Bonne fortune!
This week's portion: on hubris

Purely blessed

It's never convenient, doing taharah. There's no way the call can come at a comfortable time. Maybe we knew the congregant or family member in question; maybe we didn't. One way or another, when the phone rings each of us wrestles with the question of whether and how we can make it to the funeral home by the end of the workday. We have jobs, families, obligations that need to be juggled. When we arrive after work, we're all a little bit harried. It's inevitable.

But as we read psalms, gathered in the bland funeral home livingroom, the stresses of the day start to fall away. Slowly, without realizing it, we move into a different headspace. When we wash our hands, when we glove up, when we talk to the meit and ask her forgiveness for any inadvertant error we might commit during the process of taharah. When we caress her with washcloths, when we pour our portable mikvah in a continual stream, when we declare her tehorah, pure, and mean it.

Afterwards we stand outside the funeral home, blinking in the dazzling late-evening light of high summer, and talk quietly, reluctant to break what we've woven together. We say things like, "Maybe it sounds strange, but I really felt God in that room." We say, "I can't put it into words." We say, "The whole day is different now." And we smile, and thank each other, and hug each other, and drive away changed. For a short while, everything is transformed by the extended meeting with the ineffable that arises in the work of taharah. There is nothing like it. We are so blessed.

(Previous posts about taharah: Facing impermanence, Shmira.)

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