There is something that has been eating at me since my father's funeral. Immediately after the burial, everyone came to wish me and my family condolences, then after a few minutes, we all left the cemetery. For me this was the hardest moment of the whole day. I felt as if we were leaving my father behind all by himself. Was his soul lonely? Is it as hard for the dead to part from the living as it is for the living to part from the dead? Or has he moved on? What does Judaism say about the soul right after burial?
There is a striking parallel between a soul's journey to its place of rest in heaven, and the grieving process experienced by the mourners down here on earth. Both the departed soul and the loved ones left behind have to walk a slow and measured progression towards a new reality.
For seven days after a funeral, the family stay home in mourning, what is called sitting Shiva (Hebrew for the number seven). The kabbalists describe the departed soul during this time as being in a state of flux between the world of the living and the world of the dead. For that week, the soul commutes back and forth from the grave to the house of mourning and back again. It fluctuates, sometimes being in the home with the family, other times returning to the gravesite.
This explains the roller coaster of emotions often experienced by grieving relatives. At one moment they feel as if nothing has happened, as if their loved one is about to walk into the room. At the next moment the pain of loss hits, and they feel the void left by the death of their beloved. The pendulum of emotion is a reflection of the to and fro of the soul of the departed. The feeling that he may walk into the room is real, for his soul is there in the home. But then the soul leaves, and the sharp feeling of separation returns in its place.
On each day a part of the soul is left behind at the grave, and less of the soul returns to the home, until a week has passed, and the soul stops its commute. It then begins its journey upwards to higher realms. But a part of the soul always remains at the gravesite.
After your father's funeral, as the family was leaving the cemetery, you were not leaving your father's soul behind. His soul accompanied you home. Just as you could not let him go all at once, he could not leave you so suddenly either. The Jewish mourning process - seven intense days, thirty days of lesser intensity, and an entire year of subdued remembrance - is not only a way for you to gradually adjust to the new reality, it is a mirror image of the steps your father's soul takes towards reaching final rest.
So don't feel guilty as you slowly make your way back into life. It is a sign that your father's soul is finding peace. You will never leave him behind, and he will never leave you.
Nefesh is excited to announce that the following guest speakers will be addressing us during Nefesh services in June while Rabbi Moss is in New York.
Friday Night June 7- Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton
Shabbos Day June 8- Rabbi Dr. Nathan T. Lopes Cardozo
Friday Night June 14- Rabbi Mendel Kastel
Shabbos Day June 15- Rev Amzalak
Friday Night June 21- Rabbi Yehuda Spielman
Shabbos Day June 22-Rabbi Aaron Groner
Friday Night June 28- Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
Shabbos Day June 29- Chazan Isser Feiglin
INTERNATIONAL GUEST SPEAKER AT NEFESH
Nefesh is honoured that Rabbi Dr Nathan Cardozo will join us for Shabbos on June 8 and address us during the service.
Rabbi Dr Nathan Cardozo lectures regularly at over fifty institutions of Jewish and secular learning around the world and is often hosted by programs with affiliation ranging from the Orthodox Union and Union of Sephardic Communities to Oxford and Harvard Universities.
He is renowned for his unconventional style, straight-forward approach and unswerving honesty. He has been quoted as saying that "when Judaisim is introduced to a person as a religion of taboos, permanent damage is inflicted upon its very structure. Too often, young people have become victims of such negativity and consequently have not been able to find their way to the Jewish experience. One of the greatest tasks of Jewish educators today is to daringly turn the tide and show our people that Judaism is foremost the art of enjoying G-d's world."
SERVICES AT NEFESH ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Friday Night Candlelighting 4:37pm
Shabbos Service 6:00pm followed by Kiddush sponsored by Jonathan Shapira and Gilda Cohen-Shapira to honour the Yahrzeit of Jon's father, Miron Shapira, Meir Ben Yosef- Long life.
Morning Service 10am -12:20pm- Followed by
Kiddush sponsored in honour of the birth of their second son, Mason Chai by Dhani & Pratigya Pozniak- Mazal Tov!
Farbrengen sponsored by Rabbi Moss and Nechama Dina to say farewell to the community as they head to New York for 4 weeks.
I want to fulfil G-d's commandment to go forth and multiply. In fact, I want to have as many children as possible. However, my wife and I are struggling just to support ourselves. If we have lots of children in our current financial state we will be on welfare. I do believe G-d will provide so I can have lots of children, but this doesn't seem to be happening and I am getting impatient. Should we simply have a big family and hope for divine assistance so we can afford to live in a Jewish neighbourhood and keep up with the standard of living? Or should we wait until we might be more financially ahead?
I feel for you in your quandary. There is no greater gift than children, but we do have to be responsible. So let's think it through rationally.
You talk of having a big family. But that usually doesn't happen all at once. Unless your wife gives birth to sextuplets, it will be a while before you become a big family. So why not take one child at a time? I am sure you have room for one more. And then please G-d you will find room for another.
Every soul that comes into this world brings blessings with them. While until now G-d was only looking after you and your wife, when you have a child, G-d has three people to look after, with three separate accounts to deposit into. Apart from the government's baby bonus, there is a divine baby bonus. But that only comes after the child is born, not before.
The truth is, you can't predict what your financial position will be two years from now, or two days from now.
Imagine you win the lottery tomorrow and become a millionaire. Problem solved? Well, say you have ten children based on your new wealth. And then you lose it, as most lottery winners eventually do. What now? Do you give up your kids for adoption because you can't afford them any more? Finances are fickle. You can't base your life choices on money.
There is no question that being a parent can be expensive. But we all have to make careful choices about where our money goes. There is no mitzvah to keep up with the extravagances that others deem an appropriate standard of living. If you have a decent home and food to eat, you can do without many of the so-called necessities that are in fact luxuries. Ask yourself, in years from now, what will you regret more - the European holiday you never went on, or the child that you never had?
I know a religious man in his eighties who is blessed with countless grandchildren and great grandchildren. He happens to come from the same town in Europe as a well-known billionaire. When they meet, the billionaire always tells him, "I'm jealous of you. You are really the rich man, your shares will never drop."
Don't ask if you can afford to have a child. Ask if you can afford not to.
We just received news that Diana Golenshin of Israel, after a year in the US and moving from Miami to Cleveland, received a liver transplant in the early hours of Wednesday 15th May at the Cleveland Clinic. Baruch Hashem the operation was successful.
We now await news of her recovery, and pray that it is speedy and without trouble so that she can return home to Israel as soon as possible.
Many people from Nefesh helped the fundraising effort and allowed the family to remain in the US whilst she waited for this life saving procedure. Graham, Hana and Yona of the DianaGolenshinFund pass on the family's thanks for all the support and ask that you keep Diana in your prayers as she recovers - Diana bat Chava.
Shabbos June 8 we will be honoured to host Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, who will give the sermon during the service.
"Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo has emerged as one of the most thoughtful voices in contemporary Judaism. He is a man of deep faith and wide intellectual horizons, unafraid to confront the challenges of the age with the quiet confidence of one who is attuned to the music of eternity."(Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Britain and the Commonwealth)"
SERVICES AT NEFESH ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Friday Night Candlelighting 4:40pm
Shabbos Service 6:00pm followed by Kiddush
Morning Service 10am -12:20pm- Followed by Kiddush sponsored by Yamit and Darren Zelazne in honour of the birth of their baby boy- Mazal Tov!
Mincha 4:35pm followed by Seudah Shlishis in honour of Darren and Tracy Segal's beautiful baby daughter - Mazal Tov & may she only wear the crown of a good name!
CONTROVERSIAL LECTURE THIS SUNDAY - watch this clip, see below for details
Our guest speaker Miriam Grossman, MD interviewed on NZ TV
Question of the Week:
I am a Cohen by birth, but I have not done the duchaning (priestly blessing in Shul) for many years. I feel I am not worthy to bless the community. I do not observe Shabbos, I eat non-kosher (I mean really non-kosher) and would never described myself as pious in the least. Who am I to get up and serve as a priest to bless the nation?
You are just the type of Cohen I would like to bless me. You have the most important ingredient that makes the blessing work. You feel unworthy.
It seems strange that the Torah imparts the power to bless on an entire tribe. The descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother, known as the Cohen tribe, are commanded to bless the children of Israel. Cohenship is not a status that you can earn, it is a fact of birth. So why should a Cohen automatically have the gift of blessing?
The Torah is making it clear that the Cohen is not the source of the blessing. G-d is. The Cohen blesses not out of his own righteousness, but merely serves as a pipeline for the divine blessing to pass through. And to be a pipeline you can't be full of yourself. A Cohen who feels he is worthy to give blessings is missing the point.
You were born a Cohen, and that means you have this power. Be generous with it. It's not about you, it's about the goodness that comes through you. I'll have your blessing any day.
CONTROVERSIAL LECTURE MAY 19 - ALL NIGHT LEARNING SHAVUOS - see below
Question of the Week:
I am from a somewhat traditional Jewish family, and yet the festival of Shavuos is completely unknown to us. We always had Seder on Pesach and fasted on Yom Kippur, but we never did anything to celebrate the giving of the Torah. I would have thought that would be an important event to commemorate. So why is Shavuos the forgotten festival?
The reason why Shavuos is the least celebrated Jewish festival is a startling one. It is the least demanding. The easier the festival, the less it is observed.
The most difficult festival to observe is Yom Kippur, on which we abstain from food and drink altogether and pray all day. And yet, this rather grueling holyday is the most widely observed. The easiest festival to observe is Shavuos. All that is expected of us is to have a day of rest and eat lots of cheesecake. How hard can that be? And this pleasurable festival is the most neglected.
There's a surprising lesson there. We value things that require effort. If something comes too easy, it is taken lightly. But if it's demanding, it is more compelling. A tough diet will be taken seriously. A difficult work project will be given more attention. We invest ourselves where we feel what we are doing actually matters. When we are given serious responsibilities we step up to the role.
You would expect the opposite to be true. Indeed, there have been well meaning voices in Jewish history that have suggested that the best way to stem the tide of assimilation is by easing the laws of Judaism to make it more appealing. It makes sense. Lower the bar, lighten the burden, and people will be more willing to stay Jewish. But the result was the opposite. The Jewish movements that demanded less from their constituents have more often than not been a gateway out of Judaism rather than a way in. Quite simply, if Judaism asks nothing of me, then that's what Judaism will get.
We don't need to dilute Judaism to make it attractive. We just need to make it accessible. Jewish souls are thirsting for a Judaism that will ask something of them, demand their allegiance to a higher cause, stretch their minds to think deeper, challenge them to live with a sense of purpose and mission.
Perhaps this is one reason why the kabbalists introduced the custom of staying awake all night on Shavuos. Just eating cheesecake was too easy. Let's ask ourselves to give something up on Shavuos to show that it really matters to us. Fluffy Judaism is a tranquilliser. A demanding Judaism keeps us wide awake.