A few weeks ago, one of our beloved Sinai Temple members, Norman Pell passed away. Norm epitomized goodness. There is no other way to explain it. I know I wasn’t special in the ways he interacted with me because everyone felt the same way. Norm’s love for others went above and beyond.
Norm was a core member of our daily minyan. He would sit in the same pew, lead davening with his soothing voice and never miss an opportunity to offer a hello to someone new. He would whisper to the rabbis and cantors, “This person is celebrating a birthday or this person just arrived to Los Angeles.” He was our eyes and ears and shared a piece of our heart.
But most poignantly, Norm believed in community. When we would struggle to get a minyan, he would teasingly say to the officiating clergy, “Rabbi, I see double.” He couldn’t imagine a mourner not being able to say Kaddish. To Norm, providing a community when someone is struggling or celebrating is the foundation of synagogue life. The minyan would often grow because Norm recruited. Minyan was a place to commune with God; but minyan was also a place to see Norm.
Before we enter Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I ask us to invoke Norm’s memory into our goals for the new year. May we build spiritual sanctuaries where we people feel counted. Where synagogue transforms into home.
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.