Rabbi Andrew Shaw
Chief Executive, Mizrachi UK
As you know, from last week’s posting, my remarkable mother passed away last Thursday.
Thank you for many of your emails, phone calls and visits to the shiva house. As I said throughout the shiva week, my mother was an incredible woman who inspired 1000’s of people through her teaching and through the way she lived her life.
One of her outstanding qualities was that she viewed everyone as special and important.
I was honoured to witness this after her passing.
The porters of Barnet Hospital were transporting my mother to the morgue, my wife and I followed behind them, but we were only allowed to go as far as the lift. As the porter pressed the button he turned to us and said, ‘Your mother was a very special woman’. I looked surprised, as I presumed that this was the first time he had met my mother, and however wonderful I knew she had been, that was while she was alive.
He saw the confusion on my face and clarified his statement. ‘Yesterday, I had to take her for an emergency scan, she was so friendly, asked me about my family – such a lovely woman.’
My mother, on the final day of her life, probably in pain and discomfort still found the time to talk and smile with the porter – everyone was special to her, everyone deserved courtesy, friendship and her wonderful smile. There are so many similar stories I have seen and heard over the years.
And we will read tomorrow:
‘You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God, the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel, your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp both your woodcutters and your water drawers. That you may enter the covenant of the Lord, your God, and His oath, which the Lord, your God, is making with you this day’ (Devarim 29:9-11)
Rashi tells us that the mention of the woodcutters and water drawers teaches us that in the days of Moshe, some of the Canaanites came to convert. Moshe did not accept them to be Jews, however he included them in the totality of the wider community, by making them woodcutters and water drawers for the Mishkan. The idea was that everyone, regardless of status, had a role to play – everyone was a contributor.
That was my mum’s ideology as well.
Many people came to visit myself and my brother during the shiva, many were her past students, they all spoke of her determination to bring out the best in them and to find the area they could shine in.
She left us a wonderful book of her life. An A-Z of her 80 years – it is the most inspiring book, filled with her musings and thoughts on the journey she took.
Under L is for Learning she wrote:
‘Imparting knowledge to other children is something very important to me, whether it be at school, at nursery or while tutoring. Every child, I believe has something they are interested in and something they can be good at – it doesn’t have to be academic. It’s been very gratifying over the years, watching the children develop and improve and begin to believe in themselves, making it all worthwhile.’
I was blessed to call this outstanding lady my mum.
Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova