern Israel. Since I sort of grew up there and knew a good number of the people buried in the cemetery, I was able to tell my sons all about them. This led to the realization of something that we all know intellectually but don’t typically feel emotionally – we’re all going to die. The reality of our mortality and the impact our passing has on those we love hit them quite hard. 

Secondly, perhaps paradoxically, as Jews we don’t believe that death is the end of our existence – but rather a stage in our journey as beings created in the image of G-d. Our bodies temporarily cease to function, but our essence continues to exist as souls connected to G-d. And, as we express three times a day in our prayers, at some point in the future, G-d will resurrect our bodies and restore our souls. In the meantime, if we choose to, we can communicate with our dearly departed. Though we can’t hear them, they can hear us, and the most opportune location to do so is at their graves. Therefore, I had a whole “conversation” (monologue actually) with my parents, demonstrating to my sons what I expected them to do one day (hopefully many years from now).  

This leads me to the concept of ethical wills, a document that a parent writes (based on his or her life experiences) to pass ethical values from one generation to the next. An example of this can be found in this article written by Shmuley Boteach and published in the Jerusalem Post, reflecting on the lessons he’s learned over the course of his life until today.