Last night and today marked the end of Shloshim and Halachically bound mourning for Rachel. A friend has taken on the responsibility of saying Kaddish for the year. It was one last chance to publicly acknowledge how much she meant to me, as I try to rebuild my life with Channah and others more or less go on with their lives.
Last night, we had a very well attended Siyum. We completed all of one round of Seder Mishnayot plus 36 Mishnayot on the 2nd round including completing Seder Moed. I learned Nazir for my part in the Siyum. I noted how a large part of Nazir deals with a person's words and when they are listened to and when they are not. Rachel was always so careful with her words. A Nazir is required to bring Korban Chatot (Sin-Offering), Korban Olah (Burnt Offering), Korban Shlomim (Peace Offering). I learned a long time ago that it was interesting why a Nazir wold need to bring a Korban Chatot, for doing something permitted in the Torah. The answer was that sometimes it is necessary, but it is not the ideal way to live.
After completing the Siyum I spoke about Rachel for about 25 minutes. I am not going to try to write out what I said. However, I am going to provide a summary of what I said with some changes based on my memory and some introspection since yesterday.
I am very greatful for all of the wonderful people who stood by and helped support me and Channah during this difficult time. I have heard tons of stories about how much she touched people's lives. People have told me what steps they have taken to improve the world form Rachel's inspiration.
The 25 minutes, I spoke was nowhere near enough to really capture who she was. She had such eclectic interests and talents including - Jewelery, Music, History, Duck, Writting.......
For 10 years we attended a Pirket Avot shiur during Shabbat afternoons in the summer. Pirkei Avot was a major influence on Rachel. She had decided that it is what Channah should learn in preparation for her Bat Mitzvah. On that note, I selected a number of Mishnayot from Pirkeit Avot that she lived up to.
1:6 -- Acquire a friend and make yourself a Rav -- Anyone who knows how we ended up following Rabbi Myers will not know how true this is.
1:14 -- If not now, when? Rachel's last day she had been to the Kupah for medication. Her instructions were to go home and go to sleep. But she promissed to take Channah shopping for some specific items. So she did. For Rachel things always had to be done now, no matter how difficult that would be.
1:15 -- Say little and do much, and receive everyone with a friendly face -- Is there anyone else who could make a life long friendship over lending a bus ticket.
2:13 -- Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai asks his students what is the proper way to cling. They answer: A good eye, good friend, on who consider the outcome of an action, good heart. Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai answers that he likes a good heart because it includes all of the others. -- There is no question that Rachel had a good heart. At one of our Chanukah parties, a guy called her afterwards to say that he saw a girl that he liked. Although Rachel, thought they were not a Hashkafah match, she wanted the girl to know that there was a guy interested in her. In the end the Hashkafa differences were not as drastic as we thought they would be. They have 3 kids. They told Rachel (and me after the funeral) that they consider their 3 kids to be ours as well.
2:15 -- Do Tshuva the day before you die -- Rabbi Orlofsky said that Tzaddikim get a Navuah to let them know that the end is coming. In Rachel's last two weeks we took care of all of the unfinished business in our marriage. Rachel prepared Channah for the Shiva. She spent a year on a personal project of self improvement to put grudges aside. She even went out to tackle the question of why she was not protected from the bullying she faced as a child. (Someone contacted me about continuing that issue).
2:17 -- There are 3 crowns Keter Malchut, Keter Kahuna, Keter Shem Tov. During Shiva they were doing Mishnayot according to letters. There was extra time, so they were going to do Nun for Neshama. I asked them to do Mem for Marmal and they did this Mishnah. Rachel used to be annoyed that she kept winning the Keter Shem Tov award at NCSY. She felt that there was much more to her than that. The truth is she did make a name for herself and the crown is well earned.
2:20 -- Initiate a greeting to every person, be a tail to lions rather than the head to foxes. -- The first part was pretty self explanatory. I have learned in the last number of months, that you can tell a lot about a person by the friends they have. By the quality of people who cared for Rachel, she surrounded herself with people who she could emulate and learn from.
5:8 --- 10 things were created before the first Shabbat. Some say tongs -- Rachel and I had a discussion not too long ago about this mishnah. A pair of tongs are not necessary to create new tongs, so the Pshat in the Mishnah is wrong. Apparently the Germara in Psachim also take issue with this statement.
5:20 -- Any fight Leshem Shamyim will have a constructive outcome -- Rachel had no problem standing up for those who had been wronged. Even if it meant standing up to Rabbi and community leaders. One such issue was the Mikkvah fight which she was very much involved in. The final mikvah resolution and finally taken place, but a lot of people still didn't know and were ending up at the wrong mikvah. She did what she could to publicize the change in the status quo so women would not be inconvenienced.
I then spoke a little bit more about Rachel's personality.
She was always prepared. For major events she would even make lists of lists to make sure she was under control. She used to also have first aid kits and other perpetrations for things that could go wrong while away from home. She had a special kit for the old city, including hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
When I went to Misrad HaPnim, they emptied her Teudat Zehut before slicing it up. Among other items, there was a Swiss Army Card and Kleenex.
Jewellery -- She absolutely loved not only making Jewellery but appreciating beautiful Jewellery made by others. She had just reorganized her personal earing rack that had 50 pairs of earings. She had a shiur that she was able to give a few times about the importance of stones in the world, and the significance in the Urim V'Tumim. She loved being able to take a rectangle piece of metal and being able to shape it into whatever she wanted. There is a ton of Mussar you can get for that but I decided not to go into that. She hated Tel Aviv but she absolutely loved her little world in the Jewellery district. Those who had the privilege of going with her, had quite a treat as she was able to show off, the part of the city that was like a home to her.
Music -- Rachel always had to surround herself with music. It was an incredibly eclectic range but she was felt that it tied into her life. She was an accomplished pianist and piano teacher. She was excited to see Les Mis when it came out here and had Channah watch the 25 anniversary concert with her. She also played music from Hairspray that she was going to take Channah to see in a few months. While music was never that important to me, during Shloshim, I really missed it. I have been sitting listening to her most current playlist as I write this post.
Creativity -- Her creativity knew no bounds. She succeeded at whatever she did, be it scrapbooking, needle work or other craft projects. Quite often she would tell clients that making what her clients wanted would be no problem. She would than need to figure out how to make it.
Writing -- She was an accomplished writer. Although public speaking came naturally, she always felt more comfortable writing where she could take the time to think out every word before releasing it to the world. Her writing has touched so many people and will continue to help people for hopefully a long, long time.
דע לפני אתה עומד -- Know before who you stand is found in a lot of shuls. Most people take it as meaning to focus on davening and not talking in shul. She felt this line was to apply to everyday life. Know what people around you are going through. Anticipate what kind of help or support they may need. Be careful not to say something that might hurt them. Of course at a time of Simcha help them celebrate.
Channah and Gabi (for the short time she was with us) were the most important people in her life. She did everything she could for them and was always happy doing it. There has always been something really special and incredible about Channah. I always attributed it to the extra Tefilot she got around the time (and the years before) she was born. We don't know what it is but Rachel and I believe that she has everything she needs to do something incredible with her life.
My last point goes to what I forgot to say last night. Rachel made a promise to herself that she would never become a hockey widow. She knew hockey was good for me and always encouraged me to play (within reason). The same goes for many other areas of our lives together. She always wanted what was best for me and did her best to make sure I would have it.
Her mark on the world is going to last for a long, long time.
This morning, I went with the Rabbi to the cemetery for Shloshim. I met up with a friend there. The first picture is of the stone. The 2nd is the view you get when you turn around from the spot the first picture was taken.
My first reaction was it was a good thing that the outcome of the fight with the Rabbi at our wedding was that Marmel was not spelled with an Aleph because it would not fit. Then I noticed they spelled my last name wrong. My friend said that as it was set in stone the obvious solution was to go to Misrad HaPnim and change my name. After saying some Tehillim it was time to deal with the mistake.
First we found, the Number 2 guy for dealing with the stone. Fortunately I had the copy of the fax I approved with the correct spelling on my stone. He acknowledged that it was a mistake and either the stone would need to be re cut or they would need to squeeze a 'Y' out of the 'I'.
We then met up with the #1 guy that I had been dealing with before. His Morrocan anger emerged very quickly. He said that there was a fax and I had approved it and whatever was on the fax should be on the stone. While I was clearly in the right, the Rabbi stepped in to calm him down like only Rabbi Myers can. He talked about him and found out about his story. By the time we got back to the stone he had already calmed down. He acknowledged the mistake and said because it was the last letter it could be fixed easily. He just needed to wait for the stone to dry out. He expects it to be ready by Friday. I paid for 80% of the stone with the rest coming when the stone is fixed.
Shloshim is over and returning to regular life. I have been listening to Rachel's music while writing. I got to where my new shoes today. I am not ready to face the challenges of adjusting to the new life missing my better half. We don't always get to choose our lot in life. I will do my best to do what is best for Channah.