This week I am marking life and death with gratitude.
My mother, may she live and be well, just turned 88. And this Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) marks the 12th yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the passing of our Rabbi and teacher, Reb Noah Weinberg ztz”l (of blessed memory).
I have not been able to visit my mother in person in almost a year, thankfully she is safe and in an excellent Jewish assisted living facility in Toronto, but none of the four kids in my family live in Toronto. And with the passing of my father two years ago, it has not been easy or simple. She used to handle the technology well, and we would FaceTime frequently, but more and more, it is a struggle for her, so our connections are fewer and increasingly far between. Thankfully on her birthday, she picked up FaceTime, and we could connect.
One of the reasons we are not there is because growing up; my mother taught us to be worldly, independent, and to follow our dreams, perhaps not realizing that it meant she would in some way be left behind… She always sees us as individuals and supports our different choices and journeys, helping us to see our own strengths and talents, and does everything possible to help us channel them for good. She takes great nachas in our accomplishments and cheers us on from afar.
Reb Noah taught us that we were created in the image of God, with free will and unlimited potential, and that as part of the Jewish people, we are responsible to use our God-given gifts to help our fellow Jew and the world know the same.
Judaism teaches that our parents bring us into this world, and our Rebbe (our most influential teacher of Torah) brings us into the next. That is why we spend a lifetime showing them gratitude and honor, and even after they leave this world, strive to live a life that gives them nachas (soul-filled pleasure) for eternity.
The BIG P.S. to all of this is that hours after my initial call with my mother, I called her back– yes, she miraculously answered– and I was able to give her an extra bonus birthday present, sharing with her the “hot off the presses” news of the birth of a brand new baby great-granddaughter! Yes, our son and daughter-in-law in Jerusalem just had a baby girl…
Life…death…life. All infused with meaning and, yes, deep gratitude.