I try to do good things for other people; a phone call when no one else remembers, a birthday card, a shiva minyan. Sometimes I'll do a hospital visit, or sit with a family as they watch their loved one slowly weaken in hospice. I don't always manage to do everything I intend to do; sometimes I fall short.
And when I do, I hope that others have been able to fill in the gaps.
When someone we love has died, there are those in this community who come out of the woodwork to help: to make calls, organize and run the minyans, do a funeral intake, lead services, stay back at the house to receive the gifts of food from others in the community who are also helping. They remember to bring the books and the chairs to the right house, and sometimes transport them from one family to another. They send meaningful notes (sometimes with ceramic stars for the cemetery). They add our loved ones' names to the weekly Kaddish list and the yearly yarzheit calendar. They call when everyone else has stopped calling. They stay in our bereavement group to offer lessons they have learned from their own grieving, and support to the newly bereft. Not one of them is required to do any of the above (and much more). But they do. And we count on them to be there for us when we call.
This column is an homage to them - no, to all of you - who do this every week of the year, every day of the week when it is necessary. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Or are you extraordinary people doing ordinary things - those tasks that a community as a community expects of itself?
This community of Rodeph Torah has become a Caring Community of extraordinary proportions, and both Don and I have been the lucky recipients of your care. You made these past six months bearable by understanding our pain and our sorrow, our inability sometimes to think straight or remember what ordinarily we would have remembered. You have been patient with us and you have given us the space we needed, especially when our recouping phase was cut short.
"Well, you're the rabbis. Of course everyone will want to help." What makes all of you extraordinary is that you do it for everyone and anyone. And you have done it well.
On behalf of all of us who have benefitted from your care, those of us who might not have realized how many people it takes to comfort a family (it takes a congregation like ours) and those of us who really do get it: thank you. Thank you and thank you and thank you again.
A congregation is not just mortar and brick and dues and committee meetings and shlepping all the necessary ritual objects to the right place at the right time. A congregation is a little like the picture below, which reminded me of all of you: superheroes quietly getting the work done. A congregation is a village of people who, though we come from disparate places, call Rodeph Torah home, and Don and I are so grateful to call this place home, too.