This Monday, looking at all my fellow former rabbinical students who had come from around the country to be with a former classmate of ours who had just lost his teenage son, I felt affirmed in my sense of the importance of community. This is what we had learned in rabbinical school – not just about words of Torah, but about acts of caring. We knew that when Zalman lost his hold on life in this world – six months after his tragic and unexpected heart attack – it was time to get on a plane, something many of us did even before the funeral was scheduled.
May his memory be a blessing._____________
One thing that one of my friends noted to me after the funeral was that, while many rabbis spoke, hardly any mention of God was made. In their words, none of these rabbis felt any need to explain how God could have allowed this to happen, or to urge people to keep their faith in God despite such a tragedy. To my friend, this struck him as a very Jewish thing.
I was grateful to him for sharing that with me and I found it very affirming. As a Jew who works in a hospital and ministers almost exclusively to Christians, I often struggle with the tension between how reluctant I am to engage in “Godspeak” and how much my patients, and chaplain students, seem to need that very Godspeak. I’ve learned to stretch myself quite a deal in this regard and, for example, to gain a good deal of comfort and skill in offering spontaneous prayers for patients and family members. I am indeed comfortable with that “stretching”, but it was good to be reminded of where I come from and who I am at my core. It was good to be reminded what it means to be a Jew, to belong to his incredible community that endures over the stretches of space and of time.