Sunday, May 31, 2020

Zayin Adar. To some it’s the day Moshe Rabeinu was born and the day he died. To some it means Purim is only a week away. To a very special group of people, it means a day of fasting and reflection. Who are these individuals fasting a week before Taanit Esther? The members of the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society).

The Zayin Adar seudah will take place this year on Tuesday, March 3, at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun. Mincha, with Kriat HaTorah, will take place in the beit midrash at 5:30 p.m., followed by Maariv at 6:15 p.m.. The seudah will take place in the social hall following Maariv. Words of chizuk and inspiration will be delivered by Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg, mashpia for Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield.

This year’s seudah will be especially difficult for some. Two stalwart members of the Teaneck/Bergenfield Chevra Kadisha were in a terrible traffic accident earlier this year and their absence will be sorely felt. The seudah is dedicated in memory of Shelly Mermelstein, z”l, who died from his injuries, and for a refuah shleimah for Micha Kaufman. Normally it would have been Micha contacting The Jewish Link and helping to organize the annual event, but this year others have to do it in his honor.

“Shelly Mermelstein, z”l, and Micah Kaufman were the two pillars upon which the entire Beth Aaron Chevra Kadisha existed and operated,” Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, rabbi of Congregation Beth Aaron, told The Jewish Link. “Although we are still trying to come to terms with the terrible blow that we have been dealt, the examples they both set for many years continue to be shining examples and sources of ongoing inspiration to our entire community. We pray for Micah’s continued recovery and look forward to the day when he resumes his work with the Chevra.”

It is said that on the seventh of Adar, when Moshe Rabbenu died, Hashem acted as the Chevra Kadisha and prepared Moshe’s body for burial. As such, this day has been set aside as a day of introspection and reflection for the members of the Chevra Kadisha. Many spend the day fasting as a kapara (atonement) for any disrespect they may have inadvertently shown a meis they cared for.

The Chevra Kadisha members are the ones who receive calls at all hours of the day and night to come escort a meis (dead body) and prepare a meis for burial. They do so through a ritual cleansing (tahara) and then dressing the body in the required ritual garments (tachrichim). Throughout the preparation (men prepare men, women prepare women) they show the meis the utmost dignity and respect.

Preparing a body for burial is known as chesed shel emet (ultimate kindness) as it is done in anonymity with no expected thank you in return. Most of the time these men and women don’t even discuss what it is that they do. However, once a year they gather together, in part to remember those who passed away during the previous year. Each year a different synagogue hosts the seudah. This year Congregation Bnai Yeshurun is the host synagogue.

To attend the seudah, please register by filling out the following form at https://www.bnaiyeshurun.org/zayin-adar-seudah.html.