As Montreal and world Jewry come to grips with the sudden passing of a true leader, Rabbinical figure and an incredible friend, much will be written in the coming days about this great man, Rabbi Sidney Shoham. Only a week ago, prior to the onset of Rosh Hashana, we read in the portion of the week ‘Atem Nitzavhim Hayom Kulchem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem, Rosheichem, Zikneichem, Shifteichem v’Shotrocheim, Kol Ish Yisrael’- ‘You are all standing today, in front of Hashem your G-d, your leaders, your elders, your Tribes, your policemen, each member of Israel.’ It is perhaps the end of the verse that sums up Rabbi Sidney Shoham. In his own words, each and every individual has his own mission. Each and every individual has a mission in this world, one is the Rabbi, one is the elder, one is the policeman, one is the head of a Tribe, but at the end of it all, we have to remember we are all ‘Kol Ish Yisrael’, members of one Nation, attempting to achieve one goal, in serving G-d.
Rabbi Shoham’s expertise was that he listened. He paid attention to those that were talking to him, listening to those that were in pain, whilst also listening to those who had reason to celebrate. “Shmoa bein Acheichem”, one of his favorite expressions, literally meaning ‘listen between your brothers’, not jumping to conclusions, hearing everyone out and giving people the benefit of the doubt. He was always there to assist another individual no matter what background or where he came from. Rabbi Shoham was the listening ear. As a communal leader, he dedicated himself unstintingly to the entire Montreal community during his long tenure as Rabbi and leader of this great community. He went far beyond the call of duty and nothing was too much for him when it came to creating peace between man and his fellow man, between communities and between leaders. He was a bridge amongst men and his void will be very difficult to fill.
It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to accept the teachings of our dear leader Rabbi Shoham, to learn from his character traits and to emulate him. This is what he would have wanted us to do.
In the past week’s portion/parsha, we learnt “Vayelech Moshe, Vayedaber es Hadevarim Ha’Eileh el Kol Yisrael” - Moses went and spoke these words to Israel.” Rabbi Shoham spoke to all of us. Rabbi Shoham influenced all of us. Rabbi Shoham led by example and never faltered in his mission. As the verse continues, Moses tells the children of Israel, “Lo Uchal Od Latzeis v’Lavo” - I’m no longer able to continue.” Rabbi Shoham may no longer be able to continue, but we can. Where he left off, we can continue. Where he created unity, we can strengthen our unity. We can be united in our communal efforts to assist our fellow Jews, helping each other, supporting each other and being a listening ear. This would be a true tribute to his memory.
May his memory be a source of Blessing to all of us.
May this Yom Kippur be meaningful and may all our prayers be answered. We should know of no further sorrow.