Dear Beit Sefer Families,
This week’s Torah portion begins, “Vayakhel Moshe et kol adat Yisrael.” These words are more familiar to you than you may realize. “Vayakhel” has at it’s core, the grammatical root, K.H.L. meaning to congregate or congregation. Our TBI monthly newsletter is called the Kehillah, the noun version of the verb used in this sentence. Moshe is Moses. Yisrael means the people of Israel as are we called at Temple Beth Israel. “And Moses convoked (congregated) the whole Israelite community.”
As I write, many members of our TBI congregation (kehillah), together with the Rabbi and Cantor have gathered for the funeral of one of our esteemed lay leaders. Brenda Rosenfeld was a longtime member and had filled many leadership roles throughout the years. Her greatest contribution to the Beit Sefer was involving us in Big Sunday. I had the privilege of working closely with her as we planned this big event of doing mitzvot in our community. As I mourn Brenda’s passing and think about how this loss affects our kehillah, I am reminded of the amazing treasure we have of mourning rituals in the Jewish tradition.
When my mother sat shiva for my grandfather she shared something that she read in a book of Jewish mourning that stayed with me for a long time. In our Jewish kehillah, we sit shiva, not only to comfort the mourners, but so that we as a community, take notice of the person as he passes from our world, just as we took notice of that person when he entered this world. As a child I attended shiva with my parents and learned that death was a part of life. Inevitably at shiva, people talk about the person they have lost. These conversations begin the process of turning a physical life into a living memory. I have amazing memories of the shiva for each of my grandparents, my cousin, a close friend, and the parents of in my in-laws. To me, being a part of a Jewish community means having the honor of knowing people all ages as they go through many life stages together. The fragility of life can remind us how important it is to be present with each other now.
As I reread this parshah this week and read the words of Moses convoking the Kehillah, I think how grateful I am to be connected to this Jewish community and recommit to my contribution to making this a vibrant Jewish community.