The annual observance of the Chevra Kadisha on Zayin Adar, the Yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, takes place this coming week. One of the unique features of our Yeshiva, is that part of our service to the community includes a highly devoted and involved Chevra Kadisha.
The manner in which this came to be was not an accident. The same dedicated pioneers who opened the forerunner of our Yeshiva over 40 years ago were the same group of rabbinic and lay leaders who recognized the need for a reliable, Shomer Shabbos organization to attend to Taharas and other end-of-life needs within and outside the Orthodox community of South Florida. They combined their efforts for the benefit of their fledgling Yeshiva and the greater community, but the connection between Chinuch of children, and the ultimate act of Chesed performed for a stranger – albeit a fellow Jew but nevertheless, usually an unknown person – can be profound and inspiring.
Opportunities to perform Chesed, for a busy parent whose primary Chesed responsibility is for his or her own immediate family, can present complex and challenging dilemmas. Being able to juggle the inside, while contributing to the outside is a daunting task. Every person needs honest introspection – “my responsibility is to the Klal – and that Klal is first and foremost my spouse and my children who flourish with a warm, welcoming place to come to and need supper, an organized home, help with homework and a shoulder to cry on – and I am the best suited person in the universe for that task.”
At the same time, a parent is tasked with teaching and guiding their child along the path of emulating Hashem, the essence of which is learning to be a giving person. The best way to impart any lesson, certainly one about chesed is through example. It is important for our child to see that we care for others and are willing to go beyond lecturing and to go out and exert ourselves for the greater community. When they see our involvement is of the level of Emes – Chesed Shel Emes, the impact is all that much greater.
So we face a tightrope – performing acts of Chesed without depriving those who need our Chesed the most; our spouse and our children. It can be done and is being done successfully by many of you. By exercising good judgment, and working on building sensitivity to others, we can learn to navigate our way to perform acts of the highest forms of Chesed. All this while increasing the positive chinuch of our children as they share in experiencing in a tangible way – what is really important in life, and how we need to be devoted and concerned for the welfare of our fellow Jews, at home and in the broader community.
The Zayin Adar observance goes way beyond demonstrating appreciation for the Mesiras Nefesh of the members and their families, which should be great. It is a display of the bonds between all Jews that finds expression at the moments of greatest pain and need and sense of hopelessness in a person’s life. It proclaims that we are there for each other, we step up to the plate where and when needed, and we do this to help our fellow Jews connect to the True Source of all life and meaning. What a loving, powerful lesson that is to our children.
The tragic, seemingly senseless event that transpired this week in our backyard, in a school, affecting innocent children has surely shaken all of us. It is at times like these that our sense of empathy and caring need to be demonstrated not only in word, but in deed. Our reaction to this ultimate expression of detachment from and cruelty to others must be met with additional caring and increased support of those in need and in pain. Our reaction to these specific circumstances includes being extra vigilant and focused, here in the Yeshiva, on ensuring the safety and security of our children and adults.
May the month of Adar be filled with the Simcha that comes from our family, community and Klal Yisrael flourishing in secure and safe circumstances, and may it bring us closer to the time when the Chevra Kadisha’s work will no longer be necessary.
Best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann
P.S. Anyone interested in learning more and possibly joining the inspiring work of the Chevra Kadisha please email: [email protected], or call our office.