Today is my Dad’s 3rd Yartzeit – the anniversary of his passing in the Jewish calendar. Every faith has its own way of remembering our loved ones; in my 2nd Middle Age I am finding enormous comfort in Jewish traditions. In the days leading up to my Dad’s Yartzheit, I thought a great deal about the funeral in 2019, and my thoughts at that time. I crystalized my thoughts and feelings to share with my Shul (synagogue) here in Zichron Yaakov as follows:
Dr Murray G Kling (1 February 1930 – 3 November 2019) was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather; uncle, mentor, doctor, teacher and friend. He was a lifelong caregiver who never took a day off from hospital rounds – checked on every patient he knew who happened to be in the hospital. (I grew up thinking every doctor did that.) He was a doctor’s doctor – a gifted surgeon who had a healthy fear of surgery (and anesthesia), a life-long educator and student who learned from everyone, and who never lost his concern for others. His last mission was care of my Mom following her Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and he dedicated himself to her fullest recovery, which was miraculous.
Dad’s 3rd Yartzeit this year falls started the evening of Saturday (Shabbat) the 29th – always the night before). Today I am missing my Dad enormously – despite his professional responsibilities and extended family obligations he was there for me at key moments in my professional and personal life (selected photos below).
In the Jewish tradition, the different Parshas of the Five Books of Moses (known as the Chumash – the contraction of the Ḥamishah Ḥumshei Torah) are all named for the first word or major theme in the chapter. Yesterday (Shabbat) we read the story of Noah, which ends with the summary of genealogy of Abraham’s father Terach. Then in the evening we started the next chapter in the story of the Jewish people, known as Lech Lecha – Go forth!
One very interesting thing about the construction and structure of the Chumash is the prevalence of cliff-hangers. Noah’s story starts at the conclusion of the previous Parsha, Bereishit – the story of creation (Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and their progeny). And the story of the pilgrimage of Abraham and Sarah – the OG Jewish Patriarch and Matriarch – begins at the end of Parsha Noah.
So there is frequently a connection or a relationship between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next.
For many years I have closely associated both of these chapters (Parshas in the Jewish vernacular) with my Dad. So experiencing my Dad’s 3rd Yartzeit in connection with both Noah and Lech Lecha was particularly meaningful for me.
In Lech Lecha, we begin the story of the first Jewish Patriarch and Matriarch, Avraham and Sarah, which is also the beginning of the story of the Jewish people. G-d speaks to (then) Avram at the age of 75 and delivers two seemingly contradictory messages:
- Avram is told to leave his country, his kin and specifically his father’s house (literally, Beit Aviecha);
- Avram will become a great people, with great wealth, vast fame, and blessed by G-d.
|1And the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.||אוַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ:|
|2And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and [you shall] be a blessing.||בוְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַֽאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַֽאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶֽהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה:|
|3And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you.”||גוַֽאֲבָֽרְכָה֙ מְבָ֣רֲכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָֽאֲדָמָֽה:|
|4And Abram went, as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him, and Abram was seventy five years old when he left Haran.||דוַיֵּ֣לֶךְ אַבְרָ֗ם כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֤ר אֵלָיו֙ יְהֹוָ֔ה וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ אִתּ֖וֹ ל֑וֹט וְאַבְרָ֗ם בֶּן־חָמֵ֤שׁ שָׁנִים֙ וְשִׁבְעִ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה בְּצֵאת֖וֹ מֵֽחָרָֽן:|
|5And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls they had acquired in Haran, and they went to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.||הוַיִּקַּ֣ח אַבְרָם֩ אֶת־שָׂרַ֨י אִשְׁתּ֜וֹ וְאֶת־ל֣וֹט בֶּן־אָחִ֗יו וְאֶת־כָּל־רְכוּשָׁם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רָכָ֔שׁוּ וְאֶת־הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֣וּ בְחָ֑רָן וַיֵּֽצְא֗וּ לָלֶ֨כֶת֙ אַ֣רְצָה כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אַ֥רְצָה כְּנָֽעַן:|
In Lech Lecha, we hear G-d instructing Abraham and Sarah to leave their land, their extended family, and their father’s house to reach the land where they were destined to found Judaism. Through study of Lech Lecha, we can see that in order to become who we are meant to be in G-d’s eyes, we need to move out of our own comfort zones, i.e. literally leaving home, and take on what may seem like daunting or impossible challenges in our lives.
This all seems to come as a bolt out of the blue, however if we go back to the end of Parsha Noah, we come to see that Abraham’s father Terah also received the same message, and had in fact started the journey:
|31 And Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter in law, the wife of Abram his son, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees to go to the land of Canaan, and they came as far as Haran and settled there.||לאוַיִּקַּ֨ח תֶּ֜רַח אֶת־אַבְרָ֣ם בְּנ֗וֹ וְאֶת־ל֤וֹט בֶּן־הָרָן֙ בֶּן־בְּנ֔וֹ וְאֵת֙ שָׂרַ֣י כַּלָּת֔וֹ אֵ֖שֶׁת אַבְרָ֣ם בְּנ֑וֹ וַיֵּֽצְא֨וּ אִתָּ֜ם מֵא֣וּר כַּשְׂדִּ֗ים לָלֶ֨כֶת֙ אַ֣רְצָה כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ עַד־חָרָ֖ן וַיֵּ֥שְׁבוּ שָֽׁם:|
|32And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.||לבוַיִּֽהְי֣וּ יְמֵי־תֶ֔רַח חָמֵ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים וּמָאתַ֣יִם שָׁנָ֑ה וַיָּ֥מָת תֶּ֖רַח בְּחָרָֽן:|
So what do we make of the two stories taken together?
The lesson that I take from all of this is the recognition that even in our own journey and destiny it is not all about us.
Whatever our own talents and accomplishments we stand on the shoulders of giants, including our own parents. While we consider Abraham and Sarah the first Jewish Patriarch and Matriarch, in actuality it was Terah who first pulled up stakes and started the journey.
Before my father’s passing, I associated these two Parshas with him because of my literal continuation of his work relating to care of cancer patients, and my own interest in anti-cancer peptides from the microbiome with effectiveness against Gastrointestinal and Genitourinary solid tumors. (I may share my story of surprising synchronicity later.)
Over the last three years I have thought more about how my sister Nancy – who does the heavy-lifting in support of our mother – has continued Dad’s efforts.
Dad’s care of our Mom after her traumatic brain injury (TBI) was incredible, with miraculous results. He literally dedicated his life to ensuring her recovery in a way that was all-encompassing, inspiring and compelling. Now my sister (and me to a minor extent) is doing what he would have wanted, literally, to ensure her continuing health and safety. We have often talked of how she is carrying forward his mission to support Mom – the relationship that meant more to him than anything else in the world. This has required both of us to leave our comfort zones and take on daunting challenges.
There is no guarantee of success of course, however like Abraham and Sarah we carry on the journey. And of course we are who we are because of both Mom and Dad.
We may not reach the promised land, and we are not obligated to succeed, just to keep trying to move forward.