- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On May 11, 2018
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings
Years ago, Tom Brokaw wrote a book describing in detail those who fought in World War II. He detailed the tenacity, commitment, and courage of those raised during the depression, who went on to demonstrate their sense of purpose and patriotism. They sought triumph over despair. Brokaw called them the Greatest Generation, a well-deserved appellation for their service and contributions to this country. For sure, there were others before them and more to come after them, but sometimes, it is good to pause to reflect on those whose lives reflect greatness.
It is for this reason I want to share with you a different kind of greatness demonstrated by a dear friend and colleague whose life came to a tragic end last weekend because of a private plane crash. His name was Aaron Panken and he was more than what his titles of Rabbi, Ph.D., or even President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion offer.
Judaism calls people like him, G’dolei hador, great human beings of a generation because of their scholarship, integrity, and humanity. Aaron Panken was such a person. When news began to spread of his death, sorrow shot throughout the Jewish world, like a tidal wave devastating everything in its path. But, I don’t think it was only because of the prestigious and important role he held. Actually, that was secondary. The sadness was personal. The many hundreds and perhaps thousands of people in mourning felt we had lost a dear friend, someone for whom we mattered. How could this be so?
There is a Hasidic story about a rebbe who gave a moving and poignant sermon. After it was over, one student turned to the others and apologized to the rest of them. “I’m sorry that the rebbe was only speaking to me.” Then another one chimed in, “No, wait! The rebbe was speaking to me!” One by one, each claimed that the rebbe while seeming to speak to the whole crowd had actually only addressed each individual person. As the Talmud teaches, “what comes from the heart, enters the heart.”
Aaron moved through life with a heart full of attentiveness for each soul. A community of individuals mourns because each person truly feels he was speaking directly to this or that particular person, from his heart to theirs.
Generations from now will look back on this moment and I am sure Aaron Panken will still be remembered as one of the greatest.
I will miss my friend and colleague. I take great comfort that I am truly not alone.
We gather tonight at 6:00 p.m. for Qabbalat Shabbat. Live stream here. Plan on staying for Community Conversations “For Such a Time As This” to discuss, what do you want to change to make our world better and why after Qabbalat Shabbat and enjoy Shabbat dinner together.
Tot Rock Shabbat for little kids and the adults who accompany them begins at 5:00 p.m. with dinner and “tots rocking for Shabbat.”
The Riverway Project (20s/30s) Soul Food Friday starts at 7:00 p.m.
Torah Study is at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Connect with me HERE.