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How Special You Are! (June 2016)

11/03/2016 10:30:33 AM


We can be so proud of our Jewish community. When Heather Chernen, a Jewish woman without family or friends, was hospitalized and then died suddenly, I wrote an email asking for your help. Knowing how sad it is when the Rabbi and funeral director are the only ones standing at a graveside, I asked you if you would help support a minyan for her. So many of you, together with members of Temple Achduth Vesholom, answered the call. Together we gave a respectful tribute to Heather and recited Kaddish.

Our great Rabbinic teachers taught us that the act of Gemilut Hasadim, bestowing lovingkindess is such a tremendous mitzvah. One of the highest ways we can perform this kindness is for the deceased. This is why the Chevre Kadisha, our volunteers who prepare a Jewish person for burial, are held in such high esteem, for the great mitzvah they do.

Please know that all of you who came to the cemetery were participating with honoring the deceased, as a Met Mitzvah, the burial of one who has no others. We are instructed in the Talmud, that even the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest of Israel, who normally would not be involved with burying the dead, would himself do so. Our sages further taught us that even if we were prepared to do another mitzvah, such as the reading of the Megilla on Purim, and there is no one to attend to a burial, we must go and do so! Such is the greatness of Hesed, lovingkindness!

And you, my friends, did just this! Normally we would say thank you, but the Jewish tradition would express this instead by saying: “Tizku L’mitzvot” may you (and all of us) merit the opportunity to be involved in other mitzvot and good deeds in the future.

I want to share with you the eulogy for Heather Chernen, may she rest in peace.

Dear Friends,

Today we are doing a tremendous Mitzvah  to accompany one of G-d’s children home, giving her a respectful burial.

This is the very definition of what our ancient teachers of Israel, called a Met Mitzvah. That when someone dies, and there is none to take care of her or him, then we have the mitzvah to step up and take care of the burial.  This is Gemilut  Hasadim, a kindness of such great magnitude.

You are making the Minyan and we will say Kaddish for Heather.  McComb and Sons, the Chevre Kadisha, and the Jewish cemetery are all aiding and giving resources for this holy task.

Thank you to Jerry and Kathy Jarvis who are adopting Lucky, Heather’s beloved dog who was her loving companion, until a good home can be found for her. Additional thanks to them and others who did research to find out more about Heather.

 I was called to the hospital by a chaplain from Lutheran Hospital. Originally, I saw Heather, when she was in ICU, and then later in a regular room, when she was hoping to be discharged the next day.

She was a New Yorker, originally. In speaking with her, she talked about her dog, she called Mazal (or Lucky), and decided to recite the Shema. When I tried to give her some assistance in the hospital, she smiled and said in Hebrew: “Ani Ohevet Otcha (I love you).”

Unfortunately, she told me she had no family and no one else, only her beloved dog. Taking a turn for the worse, she went into Hospice on Wednesday afternoon. Her condition deteriorated on Thursday morning. I prayed with her, the Vidui, and she passed away later that day.

Although not all is clear, we see in some research that Heather wanted to serve as a Federal Officer or Agent, and was applying for this (or perhaps already had been so.) She loved patch collecting and badge collecting, and fishing. She was a fan of John Wayne movies and the TV show Cops.

Loving folk and country music, she was a poet at heart, and studying about creative writing at New York City College, she obtained a Master's degree in Creative Writing. Thus, she was very well educated.  And yet, in this stage of her life, Heather was alone, with no real place to call home.

Now, she is at peace, and going home to be with G-d.

I want to share with you, one of her poems.


Still It Is Possible To Have A Conscience - by Heather Chernen

Still it is possible to have a conscience
Amidst the conscienceless;
Then you're on your own

Avaricious protoplasm spins madly out of control
Under an aching sky
Vapor and dusk.

But that which is rooted in things dead drains the living
Of its intrinsic essence
Devoid of remorse,
Loathe for sorrow, there are ties rooted in memory
Thicker than water, just as ephemeral.

Ties that strangle when no facet of comprehension
Encapsulate the ties that bind.

But I am not rooted in things dead
Nor do I wish to die in consideration of the retrospective flight
From sorrow, as if
The mob's approbation or wrath
Ever impelled the wonderment
Rooted in things beautiful
Engorged in my eyes.Y

So Heather, we are here to escort you home.

L’chi B’shalom…. Go in Peace…...

Our task in the future, our mitzvah, will be to donate funds, so that we may place a monument at her grave-site.

May Heather now rest B’shalom, Amen.

Rabbi Mitchell Kornspan



Fri, December 3 2021 29 Kislev 5782