Last Shabbat we learned about the phrase, ”Humanly holy”; a phrase taught by the Kotzker Rabbi. The Kotzker taught that each of us holds a portion of the Mishkan, the Sanctuary built for God’s Presence on earth, in our hearts – and we create that mini-Mishkan by bringing holiness into our own choice about our behaviour, our daily humanity. Tetzaveh teaches one very specific way that idea of humanly holy is brought to bear here in Victoria.

Tetzaveh is the Torah reading for every Chevra Kadisha, Jewish Burial Societies – the garments that we read about in this parashah form the pattern for the garments we wear when we are buried. Special headdresses, tunics, breeches and belts are all worn as garments in our death.

This past month two women in our Victoria Jewish community have taken on the mitzvah of sewing tachrichim (burial shrouds) for the Chevra Kadisha. Pre-cut pieces were shipped from the Chesed Shel Emest in Winnipeg, and they divided up the garments to sew for our use. Could a task be more the definition of humanly holy? One of the women recently moved to Victoria from Winnipeg where she was a member of the “shroud crowd”. We are extremely grateful for the tailoring talents both these women bring to us all.

Another woman, a Friend of Kolot Mayim crochets face coverings that the Chevra Kadisha uses – another example of someone being humanly holy. Their dedication and skills bring us full circle to this Torah reading – our nakedness will be covered in holiness. Thank you, thank you all who serve in this circle of loving care. Quietly, with utter respect and devotion to gently preparing each soul for their burial, each member brings particular qualities of kindness and discretion to this work. The garments transform not only the neshamah, the soul of the decedent, but of each soul in attendance, as the decedent is washed and dressed. 

May all our souls be collectively honoured as we approach Zayin Adar, the day Moshe Rabbeinu died, the day where Chevrei Kadisha members across the world honour their calling to serve us all.

With gratitude in my heart for the many small acts of kindness and holiness each one of you brings to us all,

Rabbi Lynn