Thursday, June 24, 2004

A Grave Problem

Besides Ariel's unveiling this past weekend, we also hosted the first Ariel Avrech Yahrtzeit Lecture. With money that has been donated by generous friends and relatives, we brought Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky from Jerusalem to Los Angeles. After the speech, there was a brunch. Ariel always enjoyed a hearty meal. The caterer who did the brunch also catered Ariel's bar mitzvah. Karen and I did not have a moment to sit and eat. We went round the room, thanking all those who attended. I was deeply moved that two readers of these pages, Evy and John Nelson, attended the lecture and introduced themselves to me. Evy wrote the very first letter to this blog.
Relatives and friends flew in from all points. Karen and I thought that this Shabbos would make a deep impression on everybody. Unfortunately, when there is a death in the family, especially a death as tragic as Ariel's, other issues invariably come into play. I have discovered that no matter what we do for our child, it's never quite enought, never quite right in the eyes of others.
We decided to bury Ariel in Simi Valley so we could be close to him; so we could have a place to visit. Others in the family insisted that Israel was the right place for Ariel's kever. Karen and I agonized. We know that there is a certain z'chus in being buried in Eretz Yisroel, but Ariel never asked for it and we have no idea if this is what he would have wanted. I suspect that Ariel would want us to be able to visit his grave as often as possible. But I will not play that game, that awful strategy of assigning a particular desire to the dead, simply as a means of fulfilling what you want. This is a horrible tactic and when I stumble into it -- "Ariel would have wanted..." I catch myself, and quickly short-circuit that awful conductor of selfishness.
Karen and I have visited Ariel's grave often, and I am grateful that it is near. Each time I visit, I know that I have made the right decision. I even consulted with several Rebbeim, and each one told me that our decision was correct, and they added, we should not feel bullied by others who claim the religious high ground.
And yet, this past weekend, after the deeply moving unveiling, after the passionate lecture, after the brunch that brought us close to so many who loved Ariel, and yet after all that, there they were, scolding me once again for denying Ariel burial in Eretz Yisroel. My first reaction was shock. Was this still an issue almost a year later? I thought they understood... And then I realized that this will always be an issue for them. I am naive. I thought that the weekend would show how desperately I need to be near Ariel. Even if it is only a place. Even if he is not really there. Even if hallowed ground is more idea than form. It is still where I can go with Karen and feel his presence. I need this ground. I need it as much as oxygen.
Alive, I clung to him.
Dead, I cannot let go.
I thought they would see that moving Ariel to Israel would be a sure way of crushing my spirit. But I was foolish. I miscalculated their desire for the grave they want Ariel to have.
Ariel never had the opportunity to visit Israel. The one time we actually planned a trip, got him a passport, rented an apartment, bought plane tickets... he developed a second tumor.
Should I send Ariel to Israel now?
Does his soul require the holy soil of Israel?
Or is it my soul that needs it?
Who will be judged for this decision?
Me?
The others?
Karen tells me to ignore them; that they are simply bent on exerting control. They also, she adds, lack empathy.
There are things in this world that are just too big for me.
I know that Karen is right. But more important than who is selfish and who is not, is this: I must be able to get in the car and drive to Ariel's grave. For without this drive, I am too small for this world.

11 Comments:

Blogger egergrthyrthrtg said...

You did the right thing. Your wife is correct. Don't let the critics bother you.

Good Shabbos . . .

June 25, 2004 at 1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have been reading your amazing blog since the begining. we to lost a child and had the same problem with relatives. i realized that these israel relatives were selfish and unable to understand our pain. it was nothing new. their love for our daughter was always based onm her marks and her good looiks and her status. it was a selfish love and as in life so in death. you are now in another exclusive club. i hope this gives you some nechama. please donot stop writing. you say what i feel.

June 27, 2004 at 7:47 AM  
Blogger Yehupitzer said...

Robert, you have no idea how much I hate those relatives of yours. I know you're writing and don't mean to create such raw emotions. But when I read everything you have gone through and then read about these people, I want to ring their throats. I want to tear them apart, limb by limb. How DARE they? They should crawl in a hole and stay there. '

Still furious, days after reading that post.

Yehupitz

June 27, 2004 at 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same thing happened to me and my husband. The pressure was intense to bury our son in Eretz Yisrael. I wanted him here, in NJ, but I gave in and I thought that hashkafically it was the right thing to do. We are not wealthy and we do not get to Israel that often. So I visit my sons kever maybe once every two years. I regret the desision every hour of the day. I cry at night because I do not have a kever to visit when I need to. It is like my son is niftar twice. My parents did this and I have resented them ever since. Don't make the same mistake. When I do get to Israel my heart breaks because the kever is so crowded and so unfriendly and I always get lost looking for him and my son is surropunded by starngers. I kow that am yisroel are one but still I feel that he is so alone. What I feel and hope that never happens to you. I love your weblog. It says what I feel. You are the voice of grieving Yiddishe parents. May Ha-Shem bless you and your family. How lucky your wife is to have such a sensitive husband.

June 28, 2004 at 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's too bad that fine people like you and Karen are saddled with such insensitive relatives. Here's my question. Did the relatives who want Ariel to be buried in Israel own a plot there? In other words, is there an economic angle to this? I suspect so. I suspect that your relatives boght a series of plots and now can't stand the idea that you are wasting their investment. They claim that it's a religious obligation, and that's only true if Ariel expressed a desire to be buried in the Aretz, but whta's really happening is that their investment is going to waste. Not to sound as insensitive as they are, but your relatives are cold cold people. Keep your son close to you. You might not be aware of it but if you move him to Israel you cannot change your mind and bring him back. That is the halacha. My husband and I love your website. Though we are blessed with healthy children, we feel thaqt your voice speaks to so much in Jewish life that needs to be said. We have seen your film "A Stranger Among Us" at least 10 times. It is so wonderful and the only film we know aboout that is so true and so romantic about Yiddishkeit. Can you make a sequel? Maybe Emily does become a ger emes and she investigates crimes in the Jewish community. Isnt that a good idea. Keep writing. I come home from work and rush to my computer to see if you have put up a new entry. When not I feel depressed. My husband says I'm addicted to you. Maybe. But ity's a good addiction since its all about Torah.

June 29, 2004 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Rochelly's Kitchen said...

Dear Robert,
Although I have re-read your comments about burying Ariel in Israel, I don't think I ever told you how furious it makes me when people who have no right to pass judgement on people like us give their unsolicited advice. We also had major issues with this decision. We were in the hospital, and believe it or not, I was insistent on burying Rochelly (this is the first time in 11 years that I used these words) in Israel. I have been to Har Hamanuchos and I always felt as close to Shemaim and Hashem as I would ever feel it is possible to feel in this world. Joey felt exactly like you, for the exact same reasons, and although I agreed with him, I felt that it was selfish of us to deprive Rochelly of such a wonderful, peaceful place where I felt she belonged. I also have relatives that I was very close with buried there. After long discussions, the Rov of our shul, Rabbi Rubin, came up with a solution. We buried her here with a tnai (condition), that we can move her any time. Now, 11 years later, I see that you and my husband were right. A few weeks ago, a few days before my son, Moishy, got engaged, we went to Rochelly's kever to invite her to the L'chaim and to daven that Rochelly, who was more like a mother than a sister to Moishy, should participate in our Simcha and I am sure she did. Although she was only 7 years older than her twin brothers, she had a profound impact on their lives.
Another example of people not understanding us who are in this unfortunate club, is when we donated the Aron Kodesh and Sefer Torah, in Rochelly's memmory. It was a joint effort between my parents, my only sister and brother-in-law, Rozalie and Yossy (without whom, I am convinced, I would not have survived this ordeal), and us. Joe has no living siblings, they died in Aushwitz. My cousin Moishe, who lives in Israel, researched this sefer for 2 years before it was written. When we gave in this amazing Sefer Torah and donated the new Aron Kodesh to our newly built shul, we gave a big kiddush on Shabbos and we had a dinner on Sunday for our relatives and friends. My family from Israel came for this momentous occasion. My learned and well meaning cousin Moishe was trying in every way possible to convince me that along with the procession of the Torah, they play music. Not enough that the Torah is carried under a chupah, but this is wedding music. I felt that this is were I drew the line, I could not tolerate any more comparissons to a wedding, and I insisted that there will be no music.
After listening patiently to a long D'var Torah by my cousin, Moishe, on the meaning of giving in a Sefer Torah, I told him that there will be no music. I also told him that I am glad he could not understand me, because only the people who are unfortunate to be in my shoes do.
As a sequel to these events, at the dinner, one of Rochelly's well meaning class mates came over to tell me how beautiful it was and how it felt like she was at Rochelly's wedding. So, you see, all my efforts were in vain.
Dear Robert and Karin,
Keep on mourning your son the way your hearts tell you to. There is no right way or wrong way, and no human beings, even the ones that have lost children, have the capability to dictate your feelings. As I told you when we met, I am not smart enough to understand Hashem's plan. The only thing I see clearly after 11 years, is that when you are given such an enormous test, you are also given the natural tools of survival. How else can I understand, that after every visit to my beloved Rochelly's kever, when I am convinced that they will put me away in one of the mental institutions my husband manages, I snap back. Because of these sentiments, as you so well obseved when you met me, I share your feeling about trying to keep the memory of these trully unique children alive. Yes, Ariel, from everything I heard of him from many people whose lives he touched in the short time he spent on this earth, was a trully amazing individual who accomplished, in his short life, more than other people who lived to be 120. So did Rochelly, Ruchie Weiss, Devorah Salem, Sara Fried's son, Arie Friedman's son, Judy Weiser's nephew, and countless of other children I knew personally who were taken away from us in such a heart wrenching way. How about my husband's three siblings along with 6 million other jews who died in the Holocost? I, my husband, yourselves, and many others before us, and I hope no-one after us, miracoulously go on living relatively normal lives. We laugh, we participate in our friends' and families' Simchas with joy, we vacation, we enjoy our other children and grand-children and life goes on. This, as far as I am concerned, is the most amazing miracle of life, and we are all a living proof of it.
With all my admiration to a most talented, caring couple who I befriended (yes, I feel like we have been friend forever) under such unfurtunate circumstances,
Surie

July 9, 2004 at 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were 100% correct in not wanting to bury your son in Eretz Israel. I say that both from a moral and from a halachic perspective. While it is true those buryied in G-ds beloved garden are blessed those that never lived here and use G-ds beloved garden as a dumping ground for trheir carcasses are disgusting in the eyes of G-d. It is for this very reason tyhat we hacve a tradition to go to the grave of Moish Feinstein and use his grave as a public bathroom. What is unbelievable is how so many persons can treat that lower than a whore Rav as someone holy is beyond me. His entire life that piece of dirt spit on Eretz Israel and only when he died did he have any use for Israel. A word in hebrwew for died is patur which means exempt. Rav Moshe Feinstein the paragon of prostitution of the torah is finally dead.

March 20, 2005 at 5:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were 100% correct in not wanting to bury your son in Eretz Israel. I say that both from a moral and from a halachic perspective. While it is true those buryied in G-ds beloved garden are blessed those that never lived here and use G-ds beloved garden as a dumping ground for trheir carcasses are disgusting in the eyes of G-d. It is for this very reason tyhat we hacve a tradition to go to the grave of Moish Feinstein and use his grave as a public bathroom. What is unbelievable is how so many persons can treat that lower than a whore Rav as someone holy is beyond me. His entire life that piece of dirt spit on Eretz Israel and only when he died did he have any use for Israel. A word in hebrwew for died is patur which means exempt. Rav Moshe Feinstein the paragon of prostitution of the torah is finally dead.

March 20, 2005 at 5:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were 100% correct in not wanting to bury your son in Eretz Israel. I say that both from a moral and from a halachic perspective. While it is true those buryied in G-ds beloved garden are blessed those that never lived here and use G-ds beloved garden as a dumping ground for trheir carcasses are disgusting in the eyes of G-d. It is for this very reason tyhat we hacve a tradition to go to the grave of Moish Feinstein and use his grave as a public bathroom. What is unbelievable is how so many persons can treat that lower than a whore Rav as someone holy is beyond me. His entire life that piece of dirt spit on Eretz Israel and only when he died did he have any use for Israel. A word in hebrwew for died is patur which means exempt. Rav Moshe Feinstein the paragon of prostitution of the torah is finally dead.You should be praised for not following in the steps oof that scumbag. israelitorahjew@yahoo.com

March 20, 2005 at 5:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were 100% correct in not wanting to bury your son in Eretz Israel. I say that both from a moral and from a halachic perspective. While it is true those buryied in G-ds beloved garden are blessed those that never lived here and use G-ds beloved garden as a dumping ground for trheir carcasses are disgusting in the eyes of G-d. It is for this very reason tyhat we hacve a tradition to go to the grave of Moish Feinstein and use his grave as a public bathroom. What is unbelievable is how so many persons can treat that lower than a whore Rav as someone holy is beyond me. His entire life that piece of dirt spit on Eretz Israel and only when he died did he have any use for Israel. A word in hebrwew for died is patur which means exempt. Rav Moshe Feinstein the paragon of prostitution of the torah is finally dead.You should be praised for not following in the steps oof that scumbag. israelitorahjew@yahoo.com

March 20, 2005 at 5:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were 100% correct in not wanting to bury your son in Eretz Israel. I say that both from a moral and from a halachic perspective. While it is true those buryied in G-ds beloved garden are blessed those that never lived here and use G-ds beloved garden as a dumping ground for trheir carcasses are disgusting in the eyes of G-d. It is for this very reason tyhat we hacve a tradition to go to the grave of Moish Feinstein and use his grave as a public bathroom. What is unbelievable is how so many persons can treat that lower than a whore Rav as someone holy is beyond me. His entire life that piece of dirt spit on Eretz Israel and only when he died did he have any use for Israel. A word in hebrwew for died is patur which means exempt. Rav Moshe Feinstein the paragon of prostitution of the torah is finally dead.You should be praised for not following in the steps oof that scumbag. israelitorahjew@yahoo.com

March 20, 2005 at 5:26 AM  

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