On Sept. 3, 2019, Richard Cohen’s wife, Marcia Horowitz, was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. Horowitz lived 160 more days. In his acclaimed 2021 book, The Smooth River: Finding Inspiration and Exquisite Beauty during Terminal Illness, Cohen, a lawyer and Reconstructionist leader, recounts those days and what the couple learned about life as Horowitz's death approached.
In this special episode, Richard Cohen discusses with Rabbi Deborah Waxman how the couple eschewed the common framing of terminal illness as a battle with the disease – something that is either one or lost. “We wanted to regain some sense of normalcy of who we were, and by doing good for other people, we felt good about ourselves. We were getting our heads above the cancer. It was not going to subsume us.”
Rabbi Waxman and Cohen also discuss how the couple’s approach mirrors resilience practices contained in many Jewish teachings. Quoting from the book of Psalms, Waxman says, “Out of a narrow place, I called to God. God responded and got me out into an expansive place. That tension between narrow and expansive, for me it has been such an incredible guiding metaphor."
Rabbi Sandra Lawson will be back as co-host in the next episode.
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This podcast is produced by Reconstructing Judaism. Visit us at ReconstructingJudaism.org. Episode transcript is forthcoming.Support Hashivenu
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