These Are the Ways We Remember
Earlier this week, I posted this status update on Facebook:
It’s 21 Elul and the Rosh Hashana videos have begun. Here’s the first one that crossed my desk this morning: Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church, VA.
Later the same day, a flyer from Temple Israel Reform Congregation of Staten Island landed on my desk. It asks that when congregants come to temple for the High Holy Days they “wear something of a loved one who has passed–a pin, a scarf, a necklace, or bring a small picture in your pocket…. It will make their light shine again.”
Indeed, the possessions of those who are no longer with us hold tremendous sentimental value. Some of my mother’s jewelry, a pair of my grandfather’s eyeglasses (circa 1920), and my grandmother’s candlesticks–schlepped from the old country–are among my most treasured belongings. They are physical reminders of my past and a tangible connection to those on whose shoulders I now stand.
These possessions, too, are reminders of the divine sparks that dwelled within the people who owned them. The sparks are most evidentto me when I remember the ways my mispacha interacted with the world-at-large and what it is they wished most for future generations. Although my grandparents left no formal ethical wills, their deep and abiding commitment to family, to education, to decency for all, and to building a better life for themselves and their children is a priceless legacy that I strive to make amply and increasingly visible in my own life.
Unlike her parents, my mother deliberately and eloquently made her wishes known in an ethical willthat has been a tremendous comfort and a guide as I’ve navigated the world without her. This year, a few of her silver bracelets draped on my wrist during the High Holy Day season will remind me–as they always do–of her love, her values and her well-lived life. Perhaps most importantly, the strands of silver will prompt me to behave in ways that release my own divine sparks into the world. In so doing, I will, I believe, help her light continue to shine.