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Today should have been my funeral.

Friday, 3 May, 2019 - 1:10 pm

 "Today should have been my funeral."
(Quote from Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Chabad of Poway, taken from NY Times Op-Ed Tuesday, April 30, 2019)

The community had just concluded a very beautiful, spiritually moving, community Chassidic Farbrengen at Congregation Shaarei Tefillah-Lubavitch celebrating the last hours of the eight day of Pesach, Shabbos, April 27 - It was centered around the traditional Moshiach Seuda. Words of Torah, based on the last words of the RamBam’s (Maimonides) Yad HaChazakah, where he discusses how the world will be with the coming of our righteous Moshiach were shared.

Chassidic songs from all the Rebbes of Chabad were movingly sung and we wished each other L’Chaim and shared words of blessing. Following the Birkat Hamazon (blessing after meal), we all joined in a lively Chassidic dance.

We then moved into the Sanctuary to join together to say the concluding prayers of Shabbos and Chag.  Right after the conclusion of the prayers, someone ran into the Shul and shared the horrific news from Chabad of Poway in California.

We were all in utter shock.

Community Gathering

At 9:15pm, approximately 15 minutes after Shabbos. I received the following email from Nancy Greer, President & CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle:

Rabbi Levitin,
What a shock of a transition at the end of Pesach. We are stunned and saddened by the shooting and loss of life that took place at Chabad of Poway earlier today. Please let me know how I or anyone on the Federation team can assist you during this difficult time. 

Shavua Tov,

Nancy reaching out was a typical representation of the tremendous outpouring of love, concern, and support from the greater Seattle Jewish community.

I want to acknowledge the lead role in organizing the community gathering by Rabbi Berry Farkash (of Chabad of Issaquah) and the space at the at the Eastside Torah Center / Chabad of Bellevue provided byRabbiMordechai Farkash, Rabbi for the Eastside Torah Center.

In less than 24 hours, Sunday evening, more than 400 people gathered together in Bellevue for an evening of prayer and reflection with community Rabbis and leaders.

The following is a presentation given by Rabbi Y. Kornfeld (of Chabad of Mercer Island / Rabbi, Island Synagogue) at the community gathering.

My Letter to Lori Gilbert Kaye
By Rabbi Y. Kornfeld – Chabad of Mercer Island, WA
Rabbi of Congregation Shevet Achim – Island Synagogue

Dear Lori,
I did not have the privilege of meeting you, of knowing you during your life. However, I do feel privileged for knowing you now. Lori you are a Kedosha, a holy person, a person who died for Kiddush Hashem the sanctification of G-D’s name. A Jew who is murdered for the sole reason that she is a Jew is a Kedosha.

But your Kedusha Is magnified, is amplified. Because you, Lori, were murdered in a holy place, and on a holy day, You were in your shul, Chabad of Poway, That you were instrumental in building from it’s inception, and maintaining until today. And it was on Pesach the holiday of Passover on it’s last day.

You were ready to recite the Yizkor prayer, Ready to invoke the memory of your beloved mother, who had passed away recently. Instead you recited Yizkor together with her in heaven, In G-d’s presence.

Lori, you were a holy person, in a holy place, on a holy day. I am privileged, we are privileged, to know you, to be a part of our holy great nation, together with you.

But Lori your Kedusha Is attested to, not only by how you died, but, equally important, by how you lived. You cared! You cared and made sure that your Kehila, your community, would have a place to Daven, Study, Schmooze, and  Schep Nachas , from their children and grandchildren. You cared! Not only about the community center, but, more importantly, about the community members.

If there was someone who was needy, you cared and filled the need. If there was someone who was sad, you cared, and shared your joy. The picture of you, standing at the Western Wall with a beautiful smile, lighting up your face, is worth a thousand words.

You lived a holy life, full of kindness, full of happiness. A full life, not measured by time, but by accomplishments, בחיים ובמות , in life and in death Kedosha

Lori, my heart, our hearts, go out to your family. To your husband and daughter. Nothing we could say to them, could alleviate the pain and anguish of your absence. How lucky they were to have you as a wife and mom. All too short in time, oh so full of great moments and memories. We will take time to appreciate our loved ones, and resolve to emulate you Lori, to become better spouses, parents, and friends.

The Mishna in Ethics of our Fathers teaches us: The world stands and exists because of three things: Torah study, prayer, and acts of loving kindness.

Lori, your life kept the world going. You supported Chabad of Poway, were so many Jews came, to study so many dimensions of our holy Torah.

You were in Shul for Davening, to pray and refresh your connection to G-d, together with your congregation your acts of love and kindness are legendary in your community. Lori, you are the embodiment of this Mishnah.

We will emulate your example by attending Torah classes, by going to synagogue, especially this coming Shabbat, and with a Lori-like smile, do more Tzedaka and kindness.

The Passover holiday ended last night. On its first night, Jews worldwide were sitting around the Sedar table. A highlight of the Seder is the listing of the 10 plagues, when we remove some of the wine from our cups. Our sages tell us that there were two stages to the ninth plague of darkness. The first three days, the darkness was so dark that nothing could be seen, but the next three days the darkness became heavy, so dark, that you could not even move. Lori, you faced an even worse darkness, the horrific darkness of hate and anti-Semitism.

However, our holy Torah tells us that during this plague: “For all the Children of Israel there was light where they dwelled”. Lori! You came face-to-face with horrific, evil darkness. But you Lori, are all about light, illumination, luminescence. Your shining countenance reflected your inner light, the light of your soul, your essence, who you really are. As king Solomon says “The flame of God is the human soul”. You really shined, and you amped it up with Torah and Mitzvot. “A mitzvah is a lamp, and Torah is light”.

A small amount of light banishes a lot of darkness. So how much more so, a large amount of light. Lori! You are a powerhouse of illumination, will emulate you, emphasizing and revealing our souls, We will kindle the lamps of mitzvot and shine with the light of Torah.

Lori, I am worried. I am concerned that I, that we, in time, will move on, and your memory will fade. After all we are only human, and time takes it’s toll. You Lori, deserve to be remembered, always, every day.

However, I think, no, I am sure that you would want to be remembered by something of substance, not fluff. You would want to be remembered via a mitzvah that has a direct connection to the circumstances of your passing. Here are my thoughts:

Our sages tell that the death of righteous people protect their generation. You are, and will continue to be, a protection from heaven for your husband, daughter, community, and the rest of the Jewish nation.

“G-d will protect you going out and you’re coming in from now and forever”. This pasuk is connected to the Mitzvah of Mezuzah. On the Mezuzah there is written the holy name of   G-d spelled.ש-ד-י an acronym too Shomer Daltot Israel Who protects the doorway of Israel. You no longer can touch and kiss the Mezuzah of your home and Shul But we Lori, will embrace the mitzvah in your memory. We will affix a kosher Mezuzah to every Jewish home.

And now a connection to your beloved Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein may he have a speedy healing and recovery. The Rabbi lost his right index finger. When he now lifts his right hand to touch and kiss the Mezuzah that main finger will be missing. I am sure he will feel your presence in that void each time he touches and kisses the Mezuzah We too Lori, will remember you each time we kiss our Mezuzah, and always try to live our lives inspired by your example.

May Hashem bless us all that we should merit the day of Redemption that the RamBam writes about:

In that Era there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition, for good things will flow in abundance and all the delights will be as freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d. The Jews will therefore be great sages and know the hidden matters, and will attain an understanding of their Creator to the [full] extent of human potential; as it is written  [Yeshayahu 11:9] , "For the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed."(Chapter 12 of Hilchos Melachim)


Have a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Levitin

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