What’s in the News?

There’s so much going on in the world today, it’s hard to decide what to talk about. Healthcare, the Israel-Diaspora relationship and Donald Trump Jr.’s tweets seem to be on the minds of lots of people. If you want a distraction from that, you could focus on Wimbledon, the Emmys or the new Game of Thrones season.

However, for me, there were two stories – perhaps further down on the new feed – that grabbed my attention and held it tight. The first was the disappearance of four young men – ages 19 to 22 – in Bucks County just outside of Philadelphia. Police have found the body of one of them and continue to look for the others (more details here).

The second story was the death of an 11 year old boy at a Jewish camp here in New Jersey. He got sick Sunday night. After a night in the infirmary, he went to the hospital Monday morning and was dead later that day. The results of the autopsy are not yet available (more details here).

Perhaps, these stories hit me particularly hard because on Monday, I eulogized a long-time member of our community who, sadly, buried two of her children during her life. We all intuitively know that it is simply not the way it’s supposed to be – parents burying children. Furthermore, for those of us who are parents, it’s a stark reminder of how we THINK we’re in control, but we don’t have nearly as much control as we think we do. It’s true for all of us – whether we are parents or not.

I am sorry if I have dragged you down with these opening paragraphs. I recognize that they are a bit dark and gloomy, but that really was not my intent. Instead, I hope that we read these stories and remind ourselves to spend more time with our loved ones creating memories that we can then hold onto one day when we need them. It’s one of those win-win situations: we have a better time today AND we have better memories tomorrow.

In contrast, in this week’s Torah portion, we read of a man named Tzelophchad, who died, leaving behind five daughters. Those daughters objected to the tradition at the time which allowed only sons to inherit their father’s property. Tzelophchad’s property would revert to his brothers or the elders of his tribe in order to assure that it remained in the tribe. The daughters convinced Moses that THEY should inherit that property and he changed the law as of that moment. Nonetheless, Tzelophchad is a remarkable character because the only thing we really know about him is that he died. We don’t know his trade. We don’t know if he was humble or arrogant. We don’t know if was righteous or evil (though the text does mention that he was not a part of the Korach rebellion). We only know that he died.
The property was all those daughters had by which to remember their father – and that was the real tragedy. No memories.

So, of course, I pray that we are all spared tragic and unexpected losses in our family lives. However, we know that these things happen to real people. And when they do, hopefully, we will find some comfort in the knowledge that we spent as much time as possible together, creating memories.



About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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