Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

In Memory of a Principal ....

This Shabbos was the yahrtzeit of Mrs. Rochel Reifer, my high school principal. She was hit by a car on a Friday night while on her way to a shalom zachor when I was in 12th grade. The night I found out about her petirah (death), three years ago, tonight, I wrote about her. I also wrote this poem in her memory.

… Mrs. Reifer was always there for us in any way she could be. We each had a kesher, a connection [the theme of our yearbook was connections] to her that was different from our kesher to anyone else. We were her children in every way; she delighted in our happiness and empathized with our lows, just like our mothers. …

Mrs. Reifer was always so full of life, so enthusiastic and vibrant, that it spread to everyone around her. You couldn't be upset in her presence because just being near her made you feel better. She opened the doors of her heart to anyone who knocked, spreading the glow of her life to everyone. …

When I heard about Mrs. Reifer's passing, my first reaction was to sink to the floor in shock and say, "No, it's not true, it can't be true!" Even now, I wish I could wake up and realize that this whole thing is a dream, that she'll come into school and say in her adorable accent [she was English], "Girls, why the long faces?" But in my heart, I know this is reality. I know we have to go on, taking along her teachings and living by them. We have to live as she wanted us to live, and as she herself lived, so her life won't have been in vain.

A year of memories and of pain
A year of fighting to keep sane
How in the world can we go on?

A year of health and happiness
A year of little or no distress
That we take as we go on

A year of loss, those taken away
A year when everyone does say
How in the world can we go on?

A year of triumphs and of cheers
A year without a sign of tears
That we take as we go on

A year of not knowing where to turn
A year of not knowing for what to yearn
How in the world can we go on?

A year of laughter and of hope
A year of knowing how to cope
That we take as we go on

A year of sadness and of grief
A year of incredulity battling belief
How in the world can we go on?

A year of joy, laughter, and love
A year of feeling the One Above
That we take as we go on

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hoshanos and Hakafos

On every day of Succos (except Shabbos) we say Hoshanos. At that time, the men hold their Lulavim and Esrogim and dance around the Bimah. One man stands at the Bimah holding a Sefer Torah, with all eyes not looking into the machzor (prayer book for holidays) on him.

It struck me that Hoshanos is a mashal for life. In seminary, we had a class called מעגל השנה, or in English, the circle of the year. We learned about each Jewish month and Yom Tov (holiday) as it came. The teacher stressed that the year, time, is a circle. And like a circle, though a year has a beginning and an end, the two are so connected as to practically be one. From Rosh Hashana to Elul, we come "full circle" every year.

The dancing around the bimah is like going through the year. We take steps, passing through every month. But our focus is always on what we are dancing around – the Torah. The Torah is our life. Everything that we do is (or at least should be) with our eyes looking to the Torah and our Rabbanim (spiritual leaders) for guidance.

This concept is even more striking on Simchas Torah. During the Hakafos (circuit), the dancing is exuberant. "We dance 'round and 'round in circles" (Journeys 4, The Man from Vilna) integrating the Torah into the circle of our lives. The joy that living a Torah life brings to people is written on the faces of the men as they dance and sing around and with the holy Torah.

כי הם חיינו וארך ימינו
Because they are our lives and the measure of our days.

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