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Jewish Journal

Our Living Debt to the Dead

by Beit T'shuvah

August 16, 2013 | 1:12 pm

By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

I am on an airplane from Orlando, Florida to Los Angeles as I write this Blog. This is the month of Elul and I have been on a whirlwind Family Tour since before it began! It has been an introspective journey for me, not really a vacation. This is not pejorative, just descriptive.

I spent the first few days with my mother and daughter and then the next two with my mother and brother. It was healing to spend a plane ride and two days with Heather. We always know each other's thoughts and moods. Mine was contemplative. I was going "home" for my mother's birthday, to see some family and visit graves. Heather was joining me to visit her Uncle Stuart's grave and see her grandmother. We had a great time, my mother and I showing Heather our old neighborhoods together. On Sunday, we went to the Cemetery, as is our custom. I don't know why Cemeteries are so comforting to me, maybe because I could always feel my father's presence at his grave; all I know is that they are. We visited my Uncle Harry's grave and it was there that I was transformed again. I realized that I hadn't honored him by keeping in touch with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren enough. I don't really know my cousin's children and their children nearly as well as I would like to and I am going to remedy that, if they will let me. I realized that this is the T’Shuvah I owe my Uncle Harry and it is a debt that I am going to repay!

Why is this so important to write about? I believe that as we get in touch with ourselves through our own Cheshbon HaNefesh, accounting of our souls, it is important to repair and repay those who have died for their kindness and love, for their gifts of life and values. As I stood at my father's grave with my mother and brother, I realized that my T’Shuvah with my dad, Jerry, was complete. I owe every good thing, every decent principle to my father and I have a living T’Shuvah to and for him. Yet, I stood there without guilt or shame. I stood there as that three-year-old kid whose father was proud to call him "my boy.” This is what was lacking at my Uncle Harry's grave! This is why this is an important value to write about. We will say Kaddish at Yizkor on Yom Kippur, lets say it knowing that we can either stand guilt-free or with a plan of T’Shuvah at the graves of all those we love.

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