Today was a difficult day. I attended the funeral of a student of mine. This woman had studied with me for years – I met her when she was already a grandmother and had set aside time to study Torah. She was quirky, eccentric at times, always smiling. She was insightful, passionate about Torah concepts – though perhaps this passion may have led her to occasional impatience with fellow students.
To attend this woman’s funeral, I had to cancel a Torah class. We are nearing the end of our course in Women & Prayer and the students have been immersed in this study for almost a year and we are now entering the Modern Era of tracking Jewish women and their prayers. I understand the excitement, I understand the passion- but I was a bit taken aback when I received an email from a student criticizing my decision to cancel. This woman is equally passionate about her learning and I assume it is this passion that lead to the unfortunate email.
It’s always hard to attend a funeral. Whether or not I was close to the person who has died, I am always touched deeply with the loss expressed by the mourners. Maybe that’s the sadness I feel…or maybe the sadness is remembering a woman whose passion for Torah lead to impatience with others and another woman whose passion for learning lead to an expression of insensitivity toward a fellow student.
I can’t help but think of the blessing that is said in the morning to cover all our Jewish learning that day: ‘Blessed is God…Who commanded us to engage actively with the words of Torah’ – passion with a behavioural outcome.