- This blog post is about Hannah, z”l.
(Hannah Weiss, her brother Ari, and her parents Leslie and Mitchell — among others — were killed in a plane crash in Costa Rica on December 31, 2017)
It is very lonely here in Rockville, Maryland, since I heard from a friend the other day, and I needed to be among your chevra — even in cyberspace ‑- of those who mourn.
Please forgive my numbering, but there are so many thoughts pushing in every direction, it is the only way I can hope to get much of it out to you:
- Both Hayim Nachman Bialik and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote about how at intense moments in life we are often reduced to half-words, sounds really.
- “Wow” we often say when we are astonished or awed, which is really half way to staring in silence or being dumbstruck.
- We are at the diametric opposite end of human emotions, so we are left with “Woe” in English, “Vy” in Talmudic language, and “Vey” in Yiddish.
- Or, if we must use words, we may resort to metaphoric, poetic, archaic, even biblical vocabulary and phraseology.
- I feel now that my “heart is heavy”.
- I keep thinking of King David lamenting his son Jonathan’s death by repeating, “Beni, Beni! – My son, my son!”
- Maybe this is also why I can’t use the words “death” and “died” when talking to others about this terrible moment in our lives.
- Though beginning that night and continuing when I was half-awake and then fully aware I kept thinking of phrases, still – in the back of my mind – the thought keeps popping up that silence is the best way. And yet, as with Hannah’s (and her family’s) Rabbi Jacob Luski, we have to say something.
- For myself, I knew Hannah when she was elected SATO VP at IC. (SATO = Social Action / Tikkun Olam)
- I offered to be in touch throughout her time as The One Who Would Continue to Change So Many Lives.
- I kept my promise, and during the year we exchanged several two-way beneficial e-mails as she taught me many ideas about Tikkun Olam.
- I saw her again when she went out of office, and when she told me that she was going to the Joint Program, I knew we would continue to be in touch. (I graduated in 1967.) My last exchange was about what courses she was taking both at JTS and Columbia and who her professors were.
- That she was a gute Neshama, a Good Soul, is obvious to anyone who ever met her, even for a few moments. Her devotion to the Jews and the world, her enthusiasm for Tikkun Olam, and her obvious personal integrity were inspiring to young and old, her students, friends, and teachers.
- After writing #4 I just felt I had to write again Woe/Vey as the sadness overcame me again.
- And here is where I part company with some teachers, preachers/eulogizers, and rabbis:
- To add “Zichrona Livracha” (z”l, when abbreviated) when we mention Hannah’s name, while appropriate, it is not enough.
- Even to say we will carry on in action her vision of repairing this world – that, too, is not enough.
- We – greedy human beings – want/need the living Hannah Weiss right there – not just in our memories and actions.
- In the disbelief and incomprehensible unfairness of it, this craving for her presence is so far beyond just missing her at the other end of a message, e-mail, phone line, or face-to-face encounter is devastating….It leaves an emptiness not only in the mind and soul, but we can feel it in our gut and in our bones.
- Maybe it is even unfair to Hannah to sympathize and seek consolation for ourselves…compared to the loss of Hannah itself.
I have no concluding words to tie together these rambling thoughts. But a phrase keeps coming to mind, and if it helps any of us, it has some value.
No matter my or your own personal view of the Olam HaBa (the “world to come”), I have occasionally recited the Yemenite Jews’ customary words, “Menuchata Eden” – May her eternal rest be in The Garden of Eden.
Thank you for listening to my disjointed words.