Do Paths Diverge? Is there a Fork in the Road? or Do Paths Run Together Again? By Rena Boroditsky
[Ed. Note: This is a reprise of an entry from 21 May 2015. It was not published as a Rosh Hashanah piece, but it touches on themes that are relevant to this holiday: memory, after life, the soul, connection to the divine, how we live, what shapes us, our choices. It feels very relevant to the Yamim Nora’im (days of awe). All of us at Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel institute wish you a year of blessings in 5778. — JB]
Now in my early 50’s, I’ve lived longer than either of my parents did. My dad died at 44 and my mom died at 48, just before my 20th birthday.
Over the years, particularly on those challenging parenting days, I often thought about how my parents managed family, work, life. I could compare myself to them, or more accurately, see myself in relation to them, in their light. I appreciated and understood my parents on more complex levels with a deeper and wider perspective. We shared common experiences of raising kids, running around, the never-ending list of things to do with limited resources and energy.
My future, however is truly my own. My parents and I will not share aging. We wont have the common experiences of launching adult children into the world. The pull and push of nurturing and separating. Of, God willing, grandchildren. Of physical decline. Of losing family and friends in a sad, steady stream. My parents and I will have less and less in common as my life unfolds in ways that theirs did not. I won’t be able to see myself in their light in the same way.
I was once asked who finished raising me. I did much of the hard work, but in retrospect, my parents were still holding the map and the flashlight.
Judaism teaches that the part of us which is Divine, the soul of our soul, is eternal and continues on through realms beyond our comprehension. We learn that souls merit from our good deeds. That souls can communicate with us if they choose to and if we are open to it. Many people have experienced a moment, a voice, a sense that there was a presence accompanying them.
I can’t identify a specific moment where I felt a presence. I may not have recognized it at the time, or maybe I wasn’t paying attention. I want to be believe that they – those who are gone – are aware of us. When I have the opportunity, I silently dedicate a learning session in my parents’ names. I wonder if they are with me. If they are no longer holding the map, do they at least still have the flashlight? Do they know the choices I have made and what I am doing? Do they have any advice to offer me as I write the next chapters of my story? And will I be able to hear them?
Dedicated to the memory of Gershon ben Aharon v’Sarah, 37th Yahrzeit, 3 Sivan 5775
Rena Boroditsky is the Executive Director of the Chesed Shel Emes, the non-profit Jewish funeral chapel and Chevrah Kadisha in Winnipeg, Canada. For more than fifteen years, she has been a student and teacher of end-of-life Jewish rituals. Rena has led sessions at Kavod v’Nichum conferences and at Limmud events in the US & Canada. She launched Death Cafe Wnnipeg. She has served in past as a board member of Kavod v’Nichum, and was elected to the office of Vice-President. She is a graduate of the Gamliel Institute and has been an instructor and member of the faculty. She has been honored by the Federation for her work in the community, and continues her studies.
GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES
LOOKING FORWARD: UPCOMING COURSE
The Gamliel Institute will be offering course 5, Chevrah Kadisha: Ritual, Liturgy, & Practice (Other than Taharah & Shmirah), online, afternoons/evenings, in the Winter semester, starting roughly in January, 2018. This is the core course focusing on ritual, liturgy, practical matters, how-to, and what it means (for everything other than Taharah and Shmirah, which are covered in course 2).
The course will meet online for twelve Tuesdays (the day will be adjusted in any weeks with Jewish holidays during this course).
Information on attending the course preview, the online orientation, and the course will be announced and sent to those registered. Register or contact us for more information.
For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or at the Kavod v’Nichum website. Please contact us for information or assistance by email email@example.com, or phone at 410-733-3700.
Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session on the 3rd Wednedsays of most months. Each month, a different person will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is October 18th.
Gamliel Graduate Courses
Graduates of the Gamliel Institute, and Gamliel students who have completed three or more Gamliel Institute courses should be on the lookout for information on a series of “Gamliel Graduate’ Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. We plan to begin this Fall, in October and November. The first series will be on Psalms. Registration will be required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Heading this intiative is the dynamic duo of Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. Contact us – register at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Gracuates courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.
You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD 21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.
You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).
If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at email@example.com.
Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.
RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED!
SUBMISSIONS ALWAYS WELCOME
If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.