The Integrity of the Upright Guides Them

The attendance for Seth Erlebacher’s funeral service filled Vassar Temple; not just the expanded sanctuary, but virtually the entire building.  Rabbi Richard Jacobs, newly installed as President of the Union for Reform Judaism, came and extended condolences on behalf of the entire Reform Movement.  Colleagues from IBM came and spoke not only on behalf of their department, but also for IBM employees around the world who had been touched by Seth’s leadership and friendship.  The synagogue was filled, but it represented just a small portion of those who were banded together in mourning.

Young or old, all deaths reverberate through a population.  Some, however, make a much greater impact than others.  Seth Erlebacher clearly touched on the lives of an extraordinary number of people, from those, such as his family who knew him intimately, to individuals who were unaware of his existence and yet benefited from his technical skills and personal generosity.

I believe that the principal reason for this impact is Seth’s innate integrity.  “Integrity” pertains to a sense of internal oneness; the ability to meld together the distinct and diverse elements of one’s life into a consistent and reinforcing whole.  Seth’s life could be characterized by this integral consistency.  For twenty-three years, upon his arrival in the Hudson Valley, he brought together family – Melissa, then Rachel and Brianna – work at IBM and participation in a Jewish community through Vassar Temple into a virtually seamless unity.  Nothing was fully divided out.  Jewish life permeated both home and synagogue.  Love of family underpinned devotion to friends, colleagues and community.  Technical precision and professional care was brought to bear at both work and volunteer activities.

In the Book of Proverbs one reads: The integrity of the upright (tzaddik) guides them.  What makes one upright?  It is precisely one’s integrity!  Seth was truly a tzaddik.

             The passage of time allows individuals and communities to overcome loss and readjust the new circumstances that the loss has brought about.  In due time, we will all get along with the rigors of living.  But, make no mistake: Seth’s presence in our lives, however brief in the greater scheme of things, has made a profound impression.  Each one of us is better off for the blessing his life bestowed upon us.  And each one of us will feel is loss to the end of our days.


Rabbi Paul Golomb


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1 Comment

  1. Sandra Mamis

     /  December 28, 2011

    With each act of goodness and righteousness we commit in his memory, we become part of his reflection and thereby keep him with us as we move forward.
    With love and respect …

    Sandra Mamis


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