In our current society, as our community becomes increasingly far flung, and people we love are separated by vast amounts of space, how can we be there for each other the way communities used to look out for each other? To be sure, some families in our congregation have deep Chicago roots, a lot of friends and family to care for them and take on responsibility for shiva in a time of need. But it is equally sure that we have many people in our community whose roots are in other places or have withered away as older generations have died out. They are left to make Shiva for themselves.
We are building a group of volunteers who would like to help make shiva for our families in need. Volunteers will help set up the house and receive trays and other deliveries, and then one or two more volunteers will come to help with cleanup at the end of the shiva. A shammes is a helper, like the helping candle in the Chanukah menorah, so we can call our group, Shiva Shammes.
This is one of the greatest mitzvot (commandments—good deeds) in our tradition: “Comforting the bereaved.” The only prerequisite for doing this mitzvah is having a good heart and a good intention. There are a few traditions related to shiva, and we will be happy to teach those who would like to participate. Please email Rabbi Serotta or contact the Lakeside Office if you would like to be a Shiva Shammes. Luckily these things do not come up every day, but when they do it is nice to know that we have been able to provide a small measure of comfort and confidence to a mourning heart.