Monday, November 24, 2008

A Memorial to Sandy

Last April, my friend Sandy Schinfeld was killed by a drunk driver on her way home from a concert on a Saturday night. She was an absolute dynamo when it came to finding ways to raise money to support good causes. One of the ways she brainstormed to raise funds for her synagogue, Adath Jeshurun, was a series of beautiful tabloid-sized posters, designed by renowned artist, Mordechai Rosenstein, and changed weekly in a specially-created glass case. Members of the congregation were inspired to honor and memorialize their friends and loved ones by sponsoring various elements of the weekly portion of the Torah reading. All this began with a Torah-thon during which congregants were recruited to read the entire Torah in one 24-hour period from beginning to end.

This week, during the parashah Chayei Sarah (The Life of Sarah), which contains the story of Rebecca at the well, a special page was dedicated in her memory. During the sermon by Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, I learned something subtle about the story of Rebecca that I had never known before. There is a small difference between what Eliezer prays that Rebecca will do and what she actually does at the well. Eliezer prays that she will offer him water and also offer to draw water for his 10 camels—a big undertaking. What she actually does is offers him water, waits until he has drunk his fill, and then offers to draw water for his camels—a subtle, but very important distinction. Her kindness and sensitivity is such that she realizes that if she offers immediately to draw water for both him and his camels, he might hesitate to drink his fill so as to lessen the burden she has offered to take upon herself. This story was chosen for Sandy’s memorial because of her considerable kindness and sensitivity to the needs of others.

In addition to the meaningfulness of being at AJ to support Sandy’s husband, Jay, I also had the privilege of saying a misheberach for my mother, whose name has been announced there every week since she has been on hospice. Her sister, Ruth, saw to it that a misheberach would be said every week and I was joined in reciting the blessing for my mother’s health by Adele’s friend, Carol Shackmaster, who has known my mother most of her life and also belongs to AJ. When I told my friends at services that she had improved enough to be released from hospice, all were especially hopeful that our prayers had had some effect.

Our Friday evening Shabbat menu this past week, when we were joined by Beth and Larry, was homemade challah, smoked turkey split pea soup, spinach salad with avocado, tomato, cucumber, mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs and red onions with hot maple pomegranate dressing, Israeli salad, chicken paprikash, and potato latkes with applesauce. For dessert, I made pareve chocolate mousse crepes. Larry brought us the wonderful family calendar he custom-makes for us every year with all our family’s birthdays and anniversaries and our photos. This year’s theme featured his wonderful photos from the Galapagos. Last year’s was our Hawaiian trip. He also brought all of us gifts from his recent travels in the far East.

Like every woman (and some men) I know right now, little by little I am preparing favorite dishes to add to the family feast on Thanksgiving weekend, a pastime I highly enjoy. Check out my other blog (click on the top corner) for some of our family favorites. Agnes is coming to stay with Mom and they will be going first to Adele’s and then Ken’s during the holiday. I am really excited because while we are in Baltimore/DC we have just arranged to take our grandchildren to see the new Smithsonian American History Museum which just opened a week ago after being closed down for refurbishing a few years ago. We will have a family excursion on Friday with Alex’s parents joining us as well. I visited the American History Museum when I was a teenager on a class trip and the impressive size and display of the real “Star-Spangled Banner” is one of just a few fleeting memories I have of that trip. Because of what I have been reading in Smithsonian Magazine about the history and restoration of that flag, I can’t wait to see it again. I hope the weather will be good for travelling and for ducking in and out of museums, not to mention the outdoor carousel on the National Mall.

In case I don’t get in another blog post before the holiday, for my Thanksgiving wish to you, may you be united in joy and prosperity with those you love.

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