Friday, October 03, 2008

Death of a Leader

Minna traveled to Jerusalem in search of opportunities for study and to experience joy in this ancient (and now modern) home of the Jewish people. But sad events can follow us wherever we go. Yesterday, we found ourselves at a funeral for the father of one of Minna's most beloved teachers in her rabbinical school at Boston Hebrew College. The funeral was at Jerusalem's main municipal cemetery, Har HaMenuhot, pictured to the right. It's built around a huge hill on the northwest side of Jerusalem, just south of the main road to Tel Aviv. There were quite spectacular views to the north from the burial site.

The funeral was attended by many of Minna's classmates. I found the below picture on a memorial page to the deceased, Zelig Leader. From right to left is Zelig, his son Ebn (Minna's teacher) and Art Green (the leader of Minna's school).

In the Israeli fashion, the words spoken at the funeral were short and intense. Ebn spoke first and, very much in his style, led the assembled in the wordless tune of a niggun.

I did not know Zelig, himelf, but I very much knew of the famous "Leader Minyan" here in Jerusalem, which is known for the intensity and length of its Shabbat and holiday services and which has been an important spiritual home for many American rabbinical students and others coming to spend a year or so in Jerusalem. I was suprised therefore that the second speaker was not a participant in the minyan, but was a leader in the Jerusalem scrabble club who spoke in English. Apparently, Zelig's inspirational spirit was an important force there as well.

Zelig's youngest son also gave a powerful and tearful talk, begging for forgiveness. Zeglig's brother also spoke powerful words.

After the words of those הספדים/hespidim were spoken, Zelig's body was carried out by members of the black-hatted הברה קדישא/hevre kasisha (burial society) on a stretcher wrapped in a burial shrowd (no coffins are used here in Israel). The stretcher was placed in a van that we walked behind to the burial site where he was laid to rest in the presence of his family and friends.

May his memory be a blessing.

[x-posted to smamitayim]

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