Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Words for the Unspeakable

Remarks for Aaron’s Unveiling

Dear Family and Friends:

Thank you for joining Debbie and me today for the hakamas matzevah, the setting up of a monument, for our son Aaron, Aharon Elimlech, Z’L. Though Aaron was tragically taken from us nearly a full year ago, this period seems to have flown by, as if time itself somehow got compressed on us. We wake up each morning with a strong sensation that Aaron's death happened mere days ago, and that a whole year was just pulled out of our lives. But despite this feeling, in the real-world calendar we have come to the time when, by family custom, the matzevah is to be dedicated. Therefore, we must try to find the strength to carry out this solemn and dreadful duty, and try to find words that can provide at least some measure of comfort for our broken hearts and shattered lives.

I know everyone here has their own thoughts and memories of Aaron. Debbie and I, of course, could not even begin to express all that is in our hearts, even if we were to remain in this spot for another year. So I will be brief, keeping in mind that Aaron hardly needs our words to commemorate him. His wonderful personality, his phenomenal academic accomplishments, the relationship he had with each of us during the so-brief time he had with us, speak louder than anything I could say.

Shimon Hatzadik, in Pirke Avos, tells us: "[Hebrew]" – "The world rests on three foundations – Torah, service, and kindness". The Hebrew words we chose for Aaron’s matzevah reflect outstanding qualities of his that also connect to each of these three fundamental areas:

“[Hebrew]” – “He learned from his parents and teachers”. Aaron had both tremendous aptitude, and more importantly, a tremendous love of learning and knowledge, both in and out of school.

“[Hebrew]” – He influenced his friends. Never selfish about his own academic success, Aaron was known for the quiet, yet continual efforts he put in to help his fellow-students – a quality which we heard about again and again after his passing, and which inspired the tzedaka fund we will IYH be launching next week

“[Hebrew]” – He was beloved to all that knew him. Those who were lucky enough to get to know Aaron saw that beneath that cool, teenage exterior, was a wonderful, sweet young man. In his own quiet way, Aaron truly won the hearts of those around him.

But even with all his very grown-up qualities, Debbie and I still saw Aaron as our little boy, with so much more to accomplish, so much more growing and changing ahead of him. And even sadder for us than the loss of the Aaron we knew, of all our wonderful memories of him, is the loss of this unmet future potential. How much more opportunity could he have had to accomplish great things, to continue to build on his Torah leaning and secular wisdom, to perform mitzvos and improve the world??

But looking back at our roots as a people, at the very earliest references to the Jewish approach to death and burial, I found a comment of chazal that – at least a little bit – helps me cope with this unbearable pain and grief.

While the modern “unveiling” ceremony is of relatively recent origin, the custom of setting up a monument to honor our deceased goes back to the beginnings of the Jewish people, as we find that Yaakov Avinu set up a monument on the grave of his beloved wife, Rachel. And of course, the practice of Jewish burial goes back even further, to Abraham’s purchase of the maaras hamachpelah as a final resting place for his wife Sarah and himself. In describing Sarah’s passing, the Torah breaks her age of 127 into three separate phases, me’as shana, v’esrim shana, v’sheva shanim, 100 years and 20 years and 7 years. Rashi brings down a midrash that learns out from this wording that Sarah was as sinless at the age of 100 as she was at twenty.

At first, this may seem a strange interpretation, since we would not tend to associate the age of twenty with complete sinlessness and perfect moral purity – as any of us parents of teenagers can attest. But chazal go on to explain that until the age of twenty, a person is not viewed by halacha as a “bar onshin”, as one who is fully responsible for the consequences of his or her actions. Therefore, the Torah tells us, Sarah was on such a high level throughout her life that she was as exempt from punishment as one who passed away not yet having reached the age of twenty.

Through the indescribable pain and heartbreak of losing a child, an ache that is nearly as fresh today as when Aaron first left us nearly a year ago, these words of chazal provide us with a deep and vital consolation. We know with certainty that whatever unfulfilled potential Aaron may have had, whatever childhood behaviors and habits he had yet to outgrow, that he went into the next world in a completely pure and perfect fashion, and sits now, as Rabbi Kaufman put it recently, in a lichtege gan eden, a luminous paradise.

This doesn’t make us miss him one bit less – but it does comfort us to know God is taking such perfect care of him, continuing the protective, loving parental role towards Aaron that was taken out of our hands so prematurely. As long as we keep that thought in our hearts, and keep our loving memories of him in our minds, Aaron will still be with us in a very real sense.

And in that connection, before I conclude, I want to share a brief story that happened to me on erev pesach...

[See above]

Thanks Aaron, for continuing to be such a wonderful son, even from the next world. May you continue to be a malitz yosher for us and for all of klal yisroel, and may we all see you again soon, with the coming of the mashiach and techiyas ha’mesim, u'bila ha’maves la'netsach, amen.


At 4/30/06, 10:00 PM, Blogger torontopearl said...


At 4/30/06, 10:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I wish I could have made it. I was thinking of you and your family.


At 4/30/06, 11:06 PM, Blogger Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Reb Elie,

Your eloquence is such that... beyond these few words ... it leaves me silent. May Aaron's memory be for a blessing!

I remain,

Very Sincerely yours,

Alan D. Busch

At 4/30/06, 11:54 PM, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

You have so many good memories of Aaron to cherish. May they be a source of brachah and nechamah.

At 5/1/06, 3:36 AM, Blogger Jack Steiner said...


May his memory continue to be a blessing and may you and your family find peace of mind. I wish you the best.

At 5/1/06, 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely. I continue to be impressed with your ability to create such tributes in the midst of sadness. Thank you for sharing this.

At 5/1/06, 11:40 PM, Blogger Ezzie said...

Beautiful. Chazak Chazak.

May his memory always provide comfort, happiness, and blessing.

At 5/2/06, 11:57 PM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

May you find comfort in those beautiful memories of your son. He sounds like a wonderful young man. My thoughts are with you.

At 5/5/06, 2:27 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

I just stumbled onto your blog and I felt that I had to tell you that this post had me in floods of tears.
May you find nechama with each other and may he a maylitz osher for you and the the rest of klall yisroel.
May you only know simchas!


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