Saturday, April 25, 2009

Acharei Mot - After the Death . . .

היום ששה עשר יומים שהם שני שבועות ושני יומים לעמר
Today is the sixteenth day of the omer - two weeks and two days

גבורה שבתפרת
A day of strength in a week of compassion

At today's Shabbat Mincha I read the beginning of the week's Torah parasha, אחרי מות - Acharei Mot, -- "After the death."
From the Etz Hayim commentary:
"'This is one of the parashiyyot whose name and opening words set the tone for all tha follows. 'After the death of the two sons of Aaron,' we are drawn to confront our own mortality and to reflect on the direction of our lives, for the text proceeds by describing the Yom Kippur rituals of cleansing, self-scrutiny, and self-renewal . . . (Acharei Mot is read in the spring, six months before and after Yom Kippur, as if to suggest that any season is an appropriate time for self-scrutiny and atonement.)"
One of the aspects of Jewish practice that I appreciate is the structure of the yearly spiritual cycle. While the rituals are specifically prescribed, there are many types of ritual--the Torah readings, the sacred calendar, the time cycles of seasons, months, days. Like concentric circles, at one point in the arc you are on many different layers. I will look to each circle--some going inward, some seeking outward--to guide me with my confrontation with mortality and with my reflection on life.

"After the death..." - those words have resonated many times this year. I have experienced my own grief with the passing of Mitzi and then Rabbi Lew. I have supported friends in their grief as they grappled with the loss of a parent. And tomorrow I will join with others in my community as we struggle to make sense of the death of a vibrant, 25-year-old who touched so many in her brief life.

As I travel through the circles on this day of strength and compassion, may each layer bring me the insight I need to find my way.

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