Sunday, December 15, 2013

Speechless: Mourning For My Nephew

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People” – Those words, the title of a book by my teacher Rabbi Harold Kushner, keep echoing in my head. Tragedy has struck my family. We planned to go to Chicago last week where I would have the honor of being both the uncle and the rabbi at my newborn nephew’s bris. Instead we're headed to Chicago today – a week later than planned – where I will have the unfortunate responsibility to be both the uncle and the rabbi at my nephew’s funeral. We're grieving.

A little more than a week ago I searched the Web for an appropriate blessing to say on becoming an uncle. Not finding anything, I wrote my own blessing. Last night I searched the Web desperately seeking what one says at the funeral of an 11-day-old baby. The answer is nothing. We're speechless.

When my nephew was born I wrote about Abraham of the Torah and his role as uncle to Lot. He took his nephew under his wing, cared for him and protected him. Today I unfortunately look to another uncle in the Torah. Moses mourned the death of his two nephews Nadav and Avihu. The Torah relates that the boys’ father -- Moses’ brother Aaron -- was speechless. So too must Uncle Moses have been in his mourning of this sudden death. We're in shock.

On the Shabbat when the Torah portion was Parashat Vayechi (And he lived), my nephew died. On the Shabbat in which we learn of the blessings Jacob bestowed upon his sons, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law began to come to terms with the harsh reality that they will never bless their son as Jacob did. On the Shabbat when the Congregation of Israel stands upon finishing the first book of the Torah and, preparing to open the next chapter, proclaims “Chazak chazak v'nitchazek” (Be strong, be strong and let us be strengthened), my family feels weak. From creation there will be no next chapter for my nephew. We're weakened.

Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet. May the soul of my innocent nephew Rylan Foster Gelb (Yitzchak Chaim) be bound up in the bond of eternal life and may he rest in peace. There is no more to say.


Anonymous said...

May the parents find strength in the presence of their family and friends.

Maggid said...

I am so sad and sorry for your loss.
May this become a blessing.

I am grateful you shared with us -
may I somehow help carry a bit of sadness . . .