About a year and a half ago, I was getting ready to officiate a bar mitzvah service, and one of the guests stopped me in my tracks when he asked, “Are you Steven Posen’s daughter?” Here I was, clear across the country from my childhood community, and I was recognized for who I’ve come from.
Earlier this week, my email was hacked. So were the emails of several other local rabbis and numerous rabbis across the country. More accurately, my email was impersonated, with a new email that looked sufficiently like the Neveh Shalom address.
When you think about it, it’s really Pharaoh’s daughter who is the savior of an entire nation. Why? Because she witnessed oppression with her own eyes and acted on what she saw: people are people. As we once again approach Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, perhaps this is a reminder for all of us in all times.
One of the blessings of our religious tradition is that it provides us a rich heritage of traditions to navigate loss. Oftentimes, I’ve encountered people who don’t have that sort of tradition or community and they are at a loss with their loss. They don’t have a clear pathway to help them mourn and celebrate or to allow them to move through the many stages of grief.
There are things which only those closest to us can say. Our Torah portion this week reminds us that the greatest blessing is to have someone who cares about you point out your missteps so that you have the opportunity to improve.
When Moshe Rabbeinu died, the Israelites mourned thirty days for Moses. (Deuteronomy 34:8). When Aaron died, our ancestors also mourned for thirty days (Numbers 20:29). These are the sources for our tradition’s custom of sheloshim. What is interesting is how these very public observances of sheloshim changed and became reserved for our closest of kin.
When the person next to you on an airplane asks what you do for work, what do you say? Our Torah portion this week reminds us that the ultimate show of respect is first to respect yourself. That’s how we bring blessing into the world.