Dear Friends,

Whenever I had a challenge or crisis in my life, I turned to my dad. So now as I mourn his death, I am at a particular loss. Among the many things he inspired in me was a love of Judaism and an appreciation for its wisdom.

Lately, I find myself encountering our tradition with a certain realness that I have never experienced before, even during my intense studies as a rabbi. I’m currently navigating the other side of what I regularly lead others through: mourning, shiva, the sudden pangs of early grief. Of course, Dad was right, and Judaism has made it easier to navigate my grief. I share this because I hope that you too, will accompany me on this journey and that you will continue to welcome me into yours, not just as a rabbi but as a fellow mourner.

Judaism “does death well,” as Rabbi Sara always says. In our rawest grief, we are supposed to let the feelings come, the sadness, despondency, whatever emotion it is that wants to get out, we are to let it. And while we mourners sit in the rawness of immediate grief, it is the others in our community who are called to action. Although our modern lives often scoff at the value of congregational life, it is that loving community that is supposed to help the mourner – organizing details for meals, the funeral, and beyond. We attend each death alongside the family and literally help one another bury our loved ones.

After the funeral begins the “official” mourning. Sitting shiva is traditionally seven days of simply sitting, remembering, sleeping, and praying. Guests come and sit with us, so we are never physically alone even though we feel spiritually and emotionally isolated. People bring in food and eat with us so we can continue to do that commandment at the end of the funeral – to “go forth to life,” especially when it feels like the last thing we want to do.

I was fortunate to be able to sit shiva for my father back in Cleveland. Our family was surrounded by close and distant relatives, friends, and other people who knew us, or who knew Dad. And it was an incredible comfort. It also afforded these friends the opportunity to grieve. How it helped them I cannot truly know, but I know that after the days of mourning we were able to do, my grief had begun to change. It will continue to do so – there are still days when I cry, others when I wrestle with the reality of his loss. Some days I just don’t want to do anything at all. But I am not where I was. I am where I need to be.

Right now, I need to be home in Reno. My grief did not end when I got back on the plane. I will carry it with me in one way or another, forever. But grief is a process, and I am getting a personal tour of what that process is like. The next part of my personal grief journey will happen in Reno, as I get back to work and continue to adjust to our new normal.

I hope you will come with me. Not only for my sake (I really could use the support and love of all of you, my family, and friends here) but also for yours. It is a “mitzvah beyond measure” to support others during a time of loss. It is this way not only because of the unbelievable comfort that friendship is to a mourner, but because it allows the community to grieve and serve one another as well. I hope that as you see how my father’s death has affected me, when the time comes you too will undertake these rituals for yourselves. Even more so, I hope that when others walk through the shadows of the valley of death, you will comfort them with the ways of our people.

My period of sh’loshim, the first month of mourning, ends later this month. While we were unable to sit shiva in Reno, we would like to open our home for the community to mark the end of sh’loshim. At that point, traditionally, most of the customs of mourning end, and the mourner is permitted to attend and celebrate events, to resume other daily tasks, and to shave this crazy beard that is driving me nuts in all this heat! We will mark it with an open house and hope that you will consider coming. You do not have to bring anything or even say anything. Your presence is enough, as a friend who is making sure that we don’t have to grieve alone.

Please join us at our home on Saturday, June 22, 2024, from 8-9 pm for havdalah and a quick evening service so we can say kaddish. The address and details are below.

Rabbi Benjamin Zober

2145 Heavenly View Trail
Reno, NV 89523
Gate code #7777

Parking is VERY limited, so consider carpooling. There are many small, head-in lots along the street behind the gate or there is more parking (if you don’t mind a short walk) at the Somersett West Park across the street from our gate.