"Esta es la vida," as my beloved wife would say in her native Spanish. This is indeed the story of life. As the picture of Menashe Gil and his wife so powerfully demonstrates, we too will never know which will be our last moment. We never know which picture of ourselves will we leave for the world to see. And we never know the impact of a life lived with passion, meaning, and purpose, in its every moment and its every crossroad, even those that were imposed on us against our will.

Rabbi Allouche

Over the door of the anatomy department at Oxford University reads a banner that says: “Here is where death teaches life.”

Death can teach us death. It can suck us into the darkness of its experience and overcome us with the bitterness and despair of its effect. As a Rabbi, it pains me deeply to see how some people also die, spiritually, when they are struck with death. Their physical being is, thank G-d, well and alive. But the robustness of their life is greatly diminished.

But death can also teach us life. It can awaken us to live more, to love more, to be more. For, G-d forbid, when it strikes, we suddenly realize how vulnerable our lives are, and how we, therefore, ought to make make the best of every breath we take, every moment we share, every relationship we have.

I was taken aback this week upon seeing the picture of an elderly couple in Israel, celebrating their Passover Seder, alone, in quarantine (see picture above). It was taken by a security guard who was deeply moved by their simple yet radiant interaction, and it was reported by Israeli Journalist, Nir Devori. The next day, the man in the picture, Menashe Gil, passed away. His day of passing was also his 80th birthday. 

“Esta es la vida,” as my beloved wife would say in her native Spanish. This is indeed the story of life. As Menashe Gil and his wife so powerfully demonstrated, we too will never know which will be our last moment. We never know which picture of ourselves will we leave for the world to see. And we never know the impact of a life lived with passion, meaning, and purpose, in its every moment and its every crossroad, even those that were imposed on us against our will.

This is also the lesson drawn from the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, celebrated during the final holidays of Passover which begin tonight until Thursday evening. As the Jews experienced six days after the Grand Exodus from Egypt, at times, we too may face frightening waves that threaten to drown us and destroy all that is dear. But we too must seize the day, march forth with persistence, courage, and faith, in spite of the seeming dangers, and create pictures of beauty and light for our broken world. Without a doubt, G-d will then “split our red seas” too, and reveal His blessings of individual and collective redemption.  

May it happen speedily. Amen.

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PS – How You Can Recite Yizkor This Year:

In defiance of these menacing waves that are forcing many of us to say Yizkor alone this year, (and if G-d forbid, Mashiach is still not here), here is a suggestion: 

– On Thursday, I intend to walk to our beloved Congregation Beth Tefillah, to perform the Yizkor service on your behalf, alone in body, but united in heart and soul, with you and your loved ones. As is customary, during our usual Yizkor hour at 11:30am, I will take out the Torah scroll from our holy ark, and pour out my heart and soul to G-d, with the recital of the traditional Yizkor prayer. If you would like to send me your names for this Yizkor prayer, please do not hesitate to email them to me at Rabbi@BethTefillahAZ.org or on my contact page. I hope to be worthy of this awesome task with which you will have entrusted me. 

– For the full text of the Yizkor prayer (which I encourage you to print out today, before the holiday begins, and recite it too on Thursday), visit: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/371509/jewish/Yizkor-The-Memorial-Prayer.ht