“Do not console a person whose deceased relative lies before him” Pirke Avot 4:23
Well, now we have begun to bury them; the time of consolation for the families and community of my murdered friends has begun. They are no longer lying before us and we must begin to fix their memories in our minds.
Among the dead October 27th were two men who epitomized the title of this site: “Healers who Listen.” A third still clings to life and with God’s help may recover to help the rest of us heal. Over the next three days I will remember each of them.
Jerry Rabinowitz was laid to rest yesterday, October 30th. In the hour before the funeral I was with a friend who told me that Jerry had been his doctor. With a wry smile, he told me, “The first time I went to him we were in there for an hour and a half – and the first thirty minutes had nothing to do with my health.” He listened to get to know the person sitting in front of him before diving into the rabbit hole of the purely physical.
At the funeral, Jerry’s partner Ken Cieselka spoke of “their finest hour” as a practice – the late 1980s, when they began caring for patients with HIV/AIDS. The disease was then incurable, and the people suffering from it were then considered by many to be untouchable. But not by Jerry and Ken. They listened to the voice of suffering that no one else would ease, and understood it was their responsibility to do so.
At the synagogue, Jerry heard gunfire. In that sound, he did not hear a warning to get out. He heard people being hurt, of people who would need his help. There is a Jewish concept that the choleh l’faneinu, the ill person in front of us, should get our attention first. For Jerry even being aware of that person’s illness or suffering, even in danger, even where he could not see them, put them l’fanav, right in front of him, where he had to help them. He listened, and met his end as he lived his life, caring for people.
I assume Jerry did not have a chance to read Healing People, Not Patients; it was only published a month ago and he was as busy as I was. The truth is that he did not need to read my manifesto of compassionate, personal healing. He lived it; he could have written it himself.