Morris Hollender, z”l
Rabbi Tracy Nathan
(Delivered by Cantor Ellen Band)
I usually point out at a funeral service that the Hebrew word for funeral is levaya, which means to accompany, for we accompany the deceased to his final resting place; we accompany the soul on its journey; and we accompany family members and dear ones in their time of grief. For me, it is most painful that I am not physically present to accompany our beloved Mr. Hollender to his final resting place, nor to be present with Mrs. Hollender in this profound time of loss. I thank you for letting me join you in lifting up Morris’ radiant soul as he makes his continued aliyah to Gan Eden.
The Zohar, the major text of the Jewish mystical tradition, teaches us that on the day we come into the world, all the days of our life are arranged before us. When we leave this world, the days that we have truly lived and fulfilled are stitched together into a radiant garment of light through which we clothe and present ourselves in the world beyond. The Zohar explains that the Torah hints this to us when it tells us that our patriarch Abraham was advanced in years and had “come into days” – ba bayamim. When he left this world, he entered into his very own days and put them on to wear, and nothing was missing from that radiant garment of light. This is how I imagine Mr. Hollender – wearing his full, magnificent garment of light – with no holes at all – for he embraced every single day and every moment with the purpose of divine service and of bringing blessing to others.
From his survival of the darkest of times and his unfathomable losses during the Shoah; to his lifelong love and life with Edith; to his emigration to the United States to start another new life; to his many years of hard work at Panametrics; to his weekly Torah readings at TBI and daily service leading and pouring the kiddush wine and juice each Shabbat morning; to setting up and cleaning up the daily kiddush in the kitchen; to his unforgettable gift of music to our community and through Hankus, to many more communities worldwide; to his deep friendships with so many; from his wisdom and strength to his incredible wit and humor – who hasn’t laughed at the “flip a kohen” story?” – to his excellent storytelling, which I treasured during our quiet moments in the morning; to his handwritten brachot for the birthday of a TBI member. And of course, his humility.
And to his l’chayyim’s, his blessings of life, each day, with just a small shot glass of something that he nursed on for about an hour – but before he did, he wished the late soul of someone beloved to him or to another an aliyah in Gan Eden; and a refuah shlemah to anyone who was sick.
In My Grandfather’s Blessings, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen tells the story of being a young girl and learning from her grandfather how Jews say l’chayim when raising a cup of wine. He told her that l’chayim means that no matter what difficulty life brings, no matter how hard or painful or unfair life is, life is holy and worthy of celebration….Dr. Remen writes, “It has always seemed remarkable to me that such a toast could be offered for generations by a people for whom life has not been easy. But perhaps it can only be said by such a people, and only those who have lost and suffered can truly understand its power. L’chayim is a way of living life….it seems less…about celebrating life and more about the wisdom of choosing life.”
Mr. Hollender chose life time and time again, and in the process, stitched himself a magnificent, garment of radiant light.
When Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden, God gave them kotnot or – or, spelled with an ayin – garments of skin. The teachers of our mystical tradition say that God gave them skin at this moment, but before they sinned, they were beings of a different or, spelled with an aleph- they were beings of light. Like the first humans, we wear garments of skin as we begin our lives; but in the world to come, we will wear garments made out of our days, which reveal our true nature, made of light. Mr. Hollender revealed this light to the world – transforming its brokenness and darkness into a great light, and he blessed us all.
May he now rest in the peace he so greatly deserves; he has already brought down the flow of Divine blessing into the world – may his memory continue to do so. Zichrono livracha.
Goodbye dear friend.
I thank God for the privilege of knowing you.