Yom revi'i, 10 Elul 5768/10 September 2008, Wednesday.
A month ago, the Baltimore community lost a precious young soul.
It is always hard for a community to lose a member. Like losing part of oneself. And when the person lost is a child, who has barely begun to live his life, the communal mourning and soul-searching are even more intense. And when you yourself are his teenage peer -- well, as adults, we never want our kids to go through that edge-of-the-abyss kind of loss.
My son was one of his friends. Many of the chevra are going to yeshivot and seminaries here in Israel this year.
I got a call from Gav on my cell phone last week. "In a few days it will be Chananya's shloshim. Would it be okay if a few of us kids made a seuda at your house?" We discussed logistics for a bit; and, of course, it was fine.
On Monday night, several precious young people came to our home, to share a meal, a memorial to their friend. They shopped; they cooked; they cleared the table and took out the garbage. (They offered to do dishes!)
More importantly, these young people ran the entire show themselves -- they made beautiful speeches, and were careful to have ten men for the minyan.
Gav made a siyum on completing mishnayot. (He reminded me so much of his father, in his attention to the details of the halachot, and in his fine presentation.)
One of the speeches was a beautifully prepared talk about Chananya, and how much the boy wished he had known him better. I could see Chananya's smile in my mind, as this young man spoke.
Another speech, which had not been prepared ahead of time, was a reminder to the other kids that "we don't know how much time we have. We never know what tomorrow will bring. I was supposed to have lunch with Chananya the next day...
"Let's try to make sure that we use our time well."
I think what impressed me most was the way these young people mimicked "adult" behavior. They knew what had to be done. And they handled it, by themselves, in a way that would have made their parents very proud of them.
The message to all of us parents, I think, is the following: Keep talking with your kids. They aren't always good at letting us know what's going on with them; but they are doing better than we think at inculcating all of the lessons we are trying so hard to impart. And look in the mirror. You would be amazed at how closely your child emulates your behavior. These kids are remarkable! It was an honor to spend the evening with them.
Shouts out to Gav and Berel and Chaim and "Mitchell" and Gavriella and "Aardvark" and Rina and Baruch and... you are welcome at our home any time.