Thursday, January 31, 2013

Last Official Day of Mourning

Last night and today marked the end of Shloshim and Halachically bound mourning for Rachel.  A friend has taken on the responsibility of saying Kaddish for the year.  It was one last chance to publicly acknowledge how much she meant to me, as I try to rebuild my life with Channah and others more or less go on with their lives. 

Last night, we had a very well attended Siyum.  We completed all of one round of Seder Mishnayot plus 36 Mishnayot on the 2nd round including completing Seder Moed.  I learned Nazir for my part in the Siyum.  I noted how a large part of Nazir deals with a person's words and when they are listened to and when they are not.  Rachel was always so careful with her words. A Nazir is required to bring Korban Chatot (Sin-Offering), Korban Olah (Burnt Offering), Korban Shlomim (Peace Offering).  I learned a long time ago that it was interesting why a Nazir wold need to bring a Korban Chatot, for doing something permitted in the Torah.  The answer was that sometimes it is necessary, but it is not the ideal way to live.

After completing the Siyum I spoke about Rachel for about 25 minutes. I am not going to try to write out what I said.  However, I am going to provide a summary of what I said with some changes based on my memory and some introspection since yesterday.

I am very greatful for all of the wonderful people who stood by and helped support me and Channah during this difficult time.  I have heard tons of stories about how much she touched people's lives. People have told me what steps they have taken to improve the world form Rachel's inspiration.

The 25 minutes, I spoke was nowhere near enough to really capture who she was.  She had such eclectic interests and talents including - Jewelery, Music, History, Duck, Writting.......

For 10 years we attended a Pirket Avot shiur during Shabbat afternoons in the summer. Pirkei Avot was a major influence on Rachel.  She had decided that it is what Channah should learn in preparation for her Bat Mitzvah. On that note, I selected a number of Mishnayot from Pirkeit Avot that she lived up to.

1:6 -- Acquire a friend and make yourself a Rav -- Anyone who knows how we ended up following Rabbi Myers will not know how true this is.

1:14 -- If not now, when?  Rachel's last day she had been to the Kupah for medication.  Her instructions were to go home and go to sleep.  But she promissed to take Channah shopping for some specific items. So she did.  For Rachel things always had to be done now, no matter how difficult that would be.

1:15 -- Say little and do much, and receive everyone with a friendly face -- Is there anyone else who could make a life long friendship over lending a bus ticket.

2:13 -- Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai asks his students what is the proper way to cling.  They answer: A good eye, good friend, on who consider the outcome of an action, good heart.  Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai answers that he likes a good heart because it includes all of the others.  -- There is no question that Rachel had a good heart. At one of our Chanukah parties, a guy called her afterwards to say that he saw a girl that he liked.  Although Rachel, thought they were not a Hashkafah match, she wanted the girl to know that there was a guy interested in her.  In the end the Hashkafa differences were not as drastic as we thought they would be.  They have 3 kids.  They told Rachel (and me after the funeral) that they consider their 3 kids to be ours as well. 

2:15 -- Do Tshuva the day before you die -- Rabbi Orlofsky said that Tzaddikim get a Navuah to let them know that the end is coming.  In Rachel's last two weeks we took care of all of the unfinished business in our marriage.  Rachel prepared Channah for the Shiva.  She spent a year on a personal project of self improvement to put grudges aside. She even went out to tackle the question of why she was not protected from the bullying she faced as a child.  (Someone contacted me about continuing that issue).

2:17 -- There are 3 crowns Keter Malchut, Keter Kahuna, Keter Shem Tov.  During Shiva they were doing Mishnayot according to letters.  There was extra time, so they were going to do Nun for Neshama.  I asked them to do Mem for Marmal and they did this Mishnah.  Rachel used to be annoyed that she kept winning the Keter Shem Tov award at NCSY.  She felt that there was much more to her than that. The truth is she did make a name for herself and the crown is well earned.

2:20 -- Initiate a greeting to every person, be a tail to lions rather than the head to foxes. -- The first part was pretty self explanatory.  I have learned in the last number of months, that you can tell a lot about a person by the friends they have.  By the quality of people who cared for Rachel, she surrounded herself with people who she could emulate and learn from. 

5:8 ---  10 things were created before the first Shabbat.  Some say tongs -- Rachel and I had a discussion not too long ago about this mishnah.  A pair of tongs are not necessary to create new tongs, so the Pshat in the Mishnah is wrong.  Apparently the Germara in Psachim also take issue with this statement.

5:20 -- Any fight Leshem Shamyim will have a constructive outcome -- Rachel had no problem standing up for those who had been wronged.  Even if it meant standing up to Rabbi and community leaders.  One such issue was the Mikkvah fight which she was very much involved in.  The final mikvah resolution and finally taken place, but a lot of people still didn't know and were ending up at the wrong mikvah.  She did what she could to publicize the change in the status quo so women would not be inconvenienced.

I then spoke a little bit more about Rachel's personality.

She was always prepared. For major events she would even make lists of lists to make sure she was under control.  She used to also have first aid kits and other perpetrations  for things that could go wrong while away from home.  She had a special kit for the old city, including hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

When I went to Misrad HaPnim, they emptied her Teudat Zehut before slicing it up. Among other items, there was a Swiss Army Card and Kleenex. 

Jewellery -- She absolutely loved not only making Jewellery but appreciating beautiful Jewellery made by others.  She had just reorganized her personal earing rack that had 50 pairs of earings.  She had a shiur that she was able to give a few times about the importance of stones in the world, and the significance in the Urim V'Tumim.  She loved being able to take a rectangle piece of metal and being able to shape it into whatever she wanted. There is a ton of Mussar you can get for that but I decided not to go into that.  She hated Tel Aviv but  she absolutely loved her little world in the Jewellery district.  Those who had the privilege of  going with her, had quite a treat as she was able to show off, the part of the city that was like a home to her. 

Music  -- Rachel always had to surround herself with music.  It was an incredibly eclectic range but she was felt that it tied into her life. She was an accomplished pianist and piano teacher.  She was excited to see Les Mis when it came out here and had Channah watch the 25 anniversary concert with her.  She also played music from Hairspray that she was going to take Channah to see in a few months.  While music was never that important to me, during Shloshim, I really missed it.  I have been sitting listening to her most current playlist as I write this post. 

Creativity -- Her creativity knew no bounds.  She succeeded at whatever she did, be it scrapbooking, needle work or other craft projects.  Quite often she would tell clients that making what her clients wanted would be no problem.  She would than need to figure out how to make it. 

Writing --  She was an accomplished writer. Although public speaking came naturally, she always felt more comfortable writing where she could take the time to think out every word before releasing it to the world.  Her writing has touched so many people and will continue to help people for hopefully a long, long time.

דע לפני אתה עומד --  Know before who you stand is found in a lot of shuls.  Most people take it as meaning to focus on davening  and not talking in shul.  She felt this line was to apply to everyday life. Know what people around you are going through.  Anticipate what kind of help or support they may need.  Be careful not to say something that might hurt them.  Of course at a time of Simcha help them celebrate.

Channah and Gabi (for the short time she was with us) were the most important people in her life.  She did everything she could for them and was always happy doing it. There has always been something really special and incredible about Channah. I always attributed it to the extra Tefilot she got around the time (and the years before) she was born.  We don't know what it is but Rachel and I believe that she has everything she needs to do something incredible with her life.

My last point goes to what I forgot to say last night.  Rachel made a promise to herself that she would never become a hockey widow.  She knew hockey was good for me and always encouraged me to play (within reason).  The same goes for many other areas of our lives together.  She always wanted what was best for me and did her best to make sure I would have it.

Her mark on the world is going to last for a long, long time. 

This morning, I went with the Rabbi to the cemetery for Shloshim. I met up with a friend there.  The first picture is of the stone. The 2nd is the view you get when you turn around from the spot the first picture was taken.


 My first reaction was it was a good thing that the outcome of the fight with the Rabbi at our wedding was that Marmel was not spelled with an Aleph because it would not fit.  Then I noticed they spelled my last name wrong.  My friend said that as it was set in stone the obvious solution was to go to Misrad HaPnim and change my name.  After saying some Tehillim it was time to deal with the mistake.

First we found, the Number 2 guy for dealing with the stone.  Fortunately I had the copy of the fax I approved with the correct spelling on my stone.  He acknowledged that it was a mistake and either the stone would need to be re cut or they would need to squeeze a 'Y' out of the 'I'. 

 We then met up with the #1 guy that I had been dealing with before.  His Morrocan anger emerged very quickly.  He said that there was a fax and I had approved it and whatever was on the fax should be on the stone.  While I was clearly in the right, the Rabbi stepped in to calm him down like only Rabbi Myers can.  He talked about him and found out about his story.  By the time we got back to the stone he had already calmed down.  He acknowledged the mistake and said because it was the last letter it could be fixed easily.  He just needed to wait for the stone to dry out.  He expects it to be ready by Friday.  I paid for 80% of the stone with the rest coming when the stone is fixed.

Shloshim is over and returning to regular life.  I have been listening to Rachel's music while writing.  I got to where my new shoes today.  I am not ready to face the challenges of adjusting to the new life missing my better half.  We don't always get to choose our lot in life. I will do my best to do what is best for Channah.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Donations -- Updated January 29th 2013

With the Siyum for Shloshim a few hours a way, I figured it was a good time to procrastinate making preparations and update the charities, I would like to have funds directed to in Rachel's memory.

People have given donations made to a wide range of various organizations and have taken upon themselves to undertake personal growth in her memory.  I am very grateful for all of those efforts and appreciate those who have taken the time let me know what they have done or how Rachel has touched their lives.

I have chosen 3 organizations that I feel really capture Rachel's love for helping others.

Lemaan Achai -- Will be establishing the Rachel Swirsky Artistic Enrichment Program.  This program will be integrated into the after school activity program (kind of like Tzaharon) for the Lemaan Achai families.  They will integrate a music and art component into their program.  I feel that it is a great way to capture Rachel's creativity with an organization we are proud to support.

Rachel ran their Appliance Gemach (shiuduching program) for a year. When I lost my job at iSkoot, they were there to provide financial counselling services. When we lost Gabi, they helped us get in touch with the right people to get Rachel the help she needed. There are a number of services that they have, that can help Channah and I get back onto our feet. 

Donation information is on the website.

Canadian Donations:

Please make checks payable to:
Beth Oloth 
C/O Murray Shore, 31 Marwill Street
Toronto, Ontario, M3H 3L2
Mark checks clearly "For Lema'an Achai - Ramat Bet Shemesh"

Belev Echad  --  they are currently renting office space down the street from me (on Dolev). In that space they have an Operational  Library.  That is where donations in Rachel's memory will be directed.   

The library functions as a resource for their madrichim. to borrow to assist in running programs.  Some of the expenses funds will go to cover include: books, Tzitit making kits, Loaner Teffilin, Kippot, Mezuzot, games, prizes for kids, projectors, educational videos as well as a full time secretary who will also be responsible for maintaining all of the material.

Donation information is on the website:
Canadian Donations:
They use: 
"KH Meoroth", 70 Dell Pk. Ave.
Toronto, Ontario
M6B 2T8

Please add a note that it is for Belev Echad Beit Shemesh, Operational Library

Shiluv -- When we lost Gabi, we turned to Shiluv for help to cope with the difficult time. Rachel would not have been able to succeed in the battle against depression, without their help. They will continue to help me, as I adjust to the change of raising wonderful little girl as a single parent and coping with the loss of the person who was my other half for more than half my life. I am leaving it to their discretion in terms of how to direct the funds. Depending on how much they raise there may be some specific projects that they direct the money to.

Donation Information is available on the website.

I believe all of these organizations capture Rachel's spirit for always wanting to help others.  Any donations are greatly appreciated. 

More about the Originizations: 

Lemaan Achai  --  Lema'an Achai's aim is to assist needy families in Ramat Beit Shemesh in breaking the cycle of poverty by providing them with the tools they need to cope with their problems. We facilitate their growth and lead them towards self-sufficiency. Founded in the year 2000, by a group of local residents, Lema'an Achai is rooted in Judaism’s communal responsibility towards charity and chesed (kindness). The Smart Chesed philosophy translates concern for our neighbors into highly successful interventions at minimum cost. Lema'an Achai assists families in need and enables them to get back on their feet, becoming financially and socially independent. Providing vital support services, through a combination of professional and volunteer services, which provide direct aid, rehabilitation and empowerment for struggling families. The volunteers include professional social workers, attorneys, mental health practitioners, nurses, certified public accountants, physicians and dentists, building tradesmen, mechanics and drivers, who represent a diverse spectrum of the Ramat Beit Shemesh community.

Belev Echad --  Belev Echad, works with many of the small villages between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and create programs for the non-religious residents who want to understand what Judaism is all about.  Many Moshav residents come from traditional homes, yet they have not had the opportunity to really learn about Judaism and the basis of their traditions.  Belev Echad was founded in 1996 by Rav Nosson Kohn and Rav Aaron Barron. Over the past 13 years it has grown into one of the regions key social and educational institutions, serving as a major source of spiritual encouragement and practical support. Our exciting work includes more than 400 hundred monthly evening classes for men, woman, boys and girls in 23 secular communities

Shiluv  -- is an independent Jerusalem-based non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of the emotional well being of families of all social classes and denominations and the advancement of the specialization of family therapy within the professional community. At Shiluv, the family is seen as an organic unit that needs to be understood in order to treat the identified problems. Until today, Shiluv is a proponent of these principles. Our staff embodies a variety of worldviews, theories and therapeutic techniques. Their common bond, however, is a family systems therapy approach, with special attention given to the inner world of the client, his/her feelings, needs and personal history. We offer our services, in half a dozen languages, to the population of Jerusalem as well as its surrounding environs. The donations that are raised in memory of Rachel will be used at their discretion. However, should there be an overwhelming response, Shiluv would like to remodel the waiting room in Rachel’s memory.  When donating, please let them know that it is in Rachels memory.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Sister's Good Bye -- Guest Post

My Sister in law gave a eulogy between Mincha and Maariv the night before getting up from Shiva in Toronto.  I was very touched by her insights and perspective.  She asked that it be shared with others.


On Sunday Night, my brother, Meyer, was home. We were being foolish, playing around with a cardboard box, and making jokes about the movies we were seeing now that we had finished our year of avelut for my dad. My mom finally kicked him out around 12:15, and we had gone upstairs to get ready for bed. Around the same time I got into bed, we got a knock on the door from my Aunty Brenda and Uncle Brian telling us that Rachel did not wake up that morning.

For the last 6 days, I have watched people open their mouths to say something. Something that could bring meaning to such a tragic loss. Something to bring what little comfort might be available, closer to my family and myself. Something, or really, anything at all. Inevitably, for the last 6 days, I have watched people trying to say something, but for the most part, they are unable to find the words. There are no words. Our world has suffered an extreme loss, in many ways.

I too, have been agonizing about what to say to all of you since the moment I was asked to speak in Toronto. I listened to my Brother in law, Jason, speak about his life with Rachel, and Meyer speak about her courage, and her determination, and her big heart, and her rabbi speak about the loss that they are all feeling. I have heard people use many many words to describe who she was, what she has done for them, and how the loss is tearing them to pieces, and still nothing inspired me. For the last 6 days, I, like many of you, had no words.

It wasn't until I took a nap yesterday, sharing my pillow with my chumash (I was hoping that maybe inspiration would sink in by osmosis) that miraculously enough, I woke up, minutes before we had to leave for shul, and  I knew exactly what I was going to say. 
It goes without saying, that My sister was an incredible woman. She was kind, and always available to her community, her friends and family, and even strangers without hesitation. If anyone ever needed anything, even if it was the most ridiculous request in the world, she not only was the first one to offer, but she did so without judgement or questions. Her funeral was beautiful. A very different experience than what Torontonians are used to, and in some ways, much more difficult, but the room was full, and the thoughts people were sharing with us were beautiful. I was humbled just to be in a room with such thoughts about my sweet sister.

When we arrived in Israel last week, there was no space to move. People had filled their apartment, and were doing anything and everything that they could to help. I met a woman, in my sister's bedroom, who took my hands and said "I never knew your sister, and I don't know you, but she changed my life", I met many families who had said things like "I only met your sister once, but she left such an impression, I just needed to be here". People talked to me about her talent, her family, her love of music, or fun outings, and much more, but most of all, people talked about her heart of gold. People have stepped in to make sure that Jason has everything he needs to have a functional household, and that Channah has a female role model she can turn to, if she ever needs anything at all.  I found myself thanking some of Rachel's best friends, for stepping in, and doing everything they could, and each had the same answer "why are you thanking me? there is no other option". Her friends and community in Israel, have mimicked the roles that My aunt's and uncles and cousins have played, right here in our home. These are the kinds of relationships that Rachel formed in her life, the kind where when a friend gets burned, you feel pain, .

Rachel Jason, and Channah, have always supported the idea that a persons name is their identity, and using their name, gives life to who they are. This idea was first introduced to me by Jason, when Channah was born 2.5 months early and he asked everyone to start using her name to give life to her, and get her healthy. It is also an idea that carries over into the title of this week's parsha, Shemot, or Names. Rachel's hebrew name was Rachel Marmel. This is what I want to talk about, My sister's name and identity.

Although it is not this week's parsha, When Rachel Imaneu is introduced, in Parshat Vayetzeh, she is introduced as many things within the one parsha, we first see her as a daughter, and then as a beautiful woman, and then as a sister, and then as a wife, and then as a mother. Right from the beginning of her timeline in our history, Rachel is selfless and always sacrificing, even through her own suffering. This is seen the first time, when she sacrifices her marriage to Yaakov, by giving her sister Leah, the secret signal, and it is later seen where she sacrifices to have a child, and sacrifices to help her sister have children. Even the word Rachel, means Lamb, and Lambs are a giving animal. They give milk and wool, and meat. Right from the start, Rachel's main role in the Torah, is to be there for others, and while it isn't always the most glamorous place to be, someone has to do it. I see a lot of similarities to my sister in that.
I want to talk a little bit about My sister's identity. Just like Rachel Imaneu, was many things, so was my sister, and she used each identity to help build herself into what was waiting for her next. She was "everybody's child" as my bubbie Cynthia said last night. She grew up in a house with her aunts and uncles always around, and each one loved her as if she were their own. She was my mom's baby, the oldest of all three of us, which meant that while my mom was changing diapers and watching Meyer and I run around screaming and crying and making messes, Rachel was her more mature form of relief, and while I am too young to remember much of those times, I can imagine based on the times I spend with my mom as an adult now, that Rachel and my mom had a special relationship that was formed over many special memories and moments. Rachel not only had the honor of being the oldest in our family, but she is the oldest grandchild. She was the first of all of our cousins to get married, and have a child, which added wife and Ema to her identity, and she did wonderfully at both of those bringing her special talents and middot to everything she did,  I remember when Jason came into her life, she was happy and when they got married, he instantly became another brother, and then again, her world lit up when channah was born. Channah became her pride and joy, and she was the most loved little girl I'd ever seen.

Throughout sitting shiva, we have all witnessed many people coming in to pay their respects. This leads to one more thing that Rachel was, She was a friend. She was a friend to many different people during many stages of life, and it is remarkable to see how many of her old childhood friends, are so up to date on her current life, and how connected they feel to her. Her most recent identity was within her community in Ramat Beit Shemesh, she was a community member, maybe even a community leader. Her creativity, and unique way of seeing the world, lead her to be compassionate and loving, to many, in ways that have rarely been explored before. As an example of this, her own rabbi, Rabbi Myers, talked about a care package she put together for a friend in the hospital. He was amazed that she included hand cream in the package and even said something similar to "While everyone is worrying about everything else, Rachel is worrying about his hands not getting chapped!" It was things like that, that make her neshama so special.
I mentioned before, that Rachel Imaneu's story begins as the story of sisters, and so I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about the part of my sister's identity that I am most familiar with. Rachel and I are far apart in age, and while 10 years seems like nothing now, when I was 3, and she was 13, believe me, it made a difference! When I was little, I, like most little girls, Idolized my big sister. She had boyfriends, and friends, a fancy set of markers, and a really cool stereo, I even remember being very young, and not knowing what homework was, but because Rachel was doing it, I wanted it too. I remember many times, where she would be getting ready to go out, and it was a special privilege to get to watch her put her makeup on. She would call me into her room every single time she did it, so that I could sit at the other end of her bed and watch. Sometimes, if she knew she was going out late, she would put her makeup on early, just so that I could watch. I would stare transfixed as she covered her face, and she was so confident about doing it, that I couldn't tell the difference between her, and a hollywood makeup artist.  To me, Rachel knew everything. She was creative and artistic, and would often make barretts for me and do my hair with them, and she would take me shopping and pick my clothes. I was sort of like her really annoying little doll.
 Somewhere along the line, I grew into my own style, and I began to wear makeup on my own, and do my own hair, and it all turned around. At some point, my sister began asking me to do her makeup, and what she should wear. I remember just two years ago, for our cousin Orly's wedding, I picked her dress, and I did her makeup, I remember watching her look in the mirror, when I'd finished with her, and you could tell by the look on her face, that she felt beautiful, and she was beautiful.

Here is a confession: Being Rachel's sister makes me feel special. it always has. Growing up, I used to wait anxiously for the moments when I could brag to my friends about something my big sister was doing, because I knew they would all be envious, and even recently, I would love moments when people would see my bare feet, so I could show off the beautiful toe ring that my sister made for me.
As I have grown up, my relationship with Rachel had changed, and while I am still so proud to be her sister, and I take pride in every accomplishment she acheives, and I love her daughter Channah, as much as I love her, I no longer idolize her. Now, as two adults, we would discuss things. I would often find myself dialing her number for even the most silly questions. She was like my personal filter. I would run things past her, and get her opinion, before I would even decide if they were worth thinking about on my own. People say that there is nothing like a sister, and I couldn't agree more. Just a few weeks ago, she was telling me how she had a new friend that she talks to almost every day, because the friend reminded her of me. I met this friend, standing over my sisters grave, thinking about how much I would miss her, and it was almost like rachel had set it up that way.
Even far away, Rachel and I have always had a special relationship. We are like a tree split into two branches, the tree will not collapse with a missing branch, but it is somewhat lopsided. I would tell her everything, and she would tell me everything, and most of the time, I mean literally everything, because when all of the "note worthy" stuff was talked about, we just continued with the boring stuff. She could make some of my worst moments melt away, because, that's what sisters do. In Israel, On Tuesday afternoon, one of her friends, who I had never met, pulled me aside, and said, "You know, Rachel's favorite story to tell was the story of how you and her helped cheer each other up during your fathers shiva"
I remember listening to her sing to music in the car, or wherever music was playing. She had a beautiful voice, and knew all the words to most songs. She was so confident in herself when she was singing, it was an amazing sight.

I could keep going on about how lucky I am to be born into the family I was born into, and how blessed I am, that I was given Rachel as my guide to life, but we would be here forever.
The most amazing thing my sister has done for me, was after her passing. She is so beloved by all of her friends and community, that before I left Israel, several of her friends took me aside and told me that if I ever need a big sister, or anyone to talk to, that they would be more than happy to be there for me, to help me grow and live. I am touched that Rachel's actions have gone so far that her friends not only want to care for Jason and Channah, but also me. A big sister is something that cannot be replaced, but the love that guided their comments to me, is so special, that it is a comforting plan B.

One final similarity, and perhaps the most significant similarity between My sister Rachel, and Rachel Imaneu, is in their death. They both died young. Rachel Imaneu is buried in Kever rachel, away from the rest of the avot and imahot. She is buried in Beit Lechem. When Bnai Israel was exiled by god, as a punishment, from Israel, they went to the south, passed rachel, and as the saying goes "Rachel Imaneu cried for her children". The location of her resting place became important, as she cried for, and watched over her children in their time of need. My sister Rachel, is buried in a beautiful cemetery in beit shemesh. She is near the end, and therefore has a stunning view watching over her community and her friends. I know that she is up with hashem crying for her friends, wishing that the pain of her sudden absence in our lives will be soothed, and that we can all be happy.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Beuraurcratic Trip Not on the NBN List

Today was a day filled with Olim experiences that don't get shared by Nefesh B'Nefesh. It was a day that did not seem as hard, because I had to a friend with me to both navigate the bureaucracy and buffer the pain.

The first office I went to was the one, where they had a copy of the death notification.  The Rabbi from Ezrat Achim that helped with the funeral had already called ahead to make sure everything was in order.  They told me that normally it would take another two weeks and moving the quickly was not normal.  I like to think Rachel would be proud that I am getting something done quickly.  The woman's face dropped when she found out that I was the husband.

From there it was on to the Misrad HaPenim (Interior Ministry).  We didn't have to wait for long and the only documents they needed were from the first office.  They gave me 5 copies of the death certificate in Hebrew. The rumour that they could produce an English version turned out to be just that. I will have other family members take care of getting the version they want.

Rachel was always prepared.  From her Teudat Zehut they gave me: tissues, bus pass, bank card, Swiss Army card.  They then sliced up her Teudat Zehut right in front of me.  They gave me the picture part, which is the worst picture of Rachel I have ever seen. They took my Teudat Zehut and gave me a new holder (mine split in half, when the documents for the courts were being photocopied). They changed my marital status. Rachel's name is no longer included on my TZ.

It was then on to Betuach Leumi (National Insurance/Social Security).  The guards normally tell you which line you need to take a number for and what documents are needed. It was like no one ever died in Beit Shemesh before.  I was told later that Beit Shemesh has the 3rd highest life expectancy rate in the country.  I wonder if there are some Government subsidy factors that skew that number.  When I asked for a 2nd copy because we had started to fill it in wrong, they didn't know where to get it from. Eventually, went into the office and submitted all the forms.  They were pretty sympathetic.  I will be getting a note, with documents they are missing for processing. Most of it has to do with end of year stuff from the accountant.

The last stop was the property manager, to deal with rent.  My Machsan key broke in the lock. My understanding was if it was minor we would cover it and if it was major they would.  We ended up changing the lock. My friend stepped in to smooth things over temporarily.  As they live in the same community, he is planning on finding his Rav to get things straightened out and perhaps stop future conflicts.

The whole encountered rekindled the dilemna that I know, now is not the proper time to deal with.  Balancing the desire to find comfort in HaMakom (my home) and the desire to never deal with the fear of needing to move again.  Of course the idea of moving brings on it's own set of fears.

I also eased back into work for a few hours today. It's a long scary road ahead.  I just need to take it one step at a time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Remembering Rachel

I can't even begin to describe the events of such a horrible day.  I can only say that I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has been supportive over the past 2 days.  When we made Aliyah, I think it would be generous to say that we knew 2 dozen people.  There were more than 200 people at the funeral. For those who were not there, here is a copy of the Eulogy I gave. 

Warning: May cause crying.

I was 17, she was 15.  Rachel called me to let me know what I needed to bring for an NCSY program in New York.  The conversation lasted many hours and she didn’t get to the rest of the phone calls that night.  We went on to become friends and a year later we started dating.  Two years later we were engaged and seven months later we were married.  That was fifteen years ago.
 The first time, that we spent a night a part was when Rachel was hospitalized with Channah.  The first time we were completely apart was when she went to her Abba’s funeral last year. Our almost fifteen years of marriage with all its highs and lows were spent together.
If there was a Middah that defined Rachel, it was chessed.  She always put others needs first. She was always on the lookout, for opportunities to help others. Our home was always open for Shabbat guests. No matter how stressful the week was, we were happy to give.
In Israel it is normal for  people to run to find out if travelers have room to bring back stuff.  Rachel ran to see how to make the person’s trip easier. 
Back in Toronto, when we leased our first car, we were both students and had no idea how we would make car payments.  We made a deal with G-d that we would use the car for any Mitzvah sent our way, in exchange for help with the payments.  We never had a problem making a payment.  When we finally bought a car here in Israel, we adopted the same principle.  Rachel would often get off the phone to tell me “By The Way, you are picking up so and so from the airport, do you mind?” A friend recently went through a difficult time, of course we drove them around so they would not need to rely on public transportation.
Before we got married, Rachel wanted Aliyah on the table and I didn’t.  In the end I convinced her to put it on the ’10 year plan’.  As our 10th Anniversary approached,  we decided to come.  It was the best decision we ever made.  We fell into a wonderful community, made Amazing friends and I cannot completely express my thanks to her for pushing me to come.The love of her life was Channah.  She was a miracle baby that had grown up to become a daughter that is constantly making us proud.  Rachel’s face would always glow at the opportunity to share a story about Channah. Here in Israel we were able to offer Channah opportunities that we could never have provided in Toronto.  Rachel was always so proud of what Channah knows and how well she integrated here. 
Channah has many of Rachel’s middot, especially sensitivity to others.  When people tell us how great she is, it often refers to chinuch decisions Rachel initiated.  Last night Channah sat down with a new machberet “Zihcaron Sheli” She then wrote a list of questions that were bothering her.  When Channah and I were not always getting along, Rachel had her write a note and leave it under her pillow.  Rachel could then address the issue and write back to Channah.  That communication skill is going to be with Channah for the rest of her life.  She is going to use it to help get through the pain of not having you around anymore.
We were told that we would not have any other children besides Channah.  When Rachel got pregnant with Gabi, it was such a joy for both of us.  It was a very hard pregnancy.  No matter how hard the pregnancy got she always had a smile on her face.  She understood how precious a life was. When that was taken away from her it shattered her world.  Although the last 2 years have been  a struggle, she was doing  a great job getting back on her feet.  The last two weeks was a major breakthrough. She was happy.  She finally had an opportunity to be herself.  I am incredibly grateful that I had this time with the Rachel who didn’t have to carry the baggage of life’s tragedies with her.

Rachel had so much raw creative talent and she used it. She excelled at whatever she set her heart to.  It could be making Jewelery in her studio, writing, playing piano, scrapbooking or even teaching Channah a new Art’s and Craft project.
For Rachel music paralleled life. In every situation different songs would carry her through. She would surround herself with music to comfort her in the difficult times and to celebrate the good times.
One song has recently been very important to Rachel. I feel like it is her message to us that is left behind. I wanted to share one part of the song, The Wish by The Rascal Flatts:
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.
Rachel – You were with me for more than half my life.  No matter how hard life got we were always in it together.  When things were good, we appreciated what we had and took joy in it together.  The last two weeks of spending quality happy time together was a precious gift I will always be grateful for. Often I would be the source of machloket when I didn’t need to be.  I always loved you and tried my best to be a good husband and father.  I hope that you understand that now.  You can now hold, play and look after Gabi.  Please give her a hug from me.

You were an amazing person.  Your memory will forever live as an inspiration for others. 

I love you and miss you so much.