Sunday, April 24, 2011

The First Week

By Susan Esther Barnes

I learned of my father's death early Saturday evening. An email went out from the synagogue to the congregation on Sunday morning. On Sunday evening, on less than 12 hours' notice, there were 30 people in my home for a minyan.

On the way over, Rabbi Stacy had stopped at the synagogue to pick up the prayer books we use at a mourning service, but neither she nor her husband could get the key to the office to work, so they arrived without them. We went through the entire service without the benefit of the prayer books, and nobody missed a word. Nobody missed a beat. There are those who think Reform Jews are ignorant and uneducated. I beg to differ.

When we rose and faced east for the Bar'chu, we looked out the windows over the small common area of trees and bushes behind my home. As we stood there, a man started to raise the blinds in a home across the way. Once they were up, he looked across at us. I am sure he wondered why there were a bunch of people here, standing at the window, looking out at him. After a moment, he closed the blinds again.

I know he had no way of knowing what was going on, but I couldn't help but think, "He is trying to close himself off from death. We are opening ourselves to death's reality. He would be better off if he would open the blinds and join us."

For the first couple of days, I couldn't sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time. I was tired. Time seemed to stretch out in a way it never has before. No one thing seemed to take a long time; it was just the accumulated weight of it all.

Then the cards and the emails started to arrive. As a member of the synagogue board of directors, I've been writing sympathy notes to congregants for a couple of years now. I tried to put a lot of thought into what I said in those notes.

On the receiving end of such notes for the first time, I noticed that some people wrote a paragraph or two, and some just signed their name to a pre-printed sympathy card. That is when I learned that it doesn't really matter what you write. Sure, it's nice to get a card that has something personal written in it. But at the end of the day, what matters is that the person took the time to send one. Whether they write something in it or not is greatly outweighed by the simple fact that they were thoughtful enough to send one.

On Thursday night, someone from the synagogue delivered a meal to our house. When I agreed to receive the meal, I didn't think it was a big deal. After all, I had been eating. But when I opened the bag and smelled the chicken, I realized it was the first hot, decent meal I'd had since the night before my father died. I've never had much patience for cooking, and I have even less now, so I had basically been snacking. Knowing that the meal came from the synagogue and was made with love made it that much better.

On Friday evening, my husband and I went to the synagogue. Normally I get there early to greet people at the front door. This time, we arrived just before services started, and there were others there to greet us.

My friend Judi sat with us in the rabbi's office and held my hand as services started. The beginning of the service is a series of joyful songs. Mourners traditionally don't enter the sanctuary until after L'cha Dodi, the song welcoming the Sabbath Bride, because we are not capable in joining in the joy of the opening songs at this time.

Usually I open the synagogue doors at the end of L'cha Dodi to "enable" the Sabbath Bride to come in. This time Judi and Ken opened the doors, and after the song, John and I walked in to take our seats.

When the time came for the prayer for healing, I realized that, although I had been saying my father's name for the last few years, I would no longer be asking for healing for him. I skipped his name, and went on to the name of my friend Mark, and Frank, the significant other of a friend at work. Then I started to cry, both because I could no longer say the prayer of healing for my father, and because I heard other people asking for healing for me.

At the Saturday morning service, I wrapped myself in my tallit (prayer shawl), so it completely covered my upper body below the neck. I didn't know I was going to do that, but it felt right to wrap myself in it that way. I was so grateful that I was in the habit of wearing a large, full tallit. Many people, especially women, wear a much smaller tallit, more like a large scarf, completely incapable of enveloping a person the way mine did.

For much of the service on both Friday and Saturday, I didn't sing or join in the prayers. I closed my eyes and listened. The sound of the congregation was unbelievably beautiful. I don't think they have any idea how beautiful they sound; I certainly had no idea before this past weekend, when I had been singing rather than really listening.

The songs felt like warm, gentle waves lapping over me. I felt raw, like my body was an open wound, which the waves of sound could not touch or heal. Yet the waves washed over me, surrounding me, creating a barrier between me and the rest of the world, assuring me that although they could not heal the hurt I am now feeling, they will embrace me and protect me from other hurts, and allow my healing process the space to begin on its own in its own time.

I am still in the time called anunit, the period between death and burial. I still don't know when the burial will be. Time is still moving at a freakishly slow pace. It feels like it's been a month since my father died.

It is possible that the only people at the burial will be my father's widow, my sister, my husband, and me. My sister asked me to say a few prayers at the burial. Rabbi Michael loaned me a copy of the rabbi manual he uses at life cycle events so I will have something appropriate to say.

I don't know how this is all going to play out over the coming weeks and months. I know I could have struggled through this on my own, but the incalculable value of going through this in the midst of a loving community is clear.

As I told Judi on Friday night, ever since I was 17, it has been my husband who has carried me through all the hardest times of my life. I am so grateful he doesn't have to do it alone any more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Suspended in Mid Air

By Susan Esther Barnes

Baruch dayan ha'emet.

Everyone's grieving process is different. I wish mine were different than it is, but it isn't something I get to choose; it isn't something I can change. I call mine the Wile E. Coyote style of grieving.

My father, may his memory be a blessing, died on Saturday morning. I found out about it early Saturday evening. It is now very early on Monday morning - so early it is really still Sunday night.

I should be crying. At the very least, I should feel immersed in sadness.

My father was in and out of the hospital for a week before he died, but neither my sister nor I knew that before his death. I should be angry at his wife - now his widow - for depriving us of the opportunity to be there for him during the last days of his life.

Because he died two days before the start of Passover, instead of the normal seven day shiva mourning period (the word shiva even means seven), I only get about 48 hours. I should feel cheated out of the proper shiva period to which I thought I would be entitled.

Because his widow has chosen not to bury him for seven to ten days, I should feel horrified that his body will spend so much time on a cold shelf in a morgue, alone, without a shomer to watch over him.

I thought the shiva minyan (prayer service) we had on Sunday evening would help to move my grieving process along faster. I thought it would bring all these feelings out, but it did not. That is not how my grieving process works, and despite my wishes, it will not be rushed.

Instead, I am still mostly numb. Like in the old Road Runner cartoons, just after Wile E. Coyote has inadvertently run off a cliff, I am suspended in mid air. I am in the midst of a pregnant pause that stretches out beyond credulity, even though, to some extent, I understand something important has gone wrong.

Like Wile E. Coyote, I tentatively reach out with a paw, feeling for the ground which is no longer beneath me. For me, this takes the form of my newfound inability to sleep for more than a couple hours at a time.

Here I will hang, for an unknown period of time, before I am able to look down and suddenly begin my plunge to the valley floor below.

It does me no good to envy those who, in what appears to me to be a more realistic fashion, drop immediatley after running off the cliff edge. It does me no good to tell myself the ground under my feet is gone and I cannot turn around and regain the cliff top.

No, against my will, I must pause here, hanging like Wile E. Coyote in mid air, waiting for the inevitable plunge to come at some random moment of its own choosing.

But I have one thing Wile E. Coyote did not have. And that is the knowledge that when that plunge comes, my husband and my community will be here to catch me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Haveil Havalim #313 - the Pre-Passover Edition

Baruch dayan ha'emet. My father died on Saturday morning after a long illness. This week's blog carnival was almost entirely already put together by then, and is automatically scheduled to post on Sunday morning. I hope that works. Please forgive any errors or typos. I will not be proofreading this as I normally would.

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It's hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack.

Opinions expressed in the posts linked below are those of the respective bloggers and not necessarily endorsed by me.

Batya turns a discovery during pre-Passover cleaning into a win-win situation in That Was Fast, Flour Gone posted at me-ander.

Rickismom cleaned twice in Starting Off One’s Day…. posted at Beneath the Wings.

Still wondering what to cook during the week of Passover? Mirj has some useful recipes in Don?t Pass Over These Recipes posted at Miriyummy.

With all the cleaning and cooking, don't forget about counting the Omer. Batya tells us about her experiences with trying to remember to count every night in Sefira Memories... Free Email and/or Cellphone Sefira Reminders? Nu? posted at me-ander.

Paul Kipnes shares some thoughts about the lamb bone on our seder plate in Got a Bone to Pick on Passover: Try this New Shankbone (Zeroah) Ritual posted at Or Am I?.

Batya shows us some Passover activities in Israel in Celebrating Passover at Tel Shiloh, Festival for the Entire Family posted at Shiloh Musings.

Please, don't go into debt buying stuff for Passover. But if you do, Harry presents Taking a loan for the holiday posted at ISRAELITY.

Homeshuling tells us about a Passover-related book in Yuvi’s Candy Tree – an interview with author Lesley Simpson posted at Homeshuling.

Daniela presents Osem's Mini Yellow Crouton Soup-Rings Kosher for Pesach posted at Isreview.

Eating rolls during Passover seems like cheating to me, but Daniela has a couple kosher-for-Passover roll finds in Green Lite's & Pillsbury's Rolls Kosher for Pesach posted at Isreview.

I don't think morality and halacha should be mutually exlusive, as I explain in Morality and Halacha posted at To Kiss a Mezuzah.

I answer questions from readers about Judaism and related subjects in Your Questions Answered #2 posted at To Kiss a Mezuzah.

Mordechai Torczyner presents an interesting perspective on the job of a rabbi in The Weakness of the Rabbi’s Business Model posted at The Rebbetzin's Husband.

Independent Patriot/Elise presents Glad I Do Not Consider Myself A Reform Jew Any Longer- Part 2 posted at Liberty's Spirit.

Elise /Independent Patriot writes about anti-semitism at her son's school in Dealing with the Oldest of Hatreds-AntiSemitism posted at Raising Asperger's Kids. It's not any easy thing for any of us to handle, but how much harder would it be if you were still a teen, had self-control issues to begin with, plus the authorities didn't seem to believe you? It's a miracle nobody was physically harmed, in my opinion.

Antisemitism can be particularly disheartening when it comes from other Jews. Allison Josephs presents a case of Jews reacting badly when a woman starts to become more observant in Why Is Everyone Turning Against Me Now That I'm Becoming More (Jewishly) Observant? | Jew In The City posted at Jew in the City.

Looking for a list of stuff Jews have been wrongly blamed for? Yip Bop provides it in JEWS – THE POPULAR SCAPEGOATS - News Beyond News! posted at News Beyond News!.

Laura Rosbrow writes about the bombing in Jerusalem in Being in Israel During the Jerusalem Bus Bombing and about the changing status of women in Israel in Israel Women Smashing the Glass Ceiling posted at The Internal Conflict.

Joel Katz once again provides us with a wide variety of news and information in Religion and State in Israel - April 11, 2011 (Section 1) and Religion and State in Israel - April 11, 2011 (Section 2) posted at Religion and State in Israel.

Harry gives us a peek at part of Israel's new defense system in Meet Israel’s new super hero – the Iron Dome posted at ISRAELITY.

Apparently, time is different in Israel, as Rivkah Lambert Adler explains in Israel Standard Time posted at Bat Aliyah.

Batya wrties about the forthcoming but not overly popular light rail system in More Sightings! Jerusalem's Lightrail is Chugging Along posted at me-ander.

Technically, this happened in Gaza, not Israel, but it's about rockets being fired into Israel, so close enough: Dave Bender writes a blurb about terrorists firing from a graveyard in Hamas Now Using Dead 'Human Shields' posted at Israel At Level Ground.

Dave Bender presents a lovely photo in ''A View With A Room' Along The Ancient 'Spice Trail' (photo) posted at Israel At Level Ground.

View Israeli postage stamps as Jacob Richman presents New Israeli Educational Stamps posted at Good News from Israel.

I thought this might go under anti-semitism or Israel, but the author categorized it under Politics, so that's where I'm placing it. SnoopyTheGoon presents Pastor Sizer: crossing the red line of anti-Israeli discourse posted at Simply Jews.

Batya presents PEACE With The Pseudostinian aka Palestinian sic Arabs, Let's Check Out Mutual Goals and Values posted at Shiloh Musings.

I write about weaving individuals into a community in How Threads Beome Cloth posted at To Kiss a Mezuzah.

Batya writes about an all-star football game in Israel in The IFL All-Star Game, Working Together posted at Shiloh Musings.

Paul Kipnes presents My Hero: A Heartwarming Aspergers Tale posted at Or Am I?.

How you can participate:
You may submit your blog post for the next edition of Haveil Havalim by using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How Threads Become Cloth

By Susan Esther Barnes

This story is a composite of stories that really happened. The names have been changed for the sake of privacy.


It is Saturday morning. Rabbi Sarah is at home with her family. It is her day off. The synagogue’s other rabbi is performing services this morning, when Rabbi Sarah’s phone rings. It is about Leah, a congregant.

Leah’s mother Keren had minor surgery yesterday. They were supposed to take her home today to recuperate, but somehow, during the night, she died. Can you go?

“Of course,” says Rabbi Sarah, and she heads out to the hospital.

It is Saturday evening. I am at home, thinking about the Super Bowl party I will attend the next day, when the phone rings. It is about Keren, may her memory be a blessing.

The funeral will be on Monday afternoon. Can you help with the taharah Monday morning?

“Of course,” I say, and I send an email to work to let them know I will be in late on Monday.

It is Monday afternoon. Joan, this month’s Nichum (comfort) Captain receives an email. It is about Leah.

Leah’s mother died suddenly over the weekend. The funeral was today. Can you make sure some meals are delivered to her over the next couple of weeks?

“Of course,” replies Joan, as she turns to her computer to send an email to a list of volunteers who live near Leah.

It is Monday evening. Iris receives an email from Joan. It is about Leah, but the email does not include any names or addresses.

A woman’s mother died suddenly this past weekend. She lives in your area. Can you bring her a meal? You don’t need to cook. Anything, even just a chicken and salad from the grocery store, would be fine.

“Of course,” replies Iris, “I will be happy to help.”


At the hospital, Rabbi Sarah hugs Leah. “If you like,” she tells her, “we have volunteers from the congregation who will watch over your mother’s body, who will make sure she is not alone, who will wash her and dress her, and prepare her for burial.”

“Do people still do that?” Leah asks.

“Yes, there are people who still do that.”

“I would be so grateful,” breathes Leah.

Later, Rabbi Sarah watches as the coroner puts an identification tag on Keren’s toe. It is a sign that she is really dead.

At the mortuary, we talk about how this is a person we are about to wash and dress, a member of our community, not just a body. We will refer to her as “Keren” or as “she;” never as “it.”

After we enter the room where Keren is lying on a table under a sheet, we check the tag on her toe. This is important, because we will be the last people to see her face. Once we place her in her coffin and seal it, the coffin will not be reopened. The tag is a signpost to ensure we are doing this for the right person.

At home, Joan contemplates the year gone by. Within a six month period, she had two major surgeries, one on one leg, and one on the other. During her two separate month-long stays in a care facility, and during each recovery period, members of the congregation delivered meals to her and her family.

She is grateful to be the Nichum Captain this month. She is grateful to be able to give back to the community that helped her when she was in need. It is a sign that she is well on her way down her path of healing.

Iris is thinking about the recent passing of Keren. Although they didn’t know each other well, the two of them used to work at the same company. Iris regrets that she was unable to attend Keren’s funeral, and that she was unable to tell her daughter Leah how sorry she is that Keren is gone.

While she is thinking these thoughts, she receives a follow up email from Joan, giving her the name and address where she is to take the meal she has volunteered to deliver. It is for Leah, Keren’s daughter.

Outside Leah’s home, Iris is about to double check that she has the right address, when she sees the mezuzah on Leah’s front doorpost. It is a sign that in this house dwell members of our community.


During a shiva visit to Leah’s home, Leah can’t tell Rabbi Sarah enough about how much she appreciates the fact that members of our community sat with her mother and cared for her from the time of her death until the time she was buried. She never expected the outpouring of love she has received, from meals, to phone calls, to cards and notes.

As we seal Leah’s coffin, light the Yartzheit candle, and leave her in the company of the Shomeret who will watch over her, we feel grateful to have been given the chance to do this holy act of taharah. On some level, we understand the family probably feels we have done them a favor, but we know, in fact, it is they who have done us the favor by allowing us this opportunity. After spending two hours with death, we are changed, and we cannot help but notice the abundance of life around us.

As her time as Nichum Captain comes to a close, Joan is grateful to have been given this opportunity to give back, and to help make connections in her community. She appreciates how much she received when she was ill, and is aware that in giving back in this way, she is still in the process of receiving.

Iris delivers her meal to Leah, and is able to take the opportunity to speak with her about her connection to Keren. She tells Leah what a special person Keren was, and how sorry she is that Keren is no longer with us. Leah thanks her for her words, and Iris feels grateful to have been given this chance to express what she was unable to say at the funeral.


This is how we gather loose threads, each which, by itself, would lie alone and underutilized, and weave them into the fabric of our community. This is how we take threads that, by themselves, could be easily broken, and create a material with a strength far beyond that which any individual thread could provide alone. This is how threads become cloth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Morality and Halacha

By Susan Esther Barnes

I was reading the comments on a post called I Made My First Gay Shidduch at Frum Satire, (a shidduch refers to matchmaking) and got into a discussion about halacha (Jewish law).

At one point I mentioned the fact that nobody follows all the laws in the Torah, and as an example used the fact that nobody kills unruly children.

The law about unruly children comes from Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which says, “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

One of the commenters said the reason why nobody ever stones to death an unruly son is that, “In order qualify as a rebellious son, the son had to be between 13 and 13.5 years of age, had to steal money from his parents, use that money to buy meat and wine from the vat. He then had to eat the meat medium rare in a few gulps, wash it down with a large quantity of the wine, while sitting in the company of bad people. His parents had to warn him against this beforehand. The valid witnesses had to warn him of the consequences 4 seconds before he ate and drank, and then testify against him in court.”

Of course, all of the rules in the paragraph above were made up by rabbis who wanted to make sure no kids got stoned to death.

Other commenters mentioned a rabbinic ruling that if a pregnant woman craved pork (which Jews are not supposed to eat), she was allowed to eat it, because they thought if her craving was not fulfilled, it could be life threatening.

Both of these cases are the kinds of legal arguments rabbis used to make in order to ensure that the people did what they believed to be morally right.

One of the points I was trying to make in my comments was that if the rabbis could make the rules like those above, the rabbis could also, if they wanted to, make a rule that would make gay relationships accepted.

For instance, the idea that gay relationships are not okay comes from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, both of which say a man should not lie with a man “as with a woman.” As a result, the rabbis could easily rule that a man who “lies” with a woman is having intercourse, which of course involves vaginal sex. Therefore, in order for a man to lie with a man “as with a woman,” he would have to have vaginal sex with that other man, and as long as he does not do so, he is not breaking the law. Since that would be physically impossible, gay sex is okay.

The person with which I was exchanging comments replied, “Suffice to say that even if you may be morally correct in your views, but you’re 100% wrong when it comes to halacha.”

He says this without apology. He seems to have completely missed the point that halacha is supposed to be a system of laws that help us to do what God wants us to do. And if God does not want us to be morally upright, then I seriously don’t know what God wants, or on what basis we should think it’s a good idea to follow God’s laws.

We have seen in the examples above how far out of their way the ancient rabbis were willing to go in order to make sure the laws were moral and just. I see this as one of the main strengths of Judaism, and one of the main areas where Orthodox Judaism has gone wrong. The moment they think they can separate God’s laws from moral behavior, the moment they think it’s okay to say, “This is morally repugnant but I’m going to do it anyway because I believe God said I should,” is the moment they break from one of the most important foundations of Judaism.

How can we be a light unto the nations if we lose our moral compass so thoroughly, and don’t even seem to notice it’s gone?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Your Questions Answered #2

By Susan Esther Barnes

One of the fun things about getting website statistics for my blog is I get to see the search terms people use to get here. A lot of those search terms are questions. You have some great questions, and I think they deserve an answer. In February I answered some of your questions. Below are answers to some of the questions you have asked since then:

Is there a chevra kadisha for women?
A chevra kadisha, or holy society, is a group of people who take care of others in their community. They do things like visit people who are sick, bring them meals, write get-well notes, and comfort people in mourning. They also usually perform shmirah, watching over the dead before they are buried; and taharah, ritually washing dead people, dressing them, and placing them in their coffin. Generally, a chevra kadisha will include both men and women.

What do you say when kissing a mezuzah?
There is nothing that is traditionally said when one kisses a mezuzah. Rather than saying anything, I like to use it as an opportunity to take a moment to think about what kind of person I want to be in the world.

Can Jewish people kiss people on Friday?
First of all, it's helpful to remember that the Jewish sabbath does not begin until sundown on Friday, and it runs through Saturday at sundown. So kissing someone on Friday morning or afternoon is no different than kissing someone on any other weekday. If the question is whether Jews kiss people on Shabbat (the sabbath), the answer is yes. In fact, it's a mitzvah for married couples to make love on Shabbat. It gives us a taste of the world-to-come.

Do Jews like kissing?
Jews are human beings just like all other human beings. We like kissing every bit as much as non-Jews do.

Can Jews step on the gounds of another religion?
Yes. Sometimes our rabbi speaks at a church. I have attended weddings, funerals, and meetings at churches. We do not take communion when visiting a church, nor do we genuflect, kneel or bow toward statues of Jesus or other such religious symbols.

Do Reform Jews follow the mitzvot?
There is nobody on this planet who follows all 613 mitzvot. (See my post here for more information backing up this statement). There are also very few people (Jewish or non-Jewish) who follow none of them. For example, most of us (and by "us" I mean human beings) don't murder people, most of us don't commit incest, most of us don't smite our mother or father, etc.

There are also some mitzvot that people with good intentions try to follow, but, as human beings, we sometimes fail to live up to our own high standards. For instance, some mitzvot many Jews (and many non-Jews) try to follow are refraining from gossip, not lying, and not blaspheming. It would be hard - maybe even impossible - to find a person who had never done any of things.

So yes, Reform Jews follow the mitzvot, but not all of them, and not all the time. The same can be said of Jews from every other denomination as well.

What happens if you don't follow the 613 mitzvot?
One answer: Nothing. See above. Nobody follows all 613 mitzvot.

Another answer: The Torah says if we follow God's commandments then rain will fall in the proper season and other good things will happen, and that bad things will happen if we don't follow them. However, I think anyone who tries to explain bad things that happen by claiming it's because somebody (or some group of people) broke one or more commandments, or did anything else wrong, is barking up the wrong tree.

A third way of looking at it: Many of the commandments have to do with how to treat other people. The more people who follow those commandments and treat each other well, the better off we all are, because we're living in a kinder, better world. Other commandments bring meaning to our lives in other ways.

If we explore those commandments that may bring meaning into our lives and try to find ways to do them, we enrich our lives. If we break commandments by doing things we know are wrong (such as stealing), we feel guilty.

So my real answer is: If we don't at least try to follow the mitzvot that we find morally compelling and/or that bring meaning into our lives, we're missing out on something important, and our lives are diminished.

Do Reform Jews put up mezuzahs?
Many Reform Jews do put up a mezuzah on the doorpost of the front door of their home. Some Reform Jews put up additional mezuzot (the plural of mezuzah) as well. My understanding is that Orthodox Jews usually put up a mezuzah on the doorpost of most of the doors of their home, excluding doors to closets and restrooms (but I haven't been in homes of Orthodox Jews to confirm this).

Are tefillin only for men?
No. Women are not required by halacha (Jewsih law) to wear tefillin; neither are women forbidden by halacha to wear them. The first time women wore tefillin at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem after the founding of Israel, the Orhtodox rabbi in charge of the Kotel at the time agreed that this is the case.

And my favorite "what were they thinking" search phrase was:

Vegetarian Mezuzah
We don't eat mezuzot. Mezuzot are incapable of eating. So there is no such thing as a vegetarian mezuzah.

Technically, the mezuzah is actually the scroll inside the case we see and kiss. To be kosher, the scroll must be made of parchment, which is made of animal skin. So I suppose the person who wrote "vegetarian mezuzah" was looking for a mezuzah which does not contain any animal parts. Unfortunately, they will not be able to find a kosher mezuzah without animal skin parchment.

Keep those questions coming!
I would love to answer more of your questions, so feel free to ask some in the comments section below, or just keep going with those interesting search terms.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Don't Want to Have Passover This Year

By Susan Esther Barnes

Usually, Passover is one of my favorite holidays. A celebration of freedom, surrounded by matzah, brisket, chopped liver, and four cups of wine - what's not to love?

At some point a few years ago, I told my friend Rose, may her memory be a blessing, that I didn't like my seder plate. This is the special plate we use at Passover, which holds the symbolic Passover foods like an egg, bitter herbs, charoset, etc. I bought it because I needed one, and it was the one I disliked the least.

At the end of 2008, when my husband and I moved into our new home, Rose gave us one of her seder plates as a housewarming gift. Pictured above, it's lovely. I like it much better than my old plate, both because I prefer how it looks, as well as because it's from Rose.

In 2009, after we used Rose's seder plate for our first Passover in our new home, I wrote her a second thank-you note for her gift.

In 2010, when Rose was lying in bed, slowly dying, I thanked her again for the plate. She said she was glad she had given it to me, and to know it would serve as a reminder of her.

I have been saying the Mourner's Kaddish for Rose every week for eight months now. One would think that would be long enough for me to realize the reality and finality of her death. Yet somehow, similar to how her absence at Yom Kippur hit me hard, the thought of celebrating Passover for the first time after her death hurts more than I had expected.

I know it isn't Passover that I don't want. What I don't want - the thing that, like Passover, is inexorably advancing toward me no matter how much I wish I could somehow avoid it - is having to come to terms with the reality of a world without Rose.