I was thumbing through a book that belonged to my late friend, Larry Hurtado.  It is a Daily Prayer book, revised with Hebrew text and interpretation.  He had placed a bit of paper on one page as a bookmark and underlined much of one of the paragraphs.  It is a well known story from the Talmud and, according to the author, supplies the key to understanding the Kaddish.

Rabbi Meir lost both of his sons in one day.  It was a Sabbath afternoon when he was at the House of Learning.  His wife Beruria did not tell him about it on his return home because she did not want to sadden his Sabbath-joy. So she waited until evening and then approached her husband with a question: “I have a question to ask of you.  Some time ago a friend gave me some jewels to keep for him.  Today he demands them back.  What should I do?”  Rabbi Meir responded, “I cannot understand why you are asking me such a question.  Of course, return the jewels.”  It was at this moment that she took his hand and led him to the room where their children lay dead.  “These are the jewels,” she said, “that I must return.” Rabbi Meir wept out the words of Job: “The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken; blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

It has been almost a year since our son, Daniel, died of an aggressive and rare form of cancer, August 2, 2019. Less than four months later, my friend and mentor, Larry Hurtado died of leukemia. November 25, 2019. Less than three weeks later, my wife’s mother died. December 13, 2019.  In 2019 we had to return the jewels loaned to us.  I wonder how long it took for Rabbi Meir to bless the God who gives and who takes.  He was a better man than me.  I’m having a hard time with it.


  1. “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.”

    “Returning the jewels” conveys a deep sense of loss. My sympathies…But what if you haven’t actually lost them? What if they have been and will aways be yours, even though you cannot see them for the moment?

    Perhaps the Lord has taken them away for a time, so that you may turn your gaze from the jewels to the Jeweler, knowing that He is able to guard until that day what you have “returned” to him, and all that He has is yours.

    1. Nemo,
      Thanks for your reply. Indeed, my own faith tells me of that hope, which I cling to. But the pain of losing an adult child is immense. The prospect of living the rest of my life without seeing him is hard to accept. I am still in the period of fresh grief. So it is a struggle. prayers are always welcome.

      1. Dr. Capes,

        To many people who know you, you are a jewel. It would be a great loss and pain to them too, if you succumb to grief.

        “The life of the dead is in the memory of the living”. But even when a Christian dies, s/he lives in Christ, in whom you also live. Your son and your mentor live on, even in you and through you ( If you had them before, they became part of who you are, otherwise, you never truly had them).

        I pray that you continue to live by faith in Him, and they in you.

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