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5:17PM

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A Moment of Truth

“When a person knows G-d in general terms he is called a servant — he obeys his master’s command, and does not have the right to search his hidden archives and house secrets; when one knows G-d in [intimate] detail he is called a son, his beloved, who can search the hidden archives, all the house secrets. And though he is called son. the eldest son of G-d…he still remains a servant, to serve his father in various ways which honor his father. Every person needs to be both a son to his father, to search the hidden and to know the house secrets, and a servant.” This week’s portion in Zohar (end of Behar, 111b)

A moment. Forever.

All special things, even eternal ones, happen in a moment. Most moments in our lives are fleeting, easily forgotten or never remembered in the first place. But magical moments – of love or loss, of joy or pain, of a secret revealed – live on.

It may take many moments, many years, even eons, to reach that one special moment. But the moment is still but a moment. And when it happens, you never forget it. The moment becomes a permanent part of you. Hopefully you hold on to it, but even when you don’t, it always remain etched in your being, waiting to be retrieved, in moment’s notice.

Etched in my mind forever is a single moment, which happened one year ago today, at precisely 5:17PM. Sunday, Iyar 20th (corresponding to May 29th).

I saw a life — a life that shaped me — end one leg of its journey, only to begin another leg. My limited perception, one that I share with many, could only see the first stage. One moment I saw my father’s soul manifest in his body. The next I did not.

What happened at 5:17Pm? I really don’t know. A soul that was just with us was no longer there. I tried hard looking. G-d did I try. But once the curtain closes, as much as we try, our eyes cannot see beyond.

One moment – alive, vibrant, electric; a personality that touched and changed many lives. The next moment – gone.

5:17PM the life force of my father — otherwise known as the soul — left us.

Or did it?

Does a soul live on in our lives, in our memories? Does the soul continue to thrive through the inspiration and words it leaves us, especially one who left mountains of writings?

Memories…

One of the first memories I have of my father is holding his hand walking up Nostrand Avenue on Shabbat morning on our way to Shul. I always felt comfortable around him. Always. Now I know why. It was because he always felt comfortable with himself. When you are at peace with yourself, you are at peace with everyone around you (even if you may radically disagree with another) and you comfort them in the process. When my father would speak about his father (my namesake) there was a very profound unspoken confidence. I now understand where my father derived his personality.

Ahh… healthy people. Complex, but smooth and seamless.

When my children were young, I would clutch their little hands as we walked, as my father did mine. I must confess that today I sometimes try to briefly hold the hand of my 22-year-old son, to his chagrin and embarrassment. Little does he know that I do it not for him but for me. It’s recreating my connection to my childhood, to my father.

The door of truth between the two worlds opens twice in our lives. Once in the beginning, once at the end.

Upon birth a channel opens, delivering a gift to this world: A newborn child. Where did the soul originate, where did this new life suddenly appear from? We cannot see. All we witness is the door opening.

Then, upon death (or better put: when the soul separates from the body) the door opens for the second time, returning the gift to its original place. What is that place like? I guess only souls know. And only when we become soulful can we know.

What wise words King Solomon wrote:

“The living shall take to heart.”

Take to heart not just the grief and sadness over loss – do we need the wise Solomon to tell us that our hearts cry when we lose a loved one? We take to heart and remember even after the door closes. Remember that we have limited perception. Even when we can’t see behind the door, never feel or think, even for one brief moment, that nothing is happening on the other side.

Take to heart…

In the second year [of the Exodus], on the 20th of the second month [Iyar], the cloud rose from the Tabernacle of Testimony. The Israelites thus began their travels… (Numbers 10:11)

5:17PM on the 20th of Iyar a cloud rose and returned to Heaven. A brief second became eternal.

* * *

The Samach-Vav Connection

What is truth?

Is it what we see, hear, taste, touch and smell? Is it what we feel, think, sense and intuit? Is it what we love, believe and trust? Or is it all or none of the above?

Truth, explains this week’s Samach-Vav, is seeing the true nature of existence, seeing beneath the surface, which conceals what lies within.

Revelation of truth consists of many levels, one deeper than the next:

First it recognizes that our existence is not self-contained; a Divine life force sustains it. This awareness is the first step to all truth. As long as you are consumed with the narcissistic feeling that “I am, and there is nothing beside me,” then your only “truth” will be subjective — driven by own needs and perceptions, no matter how distorted they may be. The light of objective truth enters your life when you realize that there is more to life than you and your myopic vision.

The next level of awareness is when you come to recognize that the concealment of the inner force is in itself a Divine energy. Its purpose being to allow us the opportunity to heal the rift, to reveal the invisible, and expose that which is concealed.

Beyond that is the awareness that Reality is not what we perceive it as: from the outside in. Rather it is “inside out.” We think that this — our universe, our feelings, our experiences — is “where it’s at,” and the world of spirit is somewhere “out there” (if at all). In truth, it’s the other way around: The Divine is “where it’s at,” true reality, and we are the novelty “out there.”

Finally, the ultimate state of awareness is when we recognize and reveal that the concealment itself is rooted in the hidden, undefined, Divine essence – infinitely higher than any form of defined revelation.

These are the mysteries of truth – the “hidden archives” and “all the house secrets” – that a son discovers. The hidden elements within the structure of existence and beyond the structure.

I tasted this truth when I closed my father’s eyes on May 29, 2005, Iyar 20 5765 at… 5:17PM.

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RABBI JACOBSON
your essay is deep and heartfelt! It contains so much more knowleddge for a soul on an existing journey….so much food for thought.
Yes….to know a father from childhood days and at the close of the final door stand at real truth is awesome and significant!!.
It cause my heart to tremble and missing a father i never knew….as the final door closed on me at the age of 6months.
Bless your heart.
Shabbat shalom

Vardi

BH
You write so eloquently about such a sensitive and painful time. Of course it evoked memories of when my late Father passed away, erev Shabbat Hay Adar, nearly 18 years ago. I, too, saw my Fathers soul depart before my eyes and now feel his presence most of the time, guiding me and taking to me. May HaShem continue to bless you in your eloquence and your blessed memories of your Father.

Keith Karon

May the memory of your father keep him close to you.

G-d bless.

Ruth

Dear Simon Jacobson

Just writing to wish you long life and thanking you for a beautiful essay on your father. It reminded me of the night my father died nearly ten years ago and it was also 5:17pm on Friday evening as shabbos was coming in. It was a moment in my life I shall never forget.

Bracha Ahuva

Thank you Simon Jacobson, for sharing an eloquent moment from your eloquent life.

When a Rabbi that I loved so dearly passed away, I could never say, Rabbi Aaron Segal, of blessed memory. But I say, My Rabbi Segal, of blessed livingness in my heart. Indeed, it is there he will always remain and be a part of me.

Israel

Thank you Simon for sharing your transparent heart, it stirs me and I imagine all of us who would behold it.

G-d has gifted you with Words that synthesis our sorrows and heart felt struggles. When you speak about your fathers hands, I can feel the touch of my fathers hands.