Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tetzaveh, Purim, Death, Life

9:00 PM - It's Purim night and here I am at the keyboard. I have my pride, so I'm writing here and not my (slightly) more public blog. This aveilus thing is confusing. the books don't talk about it, this whole keeping away from celebrations even on Shabbos. I was told that a seudah is fine, any amount of anything. But what about tonight? I live right by Y.U, one of the biggest and best chagigas around, and yet...
I'm going to keep returning to parsha and Purim, so it's not totally random that I'm posting here. But it will be broader than just the parsha ma'am. It'll be kind of like some of my posts from the end of the summer of '08 and the surrounding times.
I feel like a kill joy when I say kaddish. No one wants to hear it. I pick my minyans in part based on acoustics. The new YU Beis Medrash has not worked well for me in terms of acoustics and big crowds in the past as far as kaddish goes. So I went to a smaller minyan in the Rubin Shul. There I was, getting in the last word while every one wanted to eat, drink, and be merry and be done with davening.
Before megillah reading the gabbai announced that if you don't hear a word from the reader you should say it aloud yourself. He said you are halachically permitted to read up to half of the megillah yourself from a book. You shouldn't read it all along with the ba'al korei, Gabbai said, because then you're reading it all not from a klaf and not yotzei and also annoying people around you. He also warned that sometimes you can't make out all the names of Haman's sons and should read them yourself if that's the case (the ba'al korei took umbrage to to this).
The obligation about hearing the megillah always left me wondering, now more-so. What does it mean to hear something. We use the word "hear" as synonymous with understand - as in, "Do you hear what I'm sayin' man?" But they are not necessarily always synonymous. You can hear something with your ears and not understand what's being said, just as you can sometimes not get the words coming out of someone's mouth and yet understand what they are trying to convey.
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The nurse at mom's bedside told that hearing is the last thing to go but that understanding is gone way earlier. They were sure that mom could hear but not understand, and I took their word on that even as I doubted it. In those kind of intense death threatening at your door moments there's an acute need to trust people - sometimes despite your own inclination. I wonder. This is what came to mind this year as I thought my usual thoughts about the reading.
I was also tuned in to timing. How long did the story take? It seems to me that it takes at least ten years. I folded over the pages that stated dates, also pages with lines that resonated.
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11:27 PM I stopped by the YU chagigah. I got there around 9:30 and things were just starting up. It's unclear to me what I can do. My main rebbe/mentor says that anything goes on Purim and that on Shabbos also for the most part. The rabbis I know in the halachik YU community have this thing from Rav Soloveichik about simchas merei'us. Based on that I was told tonight that I could stay on watch but dancing was the one thing it would be better not to do. The rabbi that answered was very kind and other oriented. He gave me a hug and wished me happy times (not in exactly those words). I tried to ask an elder rebbe first but couldn't get to it as he was going on about he's never been before been at the chagigah before it started and it's not like people had to eat after fasting so it's hard to understand how an it be that things aren't underway yet and...
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I can't find my Jewish Week right now. It might be under the couch. As I was dozing last night I read this week's dvar Torah, something I've been doing with added interest since I've published my divrei Torah in that paper. I feel a camaraderie with the other writers, also a curiosity - who else is writing what. This week's writer raised the issue of the paradox of being commanded to destroy the memory of Amalek and also in the same breath being commanded to never forget them. Also raised was the fact that Haman's descendants learned Torah in Bnei Brak.
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I forgot to include in my Tetzaveh piece the idea that a message of the parsha seems to be that even, or perhaps especially, clothing is a major part of avodat Hashem. Also, Rabbi Twerski turns his Tetzaveh thoughts to azut - arrogance, and so does Rabbi Baruch Simon, each coming at it from a different angle....
12:01 AM Wow!!! I am moved. The young rabbi that I spoke to earlier at the chagigah just called me to see how I'm doing! He said that I should keep in mind that the restrictions of the 12 months are a fulfilment of kibbud eim - honoring my mother. He said it was good to see me and that I'm a very special person. It was real, not perfunctory feeling. He was in no rush to go. Gestures like that restore my sometimes wobbly faith in humanity.
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It reminds me of a story I heard from Rabbi Ben Tzion Twersky. His son was in a serious car accident and was in the hospital. He was surrounded by student friends. One of them was a sensitive and talented violin player who played for him, while other offered conversation and company. When the room became filled with students the boy's mother stepped out and sat in the hall outside the room. A few minutes later her cell phone rang. It was the mother of the violin player. He was worried that she felt lonely and could use some company herself and so he asked his mother to give her a call.
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I feel like I could write forever. We all pass time in different ways. I think thoughtful, introspective writing, shared with thoughtful introspective people is a better way to invest time than ways of passing time that I can think of. I thank G-d for this writing. I thank G-d for everything.
Good night and G-d bless
he wrote, thinking about Mom
On Motzai Shabbos
When it was also Purim
And she was completely dead

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