The Life Cycle Event - Death and the Rituals Around It
When a Jewish person dies, there are many rituals that may be observed. The first thing is that there is a memorial service in which people share about the person who died so people can remember them and say good bye. This is a “bridging” ceremony which helps move the person from life to death. The person who died is buried right away, usually the next day, to show respect for the body. Then the person’s family observes a ritual called “shiva” during which they stay at home usually for a week, not including Shabbat. They cover the mirrors. People come to pay their respects and sit with the mourners. It is important for people to feel the sadness and loss of their loved one. People come to visit, help comfort them, bring food so they don’t have to cook, and talk about their memories of the person who died. There is a prayer that is said by the family, usually with a minyan of 10 people, called Kaddish. This prayer praises G-d. Even at such a sad time, we praise G-d and repeat this at special times during the year.
My Aunt Dondi died just after my brother’s Bar Mitzvah when I was 4. The saddest time I remember was when my geckos, Nook and Cranny died. It was a terrible death. My brother had given them to me, and while we were away after just one day having them in my room, we came home to find them gone from their cage. Apparently the cat Jasper was able to move the cover off the cage, and there was no sign of Nook and Cranny again.
Here is my conversation with Irv
Max: What advice do you have for living a good life?
Irv: Alexa said one of the things is setting a goal. A realistic goal. Not necessarily being a millionaire, but you want to make enough money for your self, and your family, and your kids if you have them. You want to educate them. You want to get an education yourself. It’s important
for you to set goals for yourself.
You should always do good things for other people – for me, that’s very important. I like to come talk to you guys. I like to drive a lot of the people here. I can’t do lots of things for people, I don’t have millions of dollars, but I can do little things. There’s someone going to their children for Thanksgiving. She couldn’t get a ride there – I’m going to take her. Just to be nice. Good deeds are very important. To her this is a big thing. She wouldn’t be able to go.
Max: Everything counts. It’s good to be nice. It’s nice to be nice.
Irv: It’s easy to be nice. So… what other advice? Do good things. And it’s good to be able to work hard enough to educate your children and have a good life. That doesn’t mean millions of dollars, but if your education has brought you to jobs that allow you to do that, it’s not bad to make money, but it’s also good to give it away. It’s better to give than to take. But sometimes people have to take; they just don’t have enough. Not everybody can give.
Max: My mom’s friend runs a shelter for little kids and elderly that don’t have homes, and I helped out to give the children backpacks for their school there. I raised money in my school and in the other elementary schools in Sharon to buy backpacks and pencils and stuff.
Irv: I had four children, three girls and a boy. I was lucky that they all went to school, they all graduated, and I was able to pay for all their college – 24 years all together. I was a dentist when I was working....
Irv: I’ve been pretty lucky. The worst thing that happened to me is my wife died. We were married 54 and a half years. You have to be thankful for that.
Max and Alexa: Good for you!
Irv: So when you have kids – you usually name them after someone who was a good person, and who was also a grandfather or grandmother.
Max: The worst thing that happened in my life yet – I had two pets that died, and my dad’s sister died, but the worst that happened was when my cat ate my pet gecko when I was on vacation. I couldn’t sleep for the whole night.
Learning from Elder Buddies
Alexa and I interviewed Irv, and I asked him, “What advice do you have for living a good life.” Irv said:
1. You should always do good things for other people, that’s very important
2. Get an education
3. Set realistic goals for yourself
4. It’s not necessary to be a millionaire, but you want to make enough money for yourself, your family and your kids.
5. Good deeds are very important
And I added, “Everything counts. It’s nice to be nice.”
See next page for pictures of Irv and me.