Religious : : Thoughts from Our Rabbi

Our Yizkor memorial service is placed at four emotionally strategic locations on our Jewish calendar: Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot – major holidays of our Jewish year. These are the days when, traditionally, families came together after services for a special holiday meal. What the rabbis had in mind is pretty clear. We will remember the people we loved at times when we have our best memories of happy times shared – holidays!

So Yizkor is about time as much as anything else – how we save time, how we spend it – in general, what we do with our time with the people we loved and continue to love. When we grieve for some beloved person in our life who has died, there are two primary things we must learn to do in order to complete the love we have for them: love life and let go.

What does it mean to love life in this context? It means to take a special trait of that person, now gone, find that trait in yourself, and then utilize that trait in your life. It means to have an awareness of carrying something of that person within you, and with that awareness, to have a special purpose. It is normal to ask the question, “How can I go on?” As long as you have that reason to continue, featuring that special trait which you carry of your beloved, the “how” will work itself out.

How can we not feel pain when that person is no longer by our side? That pain feels unfair to have to endure. But the pain of life can teach each of us to understand life and, in our understanding of life, to love life.

The second part to completing our love for somebody who has died is to let go. Don’t mistake letting go with forgetting. They are not the same. Letting go means to make room in your life once again for laughter, for curiosity, for discovery, for exploration, for new possibilities.

This act may parallel what we have to do with those we loved who have died – not to forget, in fact never to forget them – but eventually, to let go; to allow oneself to continue; to allow room for life to pulse through one’s veins once again; to learn, to live, to strive – to do all those things that make life … life. And after our period of grief and mourning, we do this out of loyalty to what they stood for and what they would have wanted for us. And we do this out of love.

If you were to take a poll, you may find that the greatest fear people articulate is the fear of dying. But the greatest unspoken fear is the fear of not fully living. When we honor our dead, we can do so most meaningfully by doing just that – living a meaningful life. When we do this, it completes our love for them. We loved them in life. We completely love them in death. We remember them and they continue to be a blessing to us.

May your loved ones be a blessing to you..

Now, more than ever, we need prayer and community, we need each other to calm our nerves, open our hearts, lift our spirit, and touch our souls. We know it can happen – if we let it, as God is located wherever and whenever we let God in.

G’mar chatima tova, Rabbi Dennis