Did you know there is a tradition amongst (motor)bikers, that if a friend dies on his/her bike, the surviving bikers lay their bikes down the next day. This happened recently at a place I used to work. It was strange to see a bike lying down, but it makes sense. That’s respect. Our bikes shouldn’t stand tall after a similar machine dumped its rider.
I was considering what it is that we do, in the Jewish world, when one of our own dies. Do we lay ‘down our bikes’ in any way? Do we take that moment and concentrate entirely upon the shift in reality, that our world is now one less person, void of that character who has gone onto God before us.
Sitting shiva is that type of recognition. Those seven days, when a family sits close to the earth, tears their clothing, things, talks and prays about their loved one, is in essence a call to be in the ‘mourning’ moment and focus on the mystery of life we call death and how it is played out through the passing of a family member.
How about when an Israeli soldier is killed in combat or otherwise. Do we lay down our bikes? I remember when I was in Israel at Yeshiva and reading about, or listening to a radio report on, an individual who had been killed in the Intifada, or while fighting. I was amazed at how small our people are, enough so that we take some very important time to see the picture of that person and collectively remember her/him.
Today, years later, we still do that. Articles were written on soldiers who died in Gaza, who they were, what they loved, their families and all aspects of their lives.