Just around the time of her 94th birthday, my mother began, for the first time in her life, to learn Torah. I had broached the idea shortly before, and wasn’t sure what the reply would be. To my surprise, my mother responded that she would be happy to.

There were perks. I suggested that she and I learn together—daily. Such an arrangement gave us a premise, a push to speak more regularly than ever before, conferring about health issues but also about the day’s activities, her grandchildren (my children), news in Jerusalem (where I live) and in California (where she resided for the last 75 years of her life).

So that is how it began. I would call every day and we would spend maybe twenty minutes going over the day’s Torah portion. I would first summarize and then she offered her observations. Sometimes I would stop in the middle of my summary and ask if she was there. To which she would answer, “Oh yes—and I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

I had gotten the idea from a friend whose elderly mother had, like mine, never done any Torah study. Yet when he visited her for an extended stay, she acceded to her son’s invitation to learn.

I was at first skeptical that my own mother would respond so warmly. Despite the fact that, well on in years, she remained fully lucid, and despite the fact that she was an avid reader (who participated in not one but two book clubs), the prospect of bringing MY mother into the circle of Torah seemed too far a leap. So I set the notion aside for years. But when my mother reached the age of 94, the idea rose up again and, this time, I acted on it.

For two years (my mother’s 94th through 96th years) we had the privilege of our daily learning (garnished of course with checking in about our daily lives). We went twice through the entire cycle of Torah portions—the drama, the rituals, the holidays, the losses.

Indeed, our final learning took place on the fifth section of Parshat Chukat, which describes the passing of Aharon HaKohen, Aaron the High Priest. The sages tell us that he merited the most gentle and sublime death, of being led by way of a Divine kiss from this world to the next.

In the Jewish calendar, the date was the 8th day of the month of Tammuz. For me, in Jerusalem, it was Thursday morning; for her, in Los Angeles, it was late Wednesday night. Later that day, I received a phone call from my mother’s neighbor, a friend of the family for over fifty years, saying that my mother had passed away sometime during the night, in her sleep. Apparently, a Divine kiss had led her to the next world, just as it had led Aharon Hakohen.

Because my mother, though at an advanced age, was willing to begin something completely new, fresh, and unfamiliar, the kiss of the Torah was shared by us for two years. And, in its own way, shared by us forever.

In honor of the fifth yahrzeit of Reizel Etya bas Tzvi Hersch, a”h, 8 Tammuz 5780