I had the honour of visiting one of our members at the St Johns and St Elizabeth Hospice this week. We also have a bereavement. And we had another bereavement just a week ago. Members being rushed into emergency surgery, family members in and out of hospital... it’s been one of those weeks.
When I tell someone I’m a rabbi, and their gaze shifts from displaying a generalised curiosity into a pained, ‘oh dear, that must be terrible,’ attempt at empathy, I know it’s this sort of work they are thinking of. But that’s to misunderstand the nature of this core part of what I do. I never leave a hospice, a funeral or a house of mourning and wonder why I decided to become a Rabbi. In fact quite the reverse. Accompanying our members on their last earth-bound journeys can hurt – I’m under no illusions, it hurts those closest to bereavement far more – but it’s an extraordinary honour. Life seems most precious when it can no longer be taken for granted. We understand what we have only as we acknowledge that what we have cannot be forever. To be reminded of that is an experience I expect never to grow out of.
The sparks of light also help. I think that is part of the magical power of Chanukah – thin beads of flame flickering against a sky that seems to darken at 12:05pm. Flame is always fragile, always fading even as burns most brightly and it is always at its most powerful against the backdrop of the darkest night. First night Chanukah is Tuesday. For a guide to candle lighting and bits of song and other festive treats, please click [here] http://www.newlondon.org.uk/PDFs/How%20to%20Light%20the%20Chanukah%20Menorah%202014%20NLS.pdf
And Chappy Hanukah,