Ask Rabbi Dan
Robert from Saugerties, NY asked:
Your writing shows a great deal of caring for others and, for that, you deserve proper recognition.
Let me begin by offering you, your wife and her family, my condolences and by saying "Baruch Dayan Emet" G-D is the sole Judge of Truth.
Liver disease, like all such afflictions, are a truly horrible way of passing to the next world. In the case of your father-in-law, of blessed memory, it was not the medical community that made the decision against transplantation but, rather, the lack of available livers for that process. Given the limits of availability, it is understandable, although not fair, that what is available be given to those who have more years to live.
With regard to your wife and her mother signing a DNR order, I can only say that, given your version of the prognosis, they were extremely compassionate by signing an order that allowed for a terminated physical life to remain terminate rather than being attached to a machine to vegetate. Consider the emotional impact on them as they signed that order. Given that they were both at his side, I believe that they deeply loved both husband and father. The thought of signing that order must have cut them in half. I can tell you that first hand. My mother and I both signed a DNR when my beloved father suffered from terminal cancer. We put his comfort before our pain. Sometimes, that is the best we can do.
We implore G-D to do our will and heal the terminally ill who we love but, bottom line, HE knows what he is doing and we have to accept that we can only be at ease (free of disease) when we align our will with His will.
With regard to your mother, your visiting her on a regular and continuous basis speaks volumes for her love for you as well as for yours in return. Kol HaKavod! May G-D's will be such that she does come off the respirator and is restored to full health.
Resurrection is not a part of our belief system as such. However, we say, during the Shemone Eshre, S'richas Hamaysim" the dead will be resurrected, at the time of Moshiach but not until then. However, we do believe is reincarnation.....of the soul returning to earth in another form.
It is unacceptable to postpone a bar/bat mitzvah celebration due to the passing of a loved one. The child is entitled to the simcha and, assumedly, the child studied and learned the brachot and haftorah for that week's portion. The reading for that Shabbat can not be transferred to another so the bar/bat mitzvah must and should occur. The mourners, while attending the celebration and festivities that go with the Service (hopefully, after Shabbat is over) may serve or clear tables "as if" they were "working" the event. It would be cruel for a parent to deny their child the fruition of their studies BUT they need not, nor should they, dance, sing and frolic during the mourning period. Again, my own personal experience is incorporated in what I am relating to you. When my own family was confronted with the same dilemma, we turned the decision making over to our quite Orthodox rav because, at that time, I would have been inclined to agree with your present position. In retrospect, it would have made the death of her beloved grandfather that much worse for my niece. In her heart, he was there to hear her. that was most important.
A congregational rabbi has enormous responsibilities to his membership. Their needs, since they are "his" constituents must be his priority when it comes to visiting the ill or dying. He is, after all, only one person. Since your father-in-law did belong to a synagogue and his own rabbi visited, he was well taken care of, spiritually speaking. If your own rabbi had been available, I am certain that he would have visited as well.
The President of your congregation, in my opinion, was insensitive and out of line. However, try to understand that he, too, is a person with a responsibility to keep the shul fiscally viable. His timing, of course, was way off and, at some later date, you might want to convey that to him so that he won't do it to someone else at another inappropriate time.
If you joined the Synagogue, you are responsible for your share of its fiscal success. However, if you, yourself, are in a position where you cannot pay your dues, you might want to approach the synagogue's "social welfare" committee or whoever makes the decision to reduce of pardon dues. If, of course, you can not pay at all, I sincerely doubt that the Board will sue you for it. It is impossible to get blood from a stone.
Finally, Robert, we all take hard knocks. that is the nature of life on this planet. That we get hit over the head is far less important than what we do about it. Each time you get hit, you get stronger.
May you go from strength to strength.
Chag kasher v'sameach
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