Unparalleled Power: Inside Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah
Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah is an internationally renowned organization founded to provide surrogate Torah study and prayer services as a source of merit for the departed, as well as for those facing life challenges. In the years since its inception, Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah has been privileged to be a part of many extraordinary experiences in the course of implementing and carrying out its many programs and projects. Now, you can personally experience the heart and soul behind this soul-stirring work.
Prepare to be inspired, amazed and affected as you read these excerpts from the newly released Mishnah Memoirs.
The Circle of Life
One cool, rainy day I was sitting in my office, when I got a call from a lady out in Phoenix, Arizona – about as far as you can get from my office here on the East Coast in every way – the hot, dry weather there not the least of the differences.
“Rabbi,” said the lady on the line, “my name is Robin Meyerson. I saw an ad for your organization, and I was wondering, what is it exactly that this society does?”
We got to talking, and it turns out that Mrs. Meyerson and her family had been living out in Scottsdale, an upscale suburb of Phoenix for upwards of ten years, but only recently were introduced to Torah Judaism. Robin was a marketing professional, and as they progressed in their journey toward religious observance, she became a partner in the creation of The American Jewish Spirit, a kiruv magazine of sorts. This was her chance to give back.
On one of her forays into the world of Jewish media, she explained to me, she came across an ad for Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah. Intrigued – what exactly did a society for Mishnah study do? – she called the number listed and that’s how we first “met.”
That was just the first of many phone calls from Mrs. Meyerson. Over the course of numerous conversations, I introduced Mrs. Meyerson to the concept that there is much that can be done on behalf of the deceased. Although the Meyersons had been moving forward in their Yiddishkeit, this was one topic she really wasn’t familiar with.
Mrs. Meyerson eventually grew so enthusiastic and dedicated to this subject that she became an integral part of the creation of Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah’s groundbreaking book, The Neshamah Should Have an Aliyah, the definitive English text exploring what can be done on behalf of those who have passed on.
“Rabbi, it’s an emergency!”
It was a few days after Shushan Purim when the call came in. Mrs. Meyerson was on the line. I listened with growing concern, as she described the situation.
“My uncle has just passed away, and as per his will, he is slated for cremation! I know my cousins are uneasy about the plans, but at this point, they are going ahead with it; Uncle Arnold died without a penny to his name, and frankly, cremation is the cheapest way to go. Meanwhile, Uncle Arnold’s body is on line for the crematorium. What can we do?!”
First things first: without the money to cover a burial, we couldn’t move to square one. I got on the case immediately, and with Hashem’s help, was able to secure a loan large enough to cover the costs that would be incurred.
That was the easy part! All the money in the world couldn’t save Uncle Arnold from his fate at this point. Step two meant convincing the man’s children of the necessity to change their plans for their father.
Aside from worrying about the burial, Robin commissioned Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah to undertake a course of Torah study as a zechus for the neshamah of her deceased uncle. The very night that we began the round of learning she had sponsored, Uncle Arnold’s daughter, the executor of the will, had a dream in which her father told her, “I don’t want to be cremated. Please bury me instead!”
That was all the convincing this woman needed. And so, after two long weeks during which Uncle Arnold’s body lay waiting, the paperwork was reversed, and Mrs. Meyerson merited to bring her uncle to kever Yisrael.
Several months later, in the summertime, I flicked on my computer to find the following email from Mrs. Meyerson winking at me from the screen:
Just wanted to let you know that I am expecting a baby and am due to give birth around my uncle’s yahrtzeit. As we have found out that the baby will be a boy, we would be so honored if you could serve as the sandek.
Exciting news! Mrs. Meyerson was in her forties, and her youngest child was already six years old.
About six months later, the Meyersons called with the happy news that Robin had given birth to a healthy baby boy – on Uncle Arnold’s yahrtzeit!
I was able to attend the bris, together with my wife, on a Friday morning in Phoenix, where I did indeed serve as this little boy’s sandek. And the baby’s name?
Azriel (for Uncle Arnold, of course!) Mordechai (since he was born on Shushan Purim).