The large signs in the entryway to our apartment building made it so that even if you didn't want to know, you knew. One of my neighbors had died and as is the custom in Israel, posters announcing his death were hung throughout the neighborhood and within our building.

Whenever there's an announcement of a wedding, a birth, with such ease and good nature I knock on a neighbor's door or walk up to them and congratulate them. For a happy occasion, this isn't a problem for me. But with the notice of death, I didn't know what to do. I think that this is normal. Who likes to hear unhappy news and who knows what to do or what to say in such circumstances? But, it was impossible to pretend that I didn't know.

Days passed as people poured into our building to visit the deceased's family. The initial week of mourning, called shiva, was coming to a close and soon the mourners would arise from their sitting. Shiva literally means sitting, an appropriate term to use for the seven day period where the deceased's closest family members sit close to the ground, honoring his soul and mourning the body that housed it.

If they want to talk, you talk. If they want silence, you give them silenceI chastised myself and walked down the five flights of stairs separating my home from theirs. My eyes instantly fell to the floor, my heart racing.

I didn't really know this neighbor and once again I panicked upon thinking what I would say or what I would do, but then I remembered; the only thing required of you at a shiva is to sit. In fact, you're not even permitted to approach the mourners or start a conversation with them. You have to follow their lead. If they want to talk, you talk. If they want silence, you give them silence.

I sat. The wife of the man who died immediately made eye contact with me. She didn't recognize me and of all the people in the room, she decided that she wanted to talk to me. Who was I? Where was I from? What did I do, and what about my husband? How long have I been living in the building, etc? We talked and talked. I could tell that she wanted to talk. I asked her what had happened and let her know that if she needed anything I was near by, on the seventh floor.

I left a different person, so relieved and glad that I had worked up the courage to share in my neighbor's pain and do something that was the right thing to do despite the fact that it made me uncomfortable.

After two hundred and ten years of suffering in slavery together the Jewish nation "Journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the Wilderness; and Israel encamped (used in the singular instead of the plural) there, opposite the mountain" (Exodus 19:2).

"And Israel encamped there as one man, with one heart" is how Rashi, a Post-Talmudic commentator, explains this verse.

The Jews left Egypt as a huge mass of men, women, and children. Seven weeks later they arrived as a united force, as one man with one heart, and this is how they received the Torah. Why wasn't the Torah given to the description of the massive nation, of the many individuals? Because Torah is about unity. To be part of a family, a nation, you need to be together in the happy times, as well as the difficult ones. This is what I learned when I journeyed downstairs to my neighbor's shiva and I sat.