Rabbi Dan Levin: I think one of the most important parts of Jewish wisdom, part that I appreciate the most, is the idea that when we mourn, we don’t do this alone. We’re supposed to be together with sacred community. And that’s why it’s such a privilege for me and all of us at Temple Beth El to be there with you in those very, very difficult and dark moments so that we can be a source of comfort and strength, that we can share in the gift of memory. It is such a privilege for me when I get to meet with a family, and they share with me the incredible memories they have of their loved ones and all of the ways that their loved ones still live within them.
I remember when my father died that my son had a lot of questions, and he asked, “Where is he?” And I said, “Well, we were just at the cemetery.” He says, “No, no, no. I know that.” He says, “Where is he?” So I said to him, “Imagine as if The Holy One is an infinitely humongous piece of Play-Doh. And when we’re born, God takes a piece of whatever God is and sticks that holy energy in us, and they call that a soul. And you can’t see it, and you can’t touch it, but it’s what really makes us who we are.”
And so, when we’re born, it’s us, and it’s pure. But as we grow, we learn to love. And when we love someone, we take a piece of us and stick it in them, and they take a piece of them and stick it in us. And so, if we were to look at our Play-Doh, it’s pretty marbled. Some of it is the pure us, but a lot of it is the people that we love.
And when we die, the part of us that came from the earth goes back to the earth. And the part of us that came from God goes back to God. But the parts of us that we give to each other, we get to keep. Wherever we go, our loved ones go with us. Whatever we see, they see through our eyes. Whatever we feel, they feel with us in our hearts.
They live in us. We can see them whenever we close our eyes. We can hear them speak to us. And so, we will continue to carry them on our life’s journey, as we will continue to feel a sense of their presence, even in the midst of their absence.