Deborah Katchko-Gray
Pioneer woman cantor, artist and Bubbie.

Tree of Life, Elie Wiesel and Psalm 92

Yartzeits can remind us of cherished memories, teachings and aching in our hearts for those we lost and remember. The tragedy of the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh is being remembered this weekend, and the Hebrew birthday of our teacher and my mentor, Elie Wiesel z”l was just observed on Simchat Torah.
Alan Rosen, revered teacher and guide for many of us who choose to remember our teacher often; reminded us of his Hebrew birthday and the Chasidic custom of reciting a Psalm for the birthday of a teacher/mentor numbering the year of their birthday. As Prof. Wiesel would have turned 92, this year we will recite Psalm 92 in his honor and memory. Alan Rosen teaches us that by reciting this beautiful Psalm 92, we can hopefully “ reveal even more aspects of our teacher’s greatness!”.

My heart and head are overloaded with emotions today as we remember the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, and remember the wisdom and inspiration of our teacher. What would he have said about all of this? What words of comfort and wisdom would he have shared with the world? What lessons would he have illuminated? I am grateful to Ariel Burger for his book,
“ Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom” who continues to share his wisdom and teachings.
I am also very grateful for the spiritual leadership and courage Rabbi Jeffrey Myers continues to show. He was a beacon of light during that very dark time.

Looking at Psalm 92 we are reminded to “ affirm your love each morning and your faithfulness each night, to the music of the lute and the melody of the harp.” Surely music plays a role in our spiritual healing, as I prepare to sing the song, Tree of Life, especially composed for this tragic event by Nefesh Mountain. “Oh sweet friends come and dry your eyes, and hold each other by this tree of life.
I’m angry and tired of this great divide. But I sing nonetheless with love on our side.” The words jump into our hearts and bring the Psalm to life as it affirms the power of music and the strength we gain from the combination of melody and faith.
Our teacher may have pointed out the words in Psalm 92, “ The wicked may flourish, springing up like grass, but their doom is sealed for You are supreme forever. …Your enemies shall perish, all the wicked shall crumble.” While there will always be evil in this world, they never truly win. Psalm 92 teaches us to have faith and know that “the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree…”
May we flourish and grow strong together in the remembrance of this tragedy. May we sing songs of healing together, as one community in faith and continue to hold those in our hearts dear who have inspired us.

Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray

About the Author
Fourth generation cantor, second woman to serve a traditional synagogue and founder of the Women Cantors' Network. Deborah studied with Elie Wiesel z"l and continues to be inspired by his teachings. First recipient of the Debbie Friedman Miriam Award. A cantor in Ridgefield, CT since 1999, cellist, tallit Swedish weaving embroiderer, mother of 6, grandmother of five. Wife and friend.
Related Topics
Related Posts