last day (36 days later) » 

7:17 PM
My mother, my mentor, Mrs. Susan Moses, Zmira Leah bat Tzvi Halevi, aleha hashalom, passed away this past Wednesday night. I am sitting shiva until Thursday morning.
Until then, I'm not going to be participating on Mi Yodeya, as that is certainly an activity that brings me joy. I will, however, be present, sporadically, in this room, sitting e-shiva, if you will.
The doors are open in the same way that those of a physical "shiva house" are.
The eulogies at my mother's funeral captured a fraction of her goodness, and the one I delivered a fraction of that. I haven't asked for permission to share them all here, but here's mine:
> The Mishna tells us that the world depends on three things: Torah, Avoda, and Gemillut Chassadim: study of God’s Torah, Divine service, and acts of kindness. Mommy did all of these things, helping keep the world going. And she also tried, constantly, to improve herself, to help her family improve, and to help her community improve.
> Torah

A couple of years ago, Mommy and I each decided, independently, to join the new cycle of the Orthodox Union’s Nach Yomi program - studying one chapter per day of the books of the Prophets and Writings in the Bible. I didn’t manage to stick with the program to completion. Mommy also didn’t manage to get to the end, because the cycle ends in about six weeks. But she did stick with it, day after day, chapter after chapter. When she got sick, it eventually slowed her down, but she still tried to keep at it. If Mommy was still alive, we’d be making a siyum for her in a few weeks, and we
> Maybe 20 years ago, Mommy decided, somehow, that she wasn’t doing enough. Somehow, she had extra time in her schedule, and she wanted to do something ongoing to help the school. So, she went to our principal, Mrs. Katz, and she asked for an assignment. Mrs. Katz introduced Mommy to a little boy from a Russian family who was being raised by a single mother, and who was struggling with his Hebrew reading, and she asked Mommy to tutor him in the Hebrew alphabet.
> So Mommy did, and of course, brought the boy and his mother into our home and helped them in other ways, too.
> Avoda - Divine service

Mommy davened every day, using her little, brown Rinat Yisrael siddur that she’d bought in Israel maybe 40 years ago, in front of the bookcase in the living room. Every day, right there.
> A few years ago, Mommy decided that she needed to improve her knowledge of the meanings of the prayers, and that others in the community might want to improve their knowledge, too. And again, somehow, determined that she had time for another project. So, she started a prayer class at shul. Each week, she would pick the next section, look in her stack of books, research ideas, and then give the class.
> Even when there were only one or two people attending regularly, Mommy kept learning and teaching, week after week.
> Once, when I was a boy, Mommy decided that it would be good for herself and for me to learn to tie tzitzit. I’m not sure how she decided on this project, but she did. So, she got a plain, four-cornered garment, tzitzit strings, and some instructional materials, and we learned how to do it together and tied tzitzit for me to wear.
> Gemillut Chassadim - Acts of Kindness

I don’t know where to start. Mommy was always looking out for other people. I can’t even scratch the surface of the thousands of kind things she did for the people around her. Talk to a few people who knew her, and each one will tell you about something else Mommy did, that the others might not have heard of. I’ll give you two little examples, besides the ones I’ve already mentioned.
> A few years ago, again, Mommy decided that she wasn’t doing enough good. Somehow, she had extra time and take on another responsibility to help her community. So, she joined the Chevra Kadisha, and started participating in rendering the final kindness to those who have passed on.
> About a year and a half ago, when it was time for my family to move cross-country, Mommy had already become ill, and had already started taking medications that weakened her. But, she wanted to help us move. So, she flew across the country, got in the car with us, and drove back across, helping occupy our kids on the long drive.
> Who knows what kind acts she would yet do, if she were still alive?

> Dayan Ha-emet, the One True Judge, sees the whole world and knows what’s right. But my perspective is limited. I see just my world, my family, and the people around my Mommy. And my world is teetering. Torah, Avoda, and Gemillut Chassadim: Our model for all of these has been taken from us.
<end of eulogy>
Of local interest, my mother contributed one answer on Mi Yodeya. More substantially, she proofread Hagada - Mi Yodeya? and Purim - Mi Yodeya?. I'm sure she would have helped with our other two publications if I'd asked her to, but she was ill when they were in production, and I didn't want to burden her.
7:33 PM
I was sorry for your loss since I heard of it. Now that I've learned a little about your mother, I'm sorry for all our loss.
@msh210 Thanks. I've been learning more about her in the past few days, too.
7:56 PM
@IsaacMoses I second what msh210 said. I felt sad for you before, and now that I know what a remarkable woman she was, I feel sad for all whose lives she touched.
I also hadn't noticed that the one question she answered was mine. I used her suggestion in a later year (as a side dish) but had completely forgotten about the answer then, so failed to leave a comment telling her so.
@MonicaCellio Thanks. And as I said, what's presented above is at most an allusion to the scope of her life.
@IsaacMoses yea, there is no way you can consolidate an entire life down into just a few paragraphs. But even so, just from that too-limited summary I already can see the good she did in the world and in your family!
@MonicaCellio That's OK. She didn't frequent MY in general, so she probably wouldn't have encountered the comment.
The part about "no she didn't finish Nach because the cycle isn't over yet" brought a lump to my throat. I, like you, didn't manage to keep up.
@MonicaCellio mine, too, believe me. It was nice, while I was keeping up more or less, to know that I was learning the same material as my mother and to let it be the basis for discussion between us from time to time.
8:03 PM
Are you still in touch with the Russian boy (man, now) and his mother?
@MonicaCellio Unfortunately, no. He's much younger than me, they've moved on, and I have generally been poor at keeping in touch with people. It turns out that he was one of at least three boys from Russian families (that I can think of) that my mother helped, and helped their families, in various ongoing ways.
One of them was a classmate of mine, still lives in the neighborhood, and came to the funeral.
Shloshim for my grandfather, Tzvi ben Yechezkeil Halevi, is today. The books my mother was looking at to direct her mourning for him were already out at my parents' house, and my father, (yibadel lechayim tovim va-arukim) had recent practice in covering the mirrors.
8:20 PM
@IsaacMoses amen (re yibadel...)
@IsaacMoses I second msh210's amen.
המקום ינחם אותך בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים.
8:47 PM
The Shulchan Arukh YD 376 rules (based on Iyov 2-3) that those visiting a mourner wait for him to speak first. The silent joining of people in one's sorrow (reminiscent of Aharon (Vayikra 10:3)) has its own character of consolation: knowing those visiting care for and are supporting you, while at the same time they share in your pain. All without trying to put those complex feelings into the often limiting format of language.
While this Shiva House Room lacks easily visible human counterparts, know that so long as this room is here, all Yodeyans are here with you even as they may remain silent.
@DoubleAA Thank you. I saw, and I appreciate, the presence of my friends, especially in the context in which you've beautifully framed it.
@DoubleAA I also understand that I'm not really supposed to respond, except with a nod, to Hamakom ...
Suggestion: If you R"L know a married mourner, give the mourner's husband/wife extra support and hugs. The spouse doesn't have the same official status, but is likely also grieving while carrying an extra logistical load.
9:06 PM
@IsaacMoses Chazal were sensitive to that and prescribed certain mourning practices to the direct relatives of one sitting Shiva. See YD 374:6 for details.
@DoubleAA Thanks. I was speaking in terms of emotional impact, and that's in terms of "kavod." Maybe the latter is more like the former than I'd thought.
9:22 PM
@ShmuelBrin my family was taken care of very nicely by a Chabad rabbi and rebbetzin during the burial and then Shabbat.
My father's family is buried in a small cemetery in the Catskills. We buried my mother there on Friday and then stayed in the area for Shabbat, since there wouldn't be time to return to Philly before Shabbat. The Chabad rabbi there conducted the burial and provided all of us aveilim, spouses, and kids with a place to stay for Shabbat.
He and the rebbetzin visited us many times and were very comforting and helpful in many ways.
It turned out to be very nice (under the circumstances) for us to all be together in one house, and to have their small congregation nearby for Shabbat davening.
The kindness isn't surprising to me, given what I've seen of Chabad shluchim, but I am grateful, and happy to talk about the kiddush Hashem it represents.
9:44 PM
Hamakom Yinachem Eschem Besoch Shaarei Tzion VeYerushalayim
10:17 PM
@IsaacMoses המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים
@IsaacMoses Indeed, the next line in the above cited 376 rules based on a Gemara MK28b that an Avel, like a Kohein and Chatan, sits at the head of the table, though clearly the 'Kavod' being offered here is of a different focus. Think of it, perhaps, more like Kevod haBeriyot or like the Kavod in contradistinction to Mora of Kibbud Av vaEim. Something about focusing one's care on a specific target, or treating it more seriously/weightily (from kaveid = heavy).
Additionally see commentaries to YD 345 where the various obligations regarding death and mourning are split into two categories: kevod hameitim and kevod hachayyim.
I once argued at a Siyum on Moed Kattan for the Yahrtzeit of a close friend that this issue of Kavod and focus on the Avel is related to what I mentioned earlier about the communal comfort of being surrounded by friends. Even as an Avel wants to stop everything, sit alone in a corner, and wonder how life as he knows it can go on (and indeed that is what Aninut is, to an extent), Hilchot Avelut guide the Avel to the comfort of the community and to the comfort of Halachic structure, plunging...
...the Avel into a world of nuanced dos and don't dos which he cannot perform by rote. The new responsibilities in a sense give the Avel something productive to do, a purpose if you will, at a time when he may feel no hope. This imposition of halachic and communal structure helps bring the Avel out of the confused darkness of Aninut, envelopes him in the comforting guidance of Torah, and moves him back towards slowly, eventually, resumption of productive communal life.
You and your family should travel that path at your own pace, and come out ready to take your mother's good values and bring them forth to the world.

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