The Parted Waters

After I posted my first entry, a reader asked if the continued process of grieving for Mitch would form the substance of this blog. I reminded of my intention to post about my personal spiritual journey and contemplations. And though losing Mitch has been for the past year the defining reality of my/my family’s life, I am grateful to be able to share a more recent, similarly defining moment in that journey.

This weekend, our youngest son, Nate, celebrated becoming Bar Mitzvah. To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, I have often said when asked, “We have three children, all of whom are above average…and then there’s Nate!” Truth to tell, all four of our kids, including Mitch z”l, have exceptional qualities. Nate’s include a unique presence, confidence, intellectual acuity and artistic ambition. All of these combined this past Shabbat to bring forward a Bar Mitzvah who carried himself with unusual poise, panache and humor.

But Nate did something more than that. He provided spiritual direction. In his d’var Torah, reflecting upon Exodus 15, the Song sung by the Israelites after the crossing of the Red Sea, Nate spoke of the healing power of music as a vehicle to renewal and joy. In speaking so emphatically of this reality and in the way in which he helped lead the service and the later festivities, he proved his point.

When Nate’s participation in the service concluded, our rabbi led a wonderful discussion about the possible meanings of the crossing. After the service, a friend approached me, saying, “I didn’t say this during the discussion, but I want you to know the image that occurred to me. The Sea was the sea of tears which have already been or might today have been shed because of Mitch. Thanks to Nate, that sea of tears parted, and he led us all through on a dry ground of joy.”

Love and faith can do that. They can part the waters of our tears and help us find our way to redemptive life and hope. Nate did that for us, on the very Shabbat when we might otherwise have felt only the sadness of the first yahrzeit. He reminded us, by example, that our mandate is to choose life. He chose to retain the date of his Bar Mitzvah; he chose to experience it and share it as he did; and he invited us to make the journey with him. Today, it’s my privilege to extend that invitation to you – L’chayim!

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Rabbi Rex D. Perlmeter

About Rabbi Rex D. Perlmeter

Rabbi Rex Perlmeter was ordained at HUC-JIR in 1985 and went on to serve as spiritual leader of Temple Israel of Greater Miami and the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. After serving on staff at the Union for Reform Judaism for five years, he has gone on to found the Jewish Wellness Center of North Jersey, a practice dedicated to supporting all engaged in "seeking Oneness in body, heart, mind and soul."

12 Responses to “The Parted Waters”

  1. avatar

    The whole weekend was rather extraordinary. Nate has blossomed over the last year into a truly delightful and self-possessed young man. We are all richer for being with him. And his Bar Mitzvah service was awesome! One of the best D’var Torah’s I’ve ever heard.

    Thank you for allowing us to share in the celebration. It was a pleasure. And everyone’s willingness to integrate the remembrance of Mitch’s passing into the weekend (rather than either trying to ignore it, or focusing too much on it) was powerful and touching. The grace that you, Rachel, and the “kids” brought to everything is something I will strive mightily to bring into my own heart and life.

    You and the gang are treasures, Rex. Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing your happiness. Thank you for opening your hearts to all of us.

    Go, Nate!!!

  2. avatar

    Rex –
    Thank you and thank you, Nate, for a beautiful moment of faith. I felt chills down my spine as I read your perfect description of the moment at the Sea. I hope…I hope that your family’s journey on the other side of Sea continues with faith and success!
    Mark S

  3. avatar

    Rex, I am so glad to read about you and your family. I have thought of your family often in the last year and I am grateful that you were blessed with such a joyful Shabbat. Mazel ton
    Amy Katz

  4. Steve Fuchs

    What a wonderful description. What a wonderful testament to the power of faith! Even though the sea parted, we have to keep walking. the power of keeping going resonates so beautifully in your description! Thank you, Rex!

  5. avatar

    You gave me a completely new way to understand the ongoing experience of crossing the Sea. Thanks, and Mazal Tov on your son’s Bar Mitzvah. The ability to celebrate even in the presence of loss is awesome.
    Much love, Dan Liben

  6. avatar


    I certainly wish you and Rachel much joy with your children. I think of you often, and thank you for your support through those trying times. Be well, my friend.


  7. avatar

    A beautiful description. Thank you for sharing. Mazal tov to you on this simcha!

  8. avatar

    Rex, a fantastic weekend which I felt honored to share with the family. Hotel Perlmeter was a delight and I don’t think we can say it enough, just how fantastic Natedogg was, I think he did Matthew Brodreick proud. Love you!

  9. Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

    Rex, Rachel et al: I am so sorry I could not be there to share your special day. But your powerful message helped me experience a bit of your simcha from afar, and share in your kvelling over Nate’s special day. Your messages have been inspiring and insightful and so meaningful to those of us who know and love you and your family. Thank you for sharing your heart, your mind, your spirit with us.

  10. avatar

    I think of you and your family often.Thanks so much for sharing Nate’s Bar
    Mitzvah message with us. As I study with
    Rachael and think about our car trip in
    Henderson I realize how my life is richer
    because both of you are part of it.Memory is a beautiful gift. May your memories bring
    you joy and peace.

  11. avatar
    Josi (Farber) Rein Reply February 11, 2012 at 3:02 am

    Dear Rex
    How often I come across your name on my journey through life. What a story of your son Nate, and how music has been interwoven and played such a role in your spiritual journey through life. For me it too has been a source of joy and strength and given me courage to go beyond my reaches and comfort zone. I spent the last year and a half going back to doing something I had found rewarding and made me happy so long ago…songleading. Simply by changing the meaning or purpose of what I was doing now by teaching pre-schoolers music in stead of youth groups like in days long ago, I could change these tots understanding of tradition by bringing Jewish Values to life through music! What I use to think of as new melodies are now considered traditional. As I mourn my dear friend Debbie Friedmans passing, I thank god she was there for me all these years later to help me again find my voice, purpose and courage to begin redefining my life. She told me that I hadn’t lost my voice, I had just lost my way for awhile. Knowing I would find my way back to doing what I loved so much was a given at some point in my life. I’m so sorry for the loss of your son and wish I had known to send my condolences. May your continued joys in life help heal your sorrow, and may you and your family be blessed with comfort and peace. Mazel Tov on your sons Bar Mitzvah.

  12. avatar
    Josi (Farber) Rein Reply February 11, 2012 at 3:08 am

    love the picture of Danny Nicoles at the top of your blog! Got to know him and so many other clergy songleaders educatiors and musicians at Hava Nashira over the last couple of years. Check out my Facebook page rex and you can see me doing the same for Passover with my pre-schoolers at a JCC event.

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