I imagine that anyone connected to the Jewish world on Facebook has read the moving tribute that business leader, women’s equality activist, and author, Sheryl Sandberg has written about her husband, Dave Goldberg, who died suddenly in a tragic accident a couple of months ago. In a June 3 post that was widely circulated on Jewish websites, Sheryl beautifully articulates the life lessons she has learned during shiva and shloshim, the intense 30 day period of Jewish mourning following burial. If you have not read Sheryl’s essay, you must. Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world posted responses to Sheryl’s article on her timeline and I am one of them.
Like so many of us who face that unimaginable awful moment when the world around us comes crashing down, you have discovered that the framework of Jewish mourning provides a path through the darkness. The lessons you have learned in the past 30 days are part of a 5000 year old tradition that continues to evolve. In fact, the public sharing on Facebook of your personal journey may quickly become a part of that tradition.
Of course you are correct that your life and the lives of your children will never be the same. Our tradition does not ask us to forget, it asks us to remember, the very definition of Yizkor, the prayer of remembrance we recite on Festivals and Yom Kippur. Judaism, however, is a religion of joy and celebration and repairing the world, and the best way to honor the memory of Dave is to continue the work the two of you were committed to.
The Shema commands us to “teach our children” and if we want to change the world the place to start is in our homes. Gender equality is an issue that our Jewish world has been intensely struggling with over the last century and our evolving traditions and rituals can help create the 50/50 world we are working toward. Of course our children need to have women Rabbis, women Cantors and women synagogue Presidents, but seeing their parents preparing for Shabbat together, praying together and repairing the world together will have an even greater impact. In your book, Leaning In, you tell the story of the profound impact that a Rabbi’s sermon had on the course of your mother’s life, even though she was only eleven years old at the time. And so you know first-hand how powerful the message of Judaism can be.
Through your words on Facebook you have touched the hearts of millions of people around the world. People who have never heard the word “mensch” before will now define the word by what they have learned about Dave Goldberg. I hope it will inspire all of them to “lean in” just a little bit more.
It was heartwarming to read that you and your family have found some “comfort amongst the mourners of Zion.” I hope our traditions will continue to give strength to you and your family.