“For a brief time we were no longer members of a community, but members of a family.” —Bunni Bresver
We are reaching out to Temple Sinai members who may be able to perform the mitzvah of Shomrim, or to attend a funeral and ensure a minyan for burial. If you would like to help, please call the Temple Office at 416.487.4161, and place yourself on the list.
Guarding the Body of the Deceased—Sh’mirah
Jewish tradition dictates that the body of the deceased not be left alone before burial, but many deaths occur where there are few family members available or the family is physically or emotionally unable to carry out the tradition before the Jewish funeral home gets there. The mitzvah of sh’mirah helps to meet the emotional needs of the family of the deceased at a very difficult time. During this time the shomer(et) may read Psalms in English or Hebrew, or simply sit silently at the entrance to the room. If you are willing and able to help with this mitzvah or require help with sh’mirah, please contact the Temple Office at 416.487.4161.
The role of the service leader at a shivah minyan is to create a space for the mourner to grieve, and to honor the person who has passed away with the community that is gathered together. If you would like to help our members in their time of mourning, please call the Temple Office at 416.487.4161.
David Eisenstadt writes about his experience and the important work of Sinai’s shiva leaders.
“You Did Fine, Kid.”
In 1993, when my wife and our two sons, Harris and Evan, lost four parents/grandparents within a horrific six months, I certainly found spiritual comfort at Temple Sinai. A key component to dealing with my grief was connecting with a number of dedicated Temple volunteers, who led minyan services. Many went the extra mile as evening shiva readers, often travelling great distances in all sorts of weather, all year ’round to “get it done.” This group, I facetiously dubbed “the shiva patrol.”
Since that time, our two sons have on occasion reminded me that when I choose to retire, my next career should be taking my smicha and becoming a rabbi. They are serious, but right now I’m keeping my day job. So roughly twenty years later, whenever I am able to participate, I am still on patrol, and enjoying the calling. Like most of my fellow lay leaders, I have stories to share, and have seen grief firsthand . . . . sometimes in the form of an Irish wake-type celebration with mobs of “mourners”, and in other cases, and more sadly, leading a shiva service with fewer than ten in attendance. And yes, I once needed to remind a non-Temple Sinai mourner that he didn’t need to worry about whether we had enough attendees for a minyan, because “as we know in Reform Judaism, women count too.”
So why do I do it? True, it is a mitzvah, and one can never do enough of those.
But the simple fact is that this mitzvah helps keep me in touch with my faith. The experience reminds me just how precious life and family and friends are to each of us, and how important it is for those who believe and those who have strayed from Judaism to participate in a very important life cycle event. Last, but not least, dare I say, I appreciate reconnecting with people with whom I have lost touch.
One more observation: it’s tough to lead a shiva service with clergy watching every move. I certainly remember one of my early shivas, when our late founding rabbi, Jordan Pearlson z”l, approached me, extending his hand with his usual style and grace (yes, I should have gone over to him first, but my knees were still knocking), and saying, “you did fine, kid.” Kind of like getting my smicha! — David Eisenstadt