Thursday, October 05, 2006

Baruch Dayan Emet

A friend informed me this morning that my former classmate Abby Spivak died. Abby and I weren't close - we knew each other from being in school together, from having mutual friends, and eating quite a few shabbat dinners together. Nevertheless, at a seminary as small as Ziegler, even people you don't know well, you know pretty well.

I have a class A bullshit detector. It's very sensitive. I can detect bullshit at 30 paces in a dark room of a perfume factory. Abby never set it off. Not once. Abby was one of the genuinely sweetest souls I have ever encountered. Sometimes things she said were naive, but her naivete was not the kind that comes from stupidity. Perhaps it was the Gillman second naivete. I'm not precisely sure, but I know that she spent a lot of her time as a rabbinical student - and long before- workingwith the very ill -AIDS patients - before AIDS was trendy, with children with very special needs, and with those who were ill.
Abby spent the last few years in and out of hospitals, having far too many surgeries on a body that she had struggled with even before she knew the extent of her illness. She was not, ultimately, able to be ordained, but Abby was certainly, and without question a rav.

In the Torah, Noah is described as an "Ish tzadik tamim b'dorotaiv" a righteous man, wholehearted in his generation. What is this tamim? Later, Jacob is described as an ish tam - a person unable to deceive - it seems to me that when we call a person "tam" we mean that they are undivided. Their insides match their outsides, they are genuine. Abby spent her life ministering to the very ill, to those who struggled to live, whose lives were difficult. Her own was no piece of cake, either, and she surely knew, after all that time spent with the ill and the dying, what the future held for her, but her soul was filled with light, and whatever has happened to her body, her "tam-ness," that wholeness that she brought to the world, continues to live and shine.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments about Abby, whom I also had the blessing of studying with. I am a bit surprised by your repeated use of the term b.s. I feel that as a rabbinic student, especially in this context, the full spelling out of this term was unneeded. I grew up in Brooklyn and could use terms that would make a sailor blush. However, I do not put them in writing or use them in public.

I hope that you realize that I am writing this to be honest about my reaction, and the fact that I'm sure others feel the same way. I am not trying to offend or insult you, but I felt that you should know this.

The RetiKhah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The RetiKhah said...

No offense taken, just slight amusement. When I go to the beach, I wear a swimsuit, but I don't wear a swimsuit to the office.

It's important to be able to know the difference between one context and another.

Now, if you want to have fun trading offensive language, there's a great magazine (It's not published anymore unfortunately) called Maledicta:the international journal of verbal aggression. You can find excerpts on this website: