The days that we just experienced of Passover are always just a little bit different than usual time. With Spring rushing in, the air is filled with hope and a gentle yellow hue lingers in the air that softens the edges of our lives. It feels undeniably, like renewal.
I recently received a call from a woman who wanted to attend a Yizkor service as that, in her own words, was all that she did anymore that was Jewish. She shows up for the dead. And as noble as that may be, I couldn’t help but wonder, what about showing up for the living?
In my experience as a Rabbi and one who has buried more human souls that I can recall, I have learned without question, that funerals are not for the dead, they are for the living. Yizkor is not being said for the dead, it is to touch the souls of the living.
Facing the truth of our limited time here in life is the key to truly living our days to the fullest, rather than hiding from life and pretending there is no end.
Everything about death comes to inspire the human soul to choose Life, to feel, to touch, to experience the fullness of our time here on earth, even in the face of our inability to truly know the meaning of life. We still try because that trying IS living. Every ritual we have as Jews, comes to heighten our senses to the beauty, the mystery, the profound and illusive truth of living.
And yet, in fear we run. Our world says, don’t stay anywhere that feels bad. Don’t tolerate anyone who makes you uncomfortable. Avoid all stressful situations. And yet, it is that very discomfort that comes as a teacher, as a gift. It makes you wrestle so that you have the chance to measure and weigh, grow and expand, learn and learn and learn. It is how we become the very best version of ourselves, we experience life with open souls, and we learn from it.
We may not ever know ultimate truth, even when we take our last breath, yet the search for those truths is what makes life a noble venture. For what’s the alternative? This? This cold, harsh little world is the alternative? No, that is NOT the truth of our existence here. We are sacred beings having an experience in this physical world and it is not easy. Our souls are as expansive as the Cosmos, while our little lives, not so much. The only noble response is to stand defiant to the banality of our world and to say, no, no, life is NOT meaningless. Refuse to believe it.
I say, show up for dead, and then show up for the living. Take the mystery of death and let it inspire you to live in a way that magnifies the beauty of life, the possibility of life, the dream of life. Honestly, that is exactly what our tradition calls us to do.
And yet, with this said, now a days, most won’t even show up for the dead. I have for you all, from our great heritage’s storehouse of wisdom, a multitude of reasons to show up for both, honor the dead, by being a part of the living. Yet, with ever more faith, ever more passion and ever more hope than you did the day before. You just need to show up!
Amen to that!
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