Here is a custom I had not yet heard about; perhaps some of you have, but some, like me, may find this new.
Monday of this week I was at a funeral at the synagogue where I belong with my family. The memorial service and hesped was in the Synagogue (Yiddish) itself, due to the large numbers of people who came to pay honor to an elder of our community who was so very dear to so many people. Libby Erlitz, z”l was also one of our regular The Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general. readers, and always read on The Jewish New Year, also considered the Day of Judgment. The period of the High Holidays is a time of introspection and atonement. The holiday is celebrated with the sounding of the shofar, lengthy prayers in synagogue, the eating of apples and honey, and round challah for a sweet and whole year. Tashlikh, casting bread on the water to symbolize the washing away of sins, also takes place on Rosh Hashana.. The rabbi leading the service explained the following custom attributed to Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg: when a memorial service is held in a synagogue building where the person being honored was a regular Torah reader, during the chanting of El Malei Rachamim , the Torah is taken out, uncovered, and laid on the reading table. The table, in this instance, was covered with one of the many hundreds of exquisite patchwork pieces that Libby herself had made.
It was a moment of such awesome power that it defies description, and I hope it may move some of you to adopt this custom where appropriate.