Friday, August 17, 2012

Wedding or Funeral?

In memory of Gerda Haas, who was laid to rest this week at the age of 98. See below.
The purpose of this email is to provide something meaningful for Friday night dinner conversation. Please print and share.

Wedding or Funeral?

Here's the question of the week for your Shabbat table:

If all factors were equal, would you choose to attend a wedding or a funeral?

For instance, say you had a friend getting married and another friend sitting shiva. Keep the factors equal - they both equally would want you to attend, they both equally would understand if you did not attend, etc. etc.

In other words, the question is what you would prefer to do for you.

King Solomon asked this question some 2,900 years ago.

His answer?

"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting."

Second question for your table: What was he thinking?

(For a clue, see the source of the quotation, Ecclesiastes 7:2 - I only quoted the first half of the sentence.)

Mrs. Gerda Haas, to whom this week's message is dedicated, made it out of Germany with her husband and infant son just in time to save their lives. Most of their extended family perished, but they survived, via Marseilles, Shanghai and San Francisco.

In her memory, here are two anecdotes to show you the strength of her character.

In her 80s she had the opportunity to visit Jerusalem and of course spent some time at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. I saw her that evening and she only had one thing on her mind.

On a bus with other tourists, she overheard a German man behind her say, "Ach. I don't know why they have such a thing. We lost a lot of people in the war too."

She turned around and told him off in impeccable German that his people murdered her entire family because they were Jews and how dare he speak that way. She wasn't shocked that someone should think such a thing, but said it took incredible chuzpa for him to say it aloud.

Another time she had surgery that required a local anesthetic to her leg but she chose to have a general anesthetic as well, but not a deep one.

Evidently the buzzing of the surgeon's saw woke her up and seeing what was going on she exclaimed in her German accent, "Doctor? You call yourself a doctor? You are no doctor! You're a carpenter!"

I cannot do this great life justice - she touched many, many people her her 98 years.

She is survived by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and many friends of all ages whom she inspired. May her memory be for a blessing.

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