This is a Bisl Torah on the go. Our family is traveling throughout Philadelphia this week and spending time with loved ones. Diggerland, the Reading Terminal, Philadelphia Art Museum and other highlights are some of the stops on the trip. But of course, I insist that every trip to Philly includes a trip to the mall because of no sales tax on clothing. We save our back to school clothing sprees for these summer trips.
As we drove to the mall, we were stuck at a traffic light for what seemed like an unbearable amount of time. We finally “woke” up and realized a police officer had temporarily paused the light so a funeral procession could commence. This wasn’t an ordinary procession. Three police motorcycles, blaring sirens from police cars, several cars with men in full boy scout uniforms and finally, three or four fire engines. My husband called out, “Who is the procession for?” The officer looked at him and said, “A fireman.” Erez and I looked at each other and let out a sigh we didn’t know we were holding within. We felt ashamed that before we knew what was going on, we were merely annoyed with the presence of extra traffic.
Last week the Torah reading included the words of the Shema, the prayer that encompasses the theology of the Jewish people. There are several laws that explain precisely when, where and why you should say the Shema. But Maimonides explains that if one is involved in the needs of the community, specifically the needs of the deceased, the recitation of Shema should pause. Meaning, the welfare of others takes precedence over our own life details, needs and responsibilities.
It took a few sirens to remind us that we are just one page in the stories of life that exist all around us. If we look up, pause from what momentarily seems incredibly important, we may experience the greatness that humanity can offer. It was beautiful to watch men and women extend heartfelt kindness and accompany this fallen fireman to the grave. I’m thankful that we were at the stoplight to witness the moment.
May we pause from our personal affairs to experience the beauty of the communal. What an incredible story we are all writing together.