Speaking to the heart

A new memorial edition of Tehillim dedicated to the memory of Avigayil Brocha Goodman aims to reach the hearts of all Jews

By Chandrea Serebro

There is one book that catches Cathy’s eye as she unpacks a shipment of new Jewish books for the Kollel Bookshop where she works. It is small and unassuming; with soft pastel blossoms, tiny leaves and fruits, coming off an intricate vine, the delicate embossed flowers twirling off the front cover. A Tehillim book, so gentle and appealing, it immediately strikes her as something special, an embodiment of all that Avigayil, a”h, loved and appreciated. The words of Tehillim that Cathy knows well, but encased in this ethereal garden, feel like old friends visiting after a sore absence. These words radiate a hidden power within their poetry, a poetry that tells of centuries’ worth of people’s innermost thoughts, feelings, and longings to Hashem.

Words that Cathy herself has cried over, laughed over, and through which countless people – including Cathy and her family – have found strength. The book contains just the right combination of subtlety and strength, an unimposing beauty that was just what Cathy had been searching for. Just then, as she picks it up for a closer look, Cathy knows that her daughter, Avigayil, would have been as captivated with the Tehillim book as she is. That her search for the perfect Tehillim book to honour Avigayil’s memory and to carry on the legacy that she created during her short but meaningful life was over; that the perfect book had been found.

“When Aish Hatorah approached us to dedicate a run of Tehillim books in honour of our daughter Avigayil,” (who was tragically killed in a car accident two-and-a-half years ago), “it was an opportunity. Not only a chance to perpetuate her memory. It was also a way to continue all the things that Avigayil held dear – a love of Hashem, an honesty and a humility in tefilla, and a real sense of the power of prayer,” says Avigayil’s father, Maurice Goodman. The Tehillim that Cathy stumbled upon had a delicate beauty, which was exactly what she had been looking for to encapsulate the essence of who Avigayil was and what she had stood for during her life; the book’s appearance and beauty so like the very qualities that Avigayil herself embodied.

Happening upon this Tehillim book came at exactly the right moment in time for the Goodmans and the Aish Hatorah project of publishing a Tehillim book in honour of Avigayil. With Rabbi Karpes driving the project, everything else just fell into place.

It was not the first time that the Goodmans and the community, their friends and family, and even strangers would be doing something in honour of Avigayil. During the week of shiva, as Cathy lay in the hospital oblivious to what was going on around her, as she lay in the ICU unconscious with serious head and spinal injuries, Maurice sat shiva at home and the community rallied their support. Rabbi Ze’ev Kraines (Rabbi of Ohr Somayach Gallo Manor where the Goodmans are stalwarts and close friends of the family) moved the Shacharis Minyan to the Goodman’s home so that Maurice would be able to say Kaddish.

In discussion with Rabbi Kraines, it was felt that they could use this outpouring of community support to further bolster the regular shacharis minyan. But, in doing this, Maurice had a condition. Maurice was adamant that if they were going to do this in Avigayil’s memory, it would have to be done properly, just as Avigayil would have done it herself. So together they started the ‘A for Avigayil’ minyan project, which saw the community rally together to commit to better attendance at minyanim, to come on time to the minyan, and to get rid of cell phones and other distractions at shul. And not only to remember her and who she had been, but to perpetuate Avigayil’s memory so that her neshoma should have an aliyah.

“This project was so appropriate because Avigayil was wholehearted in her avodas Hashem. Her commitment to davening was rare, and an inspiration to others,” say the Goodmans. It is these very words that they inscribed in the dedication at the front of the new Tehillim book soon to be released in Avigayil’s memory, because she so fully recognised the strength of prayer and the power of Tehillim from so young an age. “When it isn’t enough just to think or to speak, when we need to have our heart’s involved, we use the words of Tehillim to arouse our hearts. King David and the other writers of Tehillim speak from the heart, and, as our Sages have told us, ‘words spoken from the heart enter the heart,’” says the preface to the book.

Avigayil knew how to speak from the heart, and it showed when she davened with kavanah (sincere feeling and focus). And this is precisely why Aish embarked on this project, so that the merit of this special edition of Tehillim will help them on their “mission” – “to reach the hearts of all Jews”. “Avigayil was a girl who was complete goodness, both inside and out, and who was a blessing to everyone around her,” say the Goodmans. “May her devotion to reciting Tehillim be an inspiration to others to do the same, and bring an aliyah for her precious neshoma.” And just as the focus of the ‘A-for Avigayil’ project was to perpetuate not only her memory, but her deeds and what she stood for, so too is this the thrust behind this memorial edition Tehillim book. Not merely to do something to commemorate her, stresses Maurice, but rather to carry on all the good things that she did in her unassuming and humble way.


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