A Day in the Life of an Israeli MOM: Ella Gan-Or
This week, we all received very heartbreaking news as a young mother, Aish Rebbetzin, and outstanding Momentum Community Leader from L.A., Sharon Shenker, died, leaving behind a heartbroken family and community.
For months we all prayed, supported, and stormed the Heavens as she battled to live. Her always-positive countenance, wit, and wisdom were maintained almost to the end.
We are struggling with her death and the loss of so many of our loved ones, many asking, “Why?” and uttering words like, “So not fair” and “Much too soon.”
Years ago, there was a similar situation in Toronto, and I remember asking my husband for clarity on all of this.
Spoiler alert: we believe in reincarnation. Our souls are transmigrating, each one being allowed to realize its potential. If by invoking our bechira, free will, we did not realize our potential this time; we may have to return in a different form to get it right or to go through some sort of rectification to make up for choices in a past life.
He gave me these and other deep insights and understanding, along with the following image that helped me tremendously:
We come into this world with little “backpacks” on our backs. Each one is embossed with a number. Some say 7; some say 37; some say 107. These are the number of years G-d has assigned each one of us. It is clear in Tanach (Torah, Prophets, Writings) that years can be added or taken away from a person based on many factors. But we need to find the original number.
Thus, if we go to the shiva of a person who died at 87, we often try to comfort the mourner by saying, “At least he lived a long life.” But perhaps he had 107 on his backpack. And if we go to a shiva of someone who died at 37, we all say they died too young. But perhaps they had 7 on their backpack and were granted 30 more years for some reason.
We are bound by time. We live in the present, dwell on the past, and worry about the future. G-d is not bound by time and sees past, present, and future in one glance. People can merit more or fewer years, and when we personally and powerfully collectively pray for someone or do a mitzvah in their name, that brings more merit into the world, and we have no idea how The Almighty will distribute that merit.
At Sharon’s funeral this week, one rabbi said her five children now receive the merit of the tens of thousands of prayers. And we all know that any parent would make any sacrifice for their children.
We think we know what is best, but we don’t. The person you hoped and prayed would ask you out in high school, and when they didn’t, you were devastated…? Now you realize it was for the best.
But in moments of loss and heartbreak, it is human nature to feel angry and think, “it’s unfair.”
In the book “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Morrie, who is dying of ALS, says, “Everyone knows they are going to die, but no one believes it.”
We are all going to die, and we do not know when, and every day that we strive to do good for ourselves and others is a bonus gift. Please take that in; it is not “deserved”; it is a gift.
Two months ago, I was at another funeral, and the eulogizers kept saying it wasn’t fair, it’s too soon, and other words that not only do not bring comfort but evoke anger and resentment and are denying G-d and the perfection of how G-d runs the world.
Perfection does not mean a world of lollipops and candy floss. There will be pain, struggle, and strife. Will those challenges inspire us to change and grow and accomplish, or will they bring out our worst and turn us against one another? That is our free will to decide. And those decisions have consequences and ramifications, not just for here but for eternity.
Sharon’s funeral was the only one I have ever seen where many more women than men were in attendance (with over a thousand on the live stream). She inspired women to find the best part of themselves, for she only gave the best part of herself to those she knew, loved, and lifted. Her husband and children greatly relied upon her in every way, including financially, and thus a fund has been established for donations to see them through now and in the coming years. Children’s schools will need tuition, and the five chuppahs that Sharon’s soul will come to must be celebrated with joy, honor, and dignity.
Please help if you can. And may the merit of your gift be an aliyah neshama, the elevation of the incredible, joyful, loving, wise-beyond-her-years soul of one incredible woman, who I, and so many others, were privileged to know.