Friday, February 12, 2016
Beautiful words by Rabbi Michael Bernstein, Gesher L'Torah Congregation, Alpharetta, GA:
A Labor of Love
Each year, in mid to late February as we enter the Hebrew month of Adar, I write with a lingering bitter sweetness in honor of Tracie's and my dear friends, Matt Eisenfeld and Sara Duker, z"l (may their memories be for blessings). Matt and Sara were among those murdered in the bombing of the #18 bus in Jerusalem in February of 1996, when Tracie and I were living and studying with them in Israel. This Saturday night marks the 20th anniversary of the day when their remarkable lives were cut short, but most extraordinarily, the Torah of Matt and Sara still thrives.
This week's Torah portion describes the building of the mishkan, the holy Tabernacle in which G*d would dwell, the creation of which drew from the treasures and skills of the whole community. The gifts for the mishkan were to come from those whose hearts were moved to contribute. "Let them make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell in them." In them, the people, not it, the sanctuary. G*d would dwell in those whose hearts not only moved them to give gifts, but those who gave their hearts, who gave themselves fully.
On the occasion of their twentieth yahrzeit, my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Eddie Bernstein, has published a compendium of Matt and Sara's writings entitled Love Finer than Wine. The book's title comes from the Song of Songs. Between the two of them, so much of the landscape of Torah was covered - Biblical studies, Rabbinic stories, acts of loving kindness, science, and ethics. Theirs is Torah from the heart, always striving to move both inward into the profound mysteries of the text and outward into yet unrealized opportunities to transform the world.
In the beautiful poetry of the Song of Songs (7:10) we read, "like the best wine for my love, that goes down sweetly, causing the lips of those who are asleep to speak". Our sages say that these sleeping lips that are caused to speak refer to those whose Torah continues to be taught even after their death.
What does it mean for someone's lips to move while their bodies lie at rest? Perhaps the essence of the meaning can be found in prayer. When we pray deeply, our lips are supposed to move, because it's not enough for prayer to rest in our heart. To bring prayer to life, it has to be articulated, made active by passing over our lips, after which it more deeply penetrates the heart.
As the words and wisdom of Matt and Sara are read and heard anew, their words will move hearts. And as we, a full generation since their deaths, learn their Torah, their sleeping lips will speak once more.
May the memory of Matt and Sara continue to be a blessing and an inspiration for all they knew, all they touched and the entire world.