Shalom Salaam

Shalom. I am a female rabbi who recently became a Mashpi’ah Ruchanit. That is Hebrew for Spiritual Director. Most people have no idea what a Spiritual Director is. Muslims, Jews, Christians, religious seekers, atheists, etc generally know what a “rabbi” is, although many do not know or believe in “female” rabbis. So be it. We live in a free country as they say in the good ol USA. Of course as a blogger for The Times of Israel, I also am aware that as a Jewish American I have one proverbial foot in the USA and one in the state of Israel. Israel was also my father Hilbert Israel Schotz’s middle name and for that reason Israel felt like part of my DNA. My father was not only a ‘sperm donor’ he was the husband of my mother and a father who walked this earth until December 29, 2012. My nephew Jake is his only grandson. As a child my father was a spiritual guide. I believe the conversations that I had with my father influenced me to become a rabbi. My father was not a happy man. He was a good natured but sensitive soul and the reality of everyday life was burdensome. Yet, my father’s eyes would light up when he would talk about the pride he felt as ‘the grandson of two rabbis’. I talk about this in my first book Spiritual Direction for Jewish Children. Yet the reason I am so moved to write this blog entry today even in the midst of my Shabbat preparations and Passover cleaning, God please give me the strength, is to tell you how my father guided me even today as I stood by the grave of a man who was buried today. I was the officiating rabbi. The name of the funeral home is called Shalom as is also the name of my second book. My books are self published so it actuallly costs me money to buy my own book. The goal is to share my ideas with the world. Each one of us is only on this earth for a short while. The whole purpose of life is about the good we do on earth via the soul’s experience in the body on earth. Burial is about performing a mitzvah which cannot be repaid. It is a chesed shel emet – a true mitzvah because it’s not like you are expecting the person ‘to pay you back.’ Today there were only five of us at the grave: the funeral director, myself, and the three mourners. It was a beautiful day with birds chirping in contradiction to the brutual winter those in the Eastern part of the USA have endured. Thank you God. Today the five of us stood with our eyes closed together by the grave as we really took the time to let ourselves mourn. I include myself because the words shared and music played by the family was so moving. And now I realize that I will always be a mourner. Life is never the same after losing a loved one. Yet we go on and heal by the mitzvahs we do. That brings me closer to the most extraordinary thing that happened today. As I stood by the grave I decided that I would hand out copies of my book. This would be a mitzvah I would do in my father’s memory. I handed a book to each mourner and two to the funeral director ( one for his partner). My goal was to give out six books like the six points of the Jewish star. The five of us felt like a yad – a hand, a hand of God. I contemplated this challenge I had thought up of giving out one more book not knowing if I would really do it. I went to the kosher bakery after the funeral to pick up my challah. In the bakery I noticed for the first time ever what appeared to be a Muslim woman. She was dressed modestly from head to toe like a Muslim woman would be. I tried to make eye contact with her but her eyes would not meet mine. I feared that she was thinking that I was staring at her and my heart went out with anxiety to think that I would be causing her any harm.  As I got ready to leave the bakery I quietly said ,”Salaam.” Maybe she wasn’t Muslim. She looked at me with a smile. I handed her my book card with the word Shalom on it. She left. As I got ready to get in my car her husband approached me. Once again I feared I had went too far. He started speaking from his heart about how we are related. We are both children of Abraham. “We Muslims want peace,” he said and then he introduced me to all his three children which were in his very modest car. He had to get to work. He was running late but he was so moved he poured out his heart to me. I handed him the sixth copy of the book. He was the one who was meant to get that last copy. My father Hilbert Israel Schotz, of blessed memory, had helped get us closer to peace. Shalom. Salaam.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Leslie Schotz serves the egalitarian Conservative synagogue called the Bay Shore Jewish Center. She was born on the block of the same shul; where her mother was educated as a girl growing up on a dairy farm nearby. Rabbi Schotz' parents were married on the very same bimah where Rabbi Schotz leads services, officiates at life cycle events and delivers sermons. Rabbi Schotz became a mourner for the first time when her father Hilbert Israel Schotz, of blessed memory, died. He is buried in the synagogue cemetery which has roots going back to the late 1800s. Rabbi Schotz is proud to serve a shul with the slogan "You don't have to pay to pray." They are a House of God welcome to all.