A 2 dimensional page, a written word, and a flat screen can be boring, lifeless, false, and inauthentic when contrasted with a 3-D, living, breathing human being.
First: Facebook. While good for some things, Facebook was aptly nicknamed “Fake Book” to reflect the facade that our lives (like our social profiles) are all laughter, gourmet dishes, and well groomed children.
Another example, now that I’m extremely familiar with job hunting, resumes from unknown people with no connections are generally ignored.
Lastly, dating profiles are mostly not even a glimpse into a person’s essence, lifestyle, or daily thoughts, feelings, speech, or action.
That said, I am striving to maximize the power of the written word while knowing full well it won’t do her justice.
Who is “her”?
She is the woman who I met when I was at the self-absorbed, self-indulgent, carefree age of 18.
I took a gap year after high school in order to learn more about Judaism. I chose a seminary where I knew I could have fun at night, and maybe (when I wasn’t sleeping) learn during the day.
Apparently, I was supposed to be expelled due to my repeated absences, broken curfews, and other misdemeanors. I didn’t know this until I left the program when the director told me. I wasn’t asked to leave because my family had a strong tie to a very important person in religious circles and no one wanted to break the news to him that I was out.
So, I stayed. The whole year.
When I did attend class, I picked wisely. I didn’t want the “dry” stuff I was forced to listen to in high school. No, I was way past that.
I wanted something to jolt me, I wanted something I hadn’t heard before. I wanted to be awakened, electrified.
There were around three such classes (there would have been a fourth but it began at the ungodly hour of 8:00am so that was an impossibility. Epilogue: My children never let me sleep past 6:00am. Karma?).
One class was taught by a woman who was everything I had learned to avoid during my four high school years in Los Angeles.
She was NOT fashionable. It gets worse. She didn’t CARE that she was not fashionable. She (how dare she!) didn’t WANT to be fashionable.
She wore floral shirts with matching floral skirts. To be fair, she also had a beautiful, wide smile and big, warm brown eyes.
What she lacked in trend, she made up for in dignity. Ten fold. A hundred fold.
I have only scratched the surface.
Mrs. Weiner was young (30s) but so wise. She was incredibly honest and shocked us by exposing our rights and ideals as the frauds they sometimes were.
In class, when she spoke, she made us mad. She WANTED to make us mad. It was the only way we could begin to CARE. It was the only way we could WAKE UP.
I was out with a friend one night, sometime in the middle of my gap year, involved in a silly conversation on a Jerusalem public bus when my cell phone rang.
It was Mrs. Weiner.
“Hi Rachel, it’s Mrs. Weiner. I know it’s late but can you come over to my apartment? By the time you get here it will be about 11:00pm. Is that okay? There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
I was intrigued. I was so curious. Why the urgency? The late hour? All her small children and jobs to wake up to the following morning. This must be BIG. Did I go? You bet.
When I arrived, she was plating chocolate chip cookies for me which I declined. Her husband made a quick appearance in the living room to grab a cookie, and she bantered with him. Their back-and-forth was so witty, so quick, and also familiar, relaxed. It was strange that they lived what I considered a serious, idealistic life and yet were taking pleasure in it.
We finally got down to business. “Rachel, I wanted to talk to you because I heard you were spending time with the wrong crowd.”
That’s what she wanted to tell me?
I WAS OVERJOYED. This woman was taking such an interest in me. Also, I was flattered that she called my crowd “wrong”. What 18 year old wouldn’t want that? (never mind)
We talked for a while. I vehemently denied any wrong doing. I loyally told her my friends were all top-notch, squeaky clean, and on the up-and-up. We talked some more.
I floated out of her little apartment that night feeling utterly loved.
After seminary, we lost touch for the most part. I saw her every few years and when she had her baby (about 11 or 12 years ago), she texted me the news from her hospital bed. I felt utterly loved again.
I took absolute pride in introducing her to my husband, and bragged that we lived in Jerusalem and he learned Torah ALL DAY long.
It is for these reasons that I’m at a loss. In shock. I never fully appreciated the phrase “the world became a little darker that day” until yesterday.
My beloved, tell-it-like-it-is, funny, nurturing, vibrant, vivacious Mrs. Devora Weiner died and I didn’t even know she was sick.
I’m deeply saddened. Not only for my personal loss but the loss the world has just suffered.
Mrs. Weiner would probably say something profoundly true in a matter-a-fact way like the time she told me that all people have days when they love their spouse and days when they hate their spouse. I was horrified at 18. At 31, even with a perfect husband like mine, I understand her gist.
Mrs. Weiner, I’m sorry I never told you before. Thank you so much for teaching me a multitude of life lessons. Thank you for personifying true beauty and grace. Thank you for exemplifying what a Jewish woman can and should be, a wellspring of blessing to all those around her. I love you and I miss you not being in this world.