BETHESDA (MD)–– On January 14, Am Hatorah joined 400 shuls in 163 cities participating in TEAM Shabbos, a program developed by the National Association of Chevra Kadisha (NASCK).
The “team” in the TEAM Shabbos stands for “Traditional End-of-Life Awareness Movement,” a national movement dedicated to educating and guiding the Jewish community on end-of-life decisions through positive awareness. TEAM Shabbos is meant to be an opportunity for learning and dialogue about topics such as the Torah’s perspective on the value of life, preparing for illness, traditional burial choices, and end-of-life decisions in accordance with Jewish law and ethics.
The event fittingly took place on the Shabbat when we read the about Yaakov’s death in Parshat Vayechi.
Am HaTorah’s Rabbi Yehoshua Singer built an entire weekend of programs and lectures around the theme to encourage the congregants to deal with often ignored issues about death and dying and to increase awareness and respect for life in the Here and Hereafter. These included a dvar Torah on the topic of life after death and a shiur (lecture) on the laws of medicine on Shabbat.
The culminating event was a melave malka meal featuring a special shiur by Rabbi Eliyahu Reingold, Rosh Kollel of Kollel Zichron Amram of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington-Tiferes Gedaliah. The takeaway from Rabbi Reingold’s shiur, “The Day of Death - A Lesson for Life,” was to appreciate the entirety of the life span we are given.
Since we are no longer granted as long a life as our Patriarchs, said Rabbi Reingold, we don’t have the luxury of procrastinating in life. When we engage with our spouses, children, parents and others in our sphere of human connections, we have to stop and think about what the world looks like from their perspective in order to form better relationships.
When we write up a will or make preparations for our death, which will occur at a time and place of Hashem’s choosing, we show an appreciation for the finite length of time we are granted in this world, he said. Death is a part of life, so one should be able to talk about it and plan for it; and if we enter that exercise with a true understanding that death is a part of life, perhaps Hashem may grant us more time.
The audience listened, spellbound, as Rabbi Reingold told a mashal (parable) about the wife of a mariner: Her husband was at sea for extended periods of time, and she would wake up every day and dress up in her finest clothes and make sure she was perfectly groomed. When asked about this ritual, she replied that she wanted to look her best in case her husband returned from sea early or without much notice.
The lesson from the story is that we should be the best person we can every day, because we do not know when Hashem will take us home to him.
The entire program was informational and inspirational, and correctly left participants with questions that should lead to further study and contemplation.
Am HaTorah is affiliated with the Orthodox Union (OU) and the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington.