Update on life, death, Mom, and the rabbi

Thanks to all who read my previous post.  I found out today that Mom is in hospice and sinking fast, so I launched the letter (previous blog entry) to the Rabbi, slightly edited.  Done and done, right?  Not so fast.  Here's the auto-reply:

Thank [sic] for your email.

I will not be reading my emails during the Jewish Holiday of Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah or the Sabbath following them.

I will look forward to reading and responding to my emails on Tuesday, October 21.

Please accept my best wishes for a sweet and happy new year and for joyous holidays.

Oh shit.  Mom could die at any time, and he wouldn't know of my carefully thought out plans until the 16th.  Who extended the Sabbath rules to all the holidays, including ones I've barely heard of?   Rabbis, that's who, because interpreting all the rules and regs creates job security for rabbis.  

I should have known -- there's a whole cluster of holidays in the fall, most of which are ignored, unless you get a congregation of yuppie and Millennial zealots determined not to be outdone by their Christian friends.  

Still wondering: how many liberal Jews really do all this stuff, constantly re-enacting ancient stories (e.g., Torah says that wandering Israelites lived in "booths," so modern people do likewise, building their own.  Kid you not.).  Once again I realized how religion is an appalling time-suck.

The second of the two holidays celebrates finishing of the Torah...so they unroll it, roll it back up, and start over!  How like religion to travel in an endless circle.

I will be sharing further developments. 

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Comment by Alan Perlman on October 17, 2014 at 10:40am

Michael, Thanks for your thoughts and advice.  I expect that family relations will go smoothly; there are few hard-liners. They all know how I feel, and not one of them has the wits or guts to talk about religion with me, especially not now.  I plan to sit quietly, politely and attentively, as people babble gibberish to nobody.

Freethinker, I would rather say he puts humanistic values above religion...because if he took his religion seriously, he would never agree to my conditions.

Comment by Michael Pianko on October 16, 2014 at 9:45pm
Are you going to tell your family that there is no god and davening or reciting the Jewish liturgies while sitting shiva is a bizarre waste of time or are you going to keep quiet and try to read a novel try to pay no attention to the davening while your family is reciting the liturgies? They probably know that some people that they want to consider jewish don't pay any attention to religion. Being around your family might be less bad than you expect. And if your family is really that hostile or angry at you, so leave the family gatherings early but talk in such a calm, assertive, confident, non-threatening, non arrogant, non-antonistic matter that they will have to match to you or so they will come out seeming like shmuks while you will leave seeming or feeling smart.
Comment by Michael Pianko on October 16, 2014 at 9:33pm
It's not specifically that the Jews care only about Money: all religions put a certain anoint of effort into getting people to give them money, whether the effort is in the form of plaques in the shul or synagogue in memory of a relative, or the speeches I used to hear every high holiday season in services about donating money to the synagogue or buying israel bonds, or I understand that churches might pass around a plate or container participants are supposed to put money into and some brands of Christianity try to get you to give 10% of your income to the church.
Comment by Alan Perlman on October 16, 2014 at 9:01pm

Thanks, guys.  Joan, I appreciated your beautiful words.  Pat, seriously, how can any thinking person take that stuff seriously?  (Don't get me started on my wife's brother-in-law, a Sephardic rabbi, a glib true believer who has a fog or words for every question.)  Michael, it's true: the Jews care only about money.

Comment by Grinning Cat on October 16, 2014 at 7:53pm

What Carl, Joan, and Pat said!... It's good to read that the rabbi takes supporting your mother and you seriously. I hope she and you find strength and peace.

Comment by Pat on October 16, 2014 at 7:47pm

Alan, you're right. The guy is a mensch. More power to him. I suspect that you're correct in that- he knows that you know that he knows it's all bullshit, or at least that he has seriously considered that possibility.  

But at least he's showing you respect. And for that, rabbi or not, he deserves some in return.

Comment by Joan Denoo on October 16, 2014 at 7:33pm

Alan, I hope you can rest easier knowing that you, your mother and rabbi understand each other. Being tolerant of non-believers is appropriate and to be expected. The stories that comfort and do not interfere with healthy functioning has its place. For an old woman facing death, any comfort she can muster and that works for her cannot be disputed.

As for yourself, I know you prepared yourself for the surviving family's response to your position. My wish for you is that you experience peace as the wheel of life turns one more round. 

Comment by Michael Pianko on October 16, 2014 at 7:07pm
The rabbi's job is to make you have to give money to his shul or synagogue or reformed temple in order for you to avoid feeling too guilty with yourself due to the possibility of you not supporting the rabbi or not paying lip,service to the religion. I personally will not give a dime to a synagogue.
Comment by Alan Perlman on October 16, 2014 at 6:29pm

The rabbi bent the rules a little and read my email.  Wow.  And he turns out to be tolerant!   Let's hear it for liberal Judaism, tolerant even of nonbelievers.  He says he'll do his best to put up with me (not punch me out?) --- maybe because he knows, deep down, what I know: that religion is a fraud and the Torah is only a story.  You think he never has a moment's doubt?

Anyway, he was a mensch (loosely, 'gentleman').  Here's his reply:

Dear Alan,

 

Please know that I will do my utmost to honor you and your mother over the time to come.

 

In my understanding, the purposes of the mourning practices in our tradition are two fold:  One is to honor your mother.  The other is to provide you with support.

 

I will not knowingly do anything that would be disrespectful to your mother’s wishes or the understanding that you and she had and I will endeavor to respect your mourning process to the best of my abilities.  If there are ways that you think that I can be more helpful and more supportive of you, please do not hesitate to let me know.

 

I am sorry that this is the context in which we are getting to know each other.  Your mother is a very special woman. 

 

I will be more difficult to reach over the next two days because the holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are beginning tonight, but if you need to reach me, please call and leave a message on my cell phone, 484.678.5971.

 

Once again, please know that my only goals during this difficult time are to treat your mother and your family with respect and support.

 

Rabbi Rosin

 

 

Comment by The Flying Atheist on October 15, 2014 at 7:57pm

Alan, I hope your mother is not in any distressing pain and that she is able to leave us quietly and peacefully.  I know this is a difficult and stressful time, so take care of yourself as well. 

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