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Mom's Yarzheit and Marvin Levenson

On the Hebrew calendar, Saturday night and Sunday corresponded to 6 Shvat 5768. The significance of this date is that Mom died on 6 Shvat 5767.

In other words, from a religious perspective, my year of mourning is over.

The anniversary of Mom's death on the Gregorian calendar isn't until January 25, 2008, but as far as religious observance goes, I'm done. Starting tonight, I'm free to join in celebrations, and to attend live musical events and theater.

As it is, I spent the yahrzeit (Hebrew anniversary of Mom's death) engaged in nice, low-key activity. Last night, my younger brother called, and we talked for almost two hours about a lot of stuff.

Today, Nomi and I went out shopping in the early afternoon to get groceries for the Arisia science fiction convention next weekend. The supermarket was crowded, no doubt due to the predictions of a major snowstorm starting tonight, requiring all of New England to stock up on eggs, bread, and milk.

(Aside: this evening, as we were watching the news, Nomi and I played a game. Every time the newscaster said the word "snow," we shouted "SNOW!" It was fun.)

And this afternoon, Nomi and I went to a siyum and azkara at our synagogue, Congregation Kadimah-Toras Moshe. To explain those terms, a siyum is a completion of study, and an azkara is a remembrance. Both of these are often done in honor of someone recently deceased, and today happened to be thirty days since an honored member of our synagogue had passed away. Thirty days after a parent's death is the end of the shloshim period of mourning, so today was a significant day for the siyum.

Marvin Benjamin Levenson was an 85-year-old man whom Nomi and I first met in late 2006. At the time, we had no idea who he was; just a funny older gentleman who joked with Nomi when he discovered that she had started to help set out the food and drink for kiddush following morning services. Marvin became responsible for a new tradition at the shul, as it used to be that the only drink set out for the kiddush was wine. But Nomi and I don't drink alcohol, so she would always make sure that we each had a cup of grape juice instead. When Marvin found out, he asked us to provide him with grape juice as well, so Nomi poured three cups instead of two. Well, it soon became easier for Nomi to set up a plate of cups of grape juice, and to label it with a card, so as to differentiate it from the cups of wine. It proved so popular that we now have two plates of grape juice that Nomi sets up at the end of one table, and it's all because of Marvin.

Who, it turns out, had been instrumental in the creation of Kadimah-Toras Moshe as a combined synagogue in the 1960s. Marvin had also served as one of the most popular presidents of the synagogue.

After we learned of Marvin's death last month, we were saddened, and even more so when we discovered that his family lived in New Jersey and Israel, and so we would have no real chance to pay our respects. But the family grew up with Kadimah, and so they arranged for today's remembrance. Nomi and I went, and the shul was packed with more people than I had ever seen in there before. Marvin's four children and three of his grandchildren spoke, and they brought him to life for us. Marvin was a man who loved his family, giving charity, and Judaism. It was reassuring in some way to hear how the picture of their father and grandfather was consistent with the gentle, funny man that Nomi and I had gotten to know, all too briefly.

It was a very appropriate way to spend Mom's yahrzeit.

Comments

I'm a lurker here, but I wanted to thank you for the posts which involve an explanation of Judaism. I'm not a religious person myself, but I'm the type of non-religious person who enjoys going to religious services and sits quietly in the back (when it's appropriate) because I like the traditions and art. Reading your posts gives me insight into something I don't know all that much about, and I am grateful for that because I feel it makes me a better human. Thank you.
You're welcome.

I always point people towards http://www.jewfaq.org if they ever want to learn more.
Since my motto is "Ick, drinking!" I'm tickled that the grape juice has become so popular.
We didn't expect it to get so popular. gnomi has an enzyme deficiency that prevents her body from processing alcohol completely, and I haven't drunk alcohol for at least twelve or thirteen years now.
I'm glad that you had a really meaningful experience of the day.
Thank you. It was a bit odd, in that the day of Mom's yahrzeit was overwhelmed by Marvin's shloshim...but I think Mom would have liked it.
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