Thursday, November 03, 2005

To Life

Tired. So very, very tired. Is it all the brain cells killed off from lack of sleep that causes people to forget how tiring babies are and decide to have MORE than one? Baby Efrex has had quite a time of his first month; almost back to full birth weight now (he dropped over a pound at the hospital before coming home), he's unfortunately also experienced an aspect of life that I would have liked to have held off on his knowing.

Three days after my son's bris, my wife's best friend, a 33-year-old woman with two daughters, succumbed to breast cancer after a 17-month battle. As there was no way we could not be at the funeral, and no way for someone to take care of a newborn for eight hours plus on short notice, I found myself in the surreal position of holding my baby son at a funeral and in a cemetery. The funeral was an odd affair, as it was during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. By law, eulogies are forbidden on Jewish holidays; however, there appears to be a long-standing tradition of finding ways of getting around that law by cloaking eulogies in language of divrei shevach (praise of the deceased), or other finessing (sometimes as unsubtle as "I'm not allowed to eulogize, but if I were, I'd say...").

A couple of the speakers made references to the deceased presumably being in a better place, and one mentioned the concept of tikkun neshama (the kabbalistic idea that a soul might be reincarnated on earth for a short while to rectify a small imperfection from a previous life, thereby earning greater reward in the world-to-come). Now, I know that these speeches weren't for my sake, and I hope that the family of the deceased obtained some measure of comfort from them. I can't help but think, however, that these concepts are profoundly un-Jewish to me. "To Life!" cries out the classic Jewish toast, and with good reason. Judaism is about life, about doing G-d's will here, imbuing this world with holiness and the presence of the divine. Saving a life is paramount, and overrides virtually all commandments. Belief in resurrection, not in a utopian afterlife, is one of Maimonides's fundamental principles. Obviously, there is what in this world that cannot be achieved in any spiritual realm.

I intend to be with The Lovely Wife(tm) and my beautiful, insomniac-inducing son, for many many years. If, however, I someday shuffle off the mortal coil before them, I hate to think that my soul could somehow be happy while my beloved ones mourn. I certainly know that there's what for me to do today and every day for quite some time: