This week I attended an in-person shloshim. While it is powerful hearing someone say “Amen” to your prayers, it is equally as powerful listening to the story of the deceased, letting their soul touch yours. We come to the house of the mourner offering comfort and yet, forget about the magic in absorbing someone else’s life. I experienced that magic in hearing about Homa.
I learned how Homa would sneak out of her home in Iran to work because it was rare for a woman to have a job outside the home. I smiled when I heard about her love story with her then, boyfriend, later, husband. They were neighbors; secretly dating between the two floors of the house in which they both resided. As most marriages were arranged, their love shook the neighborhood. But Homa wasn’t deterred.
Her vivaciousness and independence shone brightly in a world that desperately wanted to hold her back. And yet, Homa continued forward.
Bahram, her son, closed with the following: the Wednesday evening before Nowruz, the Persian New Year is a celebration called, “Chaharshanbe Suri”. Translated, this means, “Festival of Fire”. The ritual involves mini-bonfires, with a ceremonious “jumping over” the fire to thwart off negativity and bad luck in the coming year. It is an evening that focuses on light, healing and new beginnings. In her final days, Homa insisted on celebrating Chaharshanbe Suri. Her children knew it was pointless trying to convince her otherwise. So, there was Homa, walker and all, jumping over the bonfires. Not once, but twice. A woman with failing sight, grasping life until the very end.
In the Torah reading, the word “chok” is used to signify a law or rule. Chok also comes from the word “to engrave.” That Torah should be engraved on our hearts, shaping our very beings, building our essence through its verses, values, stories, and lessons. And so too, a human being’s story has the power to engrave our hearts, changing our spirit in the mere listening of how they chose to live their life.
Homa, your story is engraved in mine. I will jump over fires while others choose to sit still. I will lead a life of independence, vibrancy, light and love.
Notice the etchings of your heart. Remember how your story is shaped: letting memories build the foundation of your spirit.
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, Rabbi Guzik’s blog post can also be found HERE.