When my family moved into our new home in Knoxville, one of our Executive Board members gave us a bird feeder. Carlie was extremely excited to put it up...and eventually I got around to hanging it up. It seems that since that moment, our front yard has become one of the neighborhood aviaries.
About a month after we put the bird feeder out, during the summer of 2017, I noticed a bird's nest being built in the corner of our front porch. It was awesome to see the little heads of the baby birds popping up when they wanted to be fed. Now that winter has finally passed, and summer is quickly coming upon us, we now see 2 different birds' nests on our front porch - two very different birds.
Today, while I was attending/watching Rabbi Dr. Aaron Panken's funeral online, I was not surprised to hear the tributes to our beloved Teacher. Rabbi Panken was a true mensch and one who had a beautiful soul. I really did not have the chance to get to know him until the last few years as I was one of the last classes ordained by his predecessor, Rabbi Dr. David Ellenson. However, over the past couple of years, I had some very deep and wonderful conversations with Rabbi Panken...and I learned so much from him during those talks.
When Cantors Abramson and Kleinman started to sing Uf Guzal, I could not contain my tears. I began to think about all of us who have been taught by Rabbi Panken. We have been the chicks, the fledglings that left the nest. Rabbi Panken's influence has been great and many young rabbis have been influenced by him to be great rabbis and people. Now, the reverse is true - we, the fledglings have to wave goodbye and hope we can continue the great work.
During the funeral, a very important idea was mentioned. We are challenged now to continue the work Rabbi Panken is no longer able to complete. We must take his vision, his "menschiness," his teaching and spread it to others. Together, perhaps we will be able to do the work...each of us putting in our share to bring Rabbi Panken's vision to fruition.
In Memory and in Honor of Rabbi Dr. Aaron Panken, I write this prayer (with quotes from Uf Guzal by Arik Einstein):
Today was not an easy day; tears filled my eyes and frustration clouded my thoughts.
We said goodbye to a great man who touched the lives of so many.
Tamid yadati sheyavo hayom shebo tzarich lehipared.
Why today, why must today be the day we say farewell, so long?
After all, there is so much more to do - so much more to accomplish.
Many of us feel a deep sense of loss; what about the family?
Where do we turn and what do we do with our deep emotions?
Aval achshav ze ba li kacha pit'om az ma hapele she'ani ktzat do'eg.
Of course I am worried. I am full of emotions - anger, frustration and fear.
Rabbi - you would want us to keep going...keep our heads up and eyes forward.
We are still here - now a Jewish community united to finish what you started.
It is imperative that we get back to work; you would for sure encourage that.
Achshav nisharnu levadenu baken aval anachnu beyachad.
That's right - we are still here, together as we always will be.
The tears will continue to come; we will be strong for each other and keep going.
As we say goodbye dear friend, teacher and mensch, we will never forget what you taught us.
You taught us Torah, Talmud and how to live a life dedicated to each other and our community.
Uf Guzal chatoch et hashamayim tus le'an sheba lecha...
Fly away, Rabbi, cut through the sky. Fly wherever your heart takes you.
Remember us as we will remember you.
Let the light that our beloved Rabbi leaves us help lead us forward and may all of those who are in pain today be comforted with the knowledge that we do this together. We will stand by each other, one day at a time, for as long as needed....