Sunday, October 16, 2016

What Feels Like Injustice May Be a Chance to Honor a Friend

Dear The Mums,

Yesterday in the minyan, we read from Ha’azinu, which, if I had to guess, is your least favorite Torah portion. Anyone who ever studied with you at this season in years past knows you were ever annoyed with God for telling Moses in no uncertain terms, “You may view the land from a distance, but you shall not enter it—the land that I am giving to the Israelite people.” (Deuteronomy 32:52)

The day before, we had a stark reminder of another of life’s injustices as hundreds of us gathered to say goodbye to Marcus Burstein, our friend, colleague, incredible mensch, and gentle soul extraordinaire. Marcus had died two days earlier, just after Yom Kippur drew to a close.

Like you, I want to be mad at God for allowing such an injustice, for letting an incredible, universally beloved human being suffer and die at 45. However, that would dishonor the memory of someone who had deep faith in God – in good times and bad. Instead, I’m going to try to honor his memory in ways that embrace the fullness of the life he crammed into those 45 short years.

I’m usually not one to dance, but I think a spin or two around the bedroom every so often with iTunes cranked would be a fitting tribute.

Unlike Marcus, I’m not a cook or baker, but perhaps I’ll bake a batch of magic cookie bars for Sukkot. (Another friend posted this recipe, one of his favorites, online and since they're "foolproof," I'm hopeful that even I can handle it.)

Smiling more, listening well, seeing the good in others, and embracing life and its blessings – those in plain sight and those that are hidden – are other ways I can try to honor his memory and his well-lived life.

I hope you’ve made peace with God over God’s injustice to Moses. I, too, will try to make peace with God over what feels like a huge injustice to Marcus, his family, and all the rest of us who knew and loved him. If he shows up in your Torah study group in olam ha-ba, I know you’ll be glad to see him – and that he’ll flash that wonderful smile at seeing you, too.

~ Boo.

P.S. In spite of the circumstances, it was good to see so many people I don’t see often enough anymore – lots of whom you knew, too, from the days of the New Jersey-West Hudson Valley Council.