Friday, April 19, 2013

Explosive News

In memory of my father, who would have turned 73 today.
The purpose of this blog is to promote soul-stirring conversation at the Shabbat table. Please print and share.

Photo credit: ABC News
Who said it:

"A tragedy and devastation that has stolen our innocence, forced our children to grow up way too soon to experience a pain that nobody should ever know, and to confront questions that simply have no answers."

Can you guess???

We all heard about two terrifying explosions this week (I'm counting Boston as one).

But there was a third that made fewer headlines.

The quote above was a response to the one you didn't hear about.

It happened this past Sunday, but the story begins twenty years ago.

Twenty years ago, yours, truly wandered into Jerusalem looking for a place to learn about Judaism.

Some Jews I'd met in Paris told me that there were these schools called yeshivas where beginners like me could learn.

In English.

For free.

(Although it isn't always easy to decide to go.)

(Nor to find them when you do decide to go.)

(Nor to learn once you get there.)

OK, I wasn't a total beginner, but I knew all of about 10 words in Hebrew, didn't know what the Western Wall was west of, and couldn't have told you why Jacob was the good guy and Esav was the bad guy (although I somehow knew that much).

There's a long story here, but let's cut to the chase.

One of the several yeshivas I tried out put me up in an apartment with a couple other guys in it.

One of these guys was a rabbinical student named Mike.

Mike was about two days from his wedding.

He was one of the happiest guys I'd ever met.

He invited me to the wedding and it had a profound impact on me. That night I wrote in my journal, "I don't know if I'll ever become religious, but I know that I want to get married like that!"

Later I often visited Mike and Denise in their Jerusalem apartment. I helped with the baby, etc. And I discovered that Mike (and Denise) was happy all the time, it wasn't just because of his wedding.

That happy energy made Mike and Denise a magnet for all kinds of people, Jewish and Gentile. They set up rabbi-shop in Philly for a few years, then in Milwaukee, and most recently in Boca Raton.

Over the past twenty years, they have hosted thousands at their Shabbat table. The impact of their kindness is immeasuraable.

Twelve years ago, while they were still in Philly and the world was still innocent, they had a baby girl, their second daughter and fourth child.

MIke and Denise named her Shoshana Rachel, which means "the Rose of Rachel".

Shoshie grew up in a family whose middle name was Lovingkindness.

shoshieShe grew up with a natural compassion, second nature to her.  She was the rare kid who never complained where she had to sit in the carpool, or next to whom, she was happy and she connected with all kinds of people.

Shoshie was also a natural athlete, and on Sunday afternoon, she went out sliding (reportedly a form of skateboarding).

She was crossing a street at the crosswalk. She waited for the light. She was not wearing headphones or otherwise distracted. She passed in front of a car waiting at the light and smiled her warm smile at the driver, perhaps she recognized him, a member of her Jewish community.

This happy smile was her final communication.

To his horror, the driver watched the light change before Shoshie reached the other side. He realized that she was in mortal danger but there was nothing he could do. A moment later,  a car (not speeding) hit her, she was in the air and she was gone. This eyewitness, a doctor, leaped out of his own car and rushed to the scene but her soul had already departed.

An hour later when Denise went out looking for her daughter, the ambulance had already come and gone and the police were doing their investigation.

The 1,000 people at Shoshie's funeral Tuesday, arriving from all corners of the country, were a testament to what Mike and Denise mean to us.

By "us" I mean you and me.

I paid a shiva call yesterday, and would like to leave you with two things that Denise told me. Maybe you'll share them with your table.

First, I asked her, "If you had known 12 years ago that you would have only been able to have Shoshie around for 12 years, would you have wanted to have her, or is the pain of losing her too great?"

Denise said, "Are you kidding? I hate that she's gone, it hurts, but I'm grateful that she was in my life. She was a light. I'm a religious person, I was in Jerusalem for eight years. I believe that everything happens for a reason, even if I don't know the reason."

Shoshie had just recently prepared for her parents a gift of a collage of photos of herself, and a birthday gift for her sister two months in advance. These were bizarre things for her to do and Denise said that Shoshie must have known subconsciously that her time here was running out.

"What is an example of how she was a light?"

"When we moved here, Shoshie was a new kid in school. But she wasted no time making an impact. There was some kind of feud going on between two girls and each one had gotten into her own clique, and Shoshie made them make up. She told them, 'I'm not going to be friends with either of you unless you make up.' And they listened to her. That's the kind of girl she was."

May her memory be for a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom

PS - The best way to honor the departed is to try to emulate their goodness and to teach it to our children. JSL's Simi Yellen is offering her incomparable parenting course via telephone, beginning next week. Click here for details. Whether for yourself or a parent you know, we only get one chance to raise a Shoshie, this is the time to put in the time and effort.

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