The Torah portions of Acharei Mot (“After the Deaths of”), Kedoshim (“Holiness”), and Emor (“Say”) provide a valuable lesson on the importance of expressing love and respect to others without delay. In these portions, we learn about the aftermath of loss and the significance of cherishing those around us while they are still with us.
(A not-so-funny joke on this sequence of Torah portions from my days in Yeshivah: Why talk about how much someone means to you today? We’ll get to that later — Much later.”)
Acharei Mot reminds us of the importance of taking action in the present moment because we never know when it will be too late. Delaying expressing our love and respect until after someone has passed away is a missed opportunity to make a positive impact in their life and our own. Kedoshim highlights the importance of treating others with kindness, respect, and love as a fundamental value in life. Emor teaches that, by celebrating the holy days and the people we cherish, we can build stronger relationships and make every moment count.
This sense of urgency to express love and respect for others while they are still with us is echoed in the plotline of the 1998 movie Waking Ned Devine. In the film, a resident (Ned) of a small Irish village wins the lottery, but immediately dies of shock when he learns of his win. The villagers decide to keep the win a secret and claim the money as their own but soon realize that they need Ned’s signature on the winning ticket to claim the prize. When the community comes together for Ned’s funeral, one of his neighbors, Jackie O’Shea, steps forward to deliver the eulogy, only to see the lottery inspector in attendance. O’Shea immediately delivers an impromptu “eulogy” for his very-alive friend who is also present in the room. The beauty of the moment is profound, a rare demonstration of sharing the fullness of one’s experience of another while both are present and alive and able to feel its sweet power. To love and be loved. And know it.
Let us close by juxtaposing two sacred texts, one composed by the playwright Jonathan Larson, for his masterpiece, Rent, the other by the ancient sage Rabban Gamliel in Pirkei Avot:
There is no future/ There is no past/ Thank God this moment’s not the last./ There’s only us./ There’s only this. / Forget regret — or life is yours to miss./ No other road./ No other way./ No day but today.
Say not: ‘when I shall have time I shall learn;’ perhaps you will not have time.
These and countless other touchpoints of literature and art, all point to the value of expressing love and respect for others and ourselves while they are still with us and while we are still here. We should not wait for “the right moment” because, dear friends, it may never arrive. It almost always doesn’t.
Don’t wait. Share love. Today.