Erev Shabbos Zachor, 5777

March 10, 2017


Dear Friends:

דּוֹדִי יָרַד לְגַנּוֹ לַעֲרוּגוֹת הַבֹּשֶׂם לִרְעוֹת בַּגַּנִּים וְלִלְקֹט שׁוֹשַׁנִּים

"Our beloved has entered his garden to collect of its roses."

Our community is reeling from a series of losses and hardships that have struck wonderful individuals and their families. In the past week, our own shul family has lost two relatively young dear members, Darrell Zaslow and Bonnie Ziman.  These losses have deeply affected all of us, and have painfully strengthened the sense of family within our community.

We struggle to understand the meaning of these losses, and to formulate a proper reaction. ולא אתנו יודע עד ועל מה. Sadly, we lack the prophetic voice that could properly provide such guidance. We must accept humbly that we cannot know the causes for specific events.

Our Sages have nevertheless instructed us that at difficult times we must explore areas for self-improvement. We do this not presuming that we can identify the specific causes for our hardship, but because self-improvement can only produce positive results.

I encourage each of you to engage in this process individually. As a community, I carefully suggest the following:

Our Sages taught (TB Shabbos 106a) that when a community member dies, all of the community needs to "worry".  אחד מבני חבורה שמת תדאג כל החבורה כולה.  This statement can provide a framework for our self-improvement as a community. 

  • We must first and foremost be a community, where anyone's loss is everyone's loss. We must feel keenly the pain and challenge that these precious families are experiencing. We must work harder to make everyone feel truly a part of our community, noticing them in both their presence and absence. 
  • Rashi on that Talmudic passage explains that such losses indicate that the community is experiencing a period of דין, judgment.  Our tradition teaches us that at such times it is most appropriate for us to conduct ourselves with רחמים, compassion. Each of us can make an effort to be more forgiving and more accommodating to others.  And we all must look for ways to extend ourselves to others in kindness, to those inside and outside our home.
  • Maharsha on that same passage guides us to meet the challenge with strengthened Tefillos.  We must enhance the experience of prayer. We all know how valuable prayer is, yet it is so hard for us to pray consistently in a way that is meaningful and real. Let each of us undertake something very specific that will enhance the quality of our prayer. I would suggest that you not do this alone; that you join with a friend or a group of friends and work together on something - whether a practice or an area of study - that will enrich your Tefillos.

We are on the eve of Purim.  Purim is a festival of community, of generosity and kindness, and a celebration of the power of prayer to make a difference.

Purim is also the celebration of the turnaround, of ונהפוך הוא, of the turn מיגון לשמחה ומאבל ליום טוב, from sorrow to joy and from mourning to festivity.  Let us now take a collective breath and consciously make that turn from sorrow to joy, and may we - through our efforts at making ourselves better and through Hashem's generous hand - be blessed with a joyous Purim, Pesach and future. 

Sincerely, באהבה ובצפיי' לישועה קרובה,

Rabbi Moshe Hauer