I always like to share news, ideas, resources and referrals with my friends and neighbors. Many people often ask me about past emails: “Do you still have that email you sent a few weeks ago about that one nanny?” I was encouraged by many friends to go ahead and compile my emails online so you can share the information with your friends easily too.
Our little sliver of Manhattan, the Upper West Side, will be a little happier if we all share with our neighbors.
I found myself explaining to a friend in the community why I have this blog and why the main reason is to help others through the information I share. I realized that I never shared this reason with you on the blog. My Mom, Louisa Levin, died March 4th, 2010. We buried her on my daughter’s 1st birthday. My Mom and I thought we’d be celebrating her Grandchildren for many years. My Mom taught me about mitzvot, good deeds. When she died, I learned that it is important to take on a mitzvah in honor of the dead. My Mom always loved sharing information with her patients and anyone she met. She was always the last person at an event and told everyone about the value of Vitamin D and good nutrition. She had a tip or recent research to share on every topic under the sun.
I read an excerpt about death that I thought beautifully linked together the feeling of parenthood (caring for a baby) and the cycle of life. Many of you do not have to think about a parent dying for a very long time. But one day, you will be faced with this. Many of my friends, many I have met through this sad reality in my life, have had to join this “Club” prematurely. Perhaps reading these words from Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips will offer some perspective and a shift in perception of death.
Those who are born among us are gently washed, swaddled, and watched over around the clock. Through Sacred Undertaking, we offer the same loving care to those who die among us, taming our own fears of death in the process.
These imperatives of true kindness can only be fulfilled through our immediate, physical presence. Sacred Undertaking expresses perhaps the ultimate Isabella Freedman commitment to “Soil, Soul, and Tzedek“:
SOIL: We are companions on the human journey of return to the earth. The recent green burial movement affirms the values that Jewish burial traditions have upheld for millennia: sustainability, simplicity, and equality.
SOUL: We are companions on the spiritual journey of each soul taking leave of each body in our care. We are guided by our legacy of Jewish afterlife traditions, even as we encounter the mysteries beyond. We honor our dead as “bound up in the bond of life.”
TZEDEK (Justice):We realize that true sustainability, simplicity, and equality are only possible when we accept death as integral to the cycle of life. Sacred Undertaking offers a return from the alienating, costly, and destructive consequences of death denial, to the renewal of our relationships, our communities, and our world.
Levayah, our Jewish word for funeral, means “accompanying.” We stretch ourselves to be more fully present in this accompanying process. Ultimately, we can experience a deep and reassuring connection to all those who have entered the mystery before us—as well as to the Source of Life, to which countless generations have already returned, and countless generations will return after us.
Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips, is a chaplain and educator committed to “ways of peace”: cooperative Jewish and interfaith efforts to build engaged and caring communities. She lived and worked for social change in Israel during the turbulent years of 1989–1994, was honored in 2002 for her leadership in post-9/11 disaster relief, and participated in the interfaith Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2005. As founder of a 75-member Jewish burial fellowship, Rabbi Regina has developed a range of vital Jewish resources for honoring the dead.
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