Friday, August 18, 2017

Rabbi Sacks: The Limits of Grief in the Jewish Mourning Process

I have had many conversations over the years with non-Jews about Jewish mourning rituals. I have always felt like Jewish mourning traditions are so incredibly respectful and appropriate. They prescribe very specific periods of time for specific stages, forbid excess mourning and also forbid under-mourning.

There is so much wisdom in the cycle of mourning, and I have also mentioned that even the mourner's prayer is an exultation of G-d.

This is an exquisite article from Rabbi Sacks. I'm really so glad he wrote it.

Do read the whole thing.

He has a real gift from Hashem, a real blessing.

"To lose a close member of one’s family is a shattering experience. It is as if something in ourselves had died too."

"Yet not to grieve is wrong; it is inhuman. Judaism does not command stoic indifference in the face of death. But to give way to wild expressions of sorrow — lacerating one’s flesh, tearing out one’s hair — is also wrong. It is, the Torah suggests, not fitting to a holy people; it is the kind of behavior associated with idolatrous cults."

"Halakhah, Jewish law, strives to create a balance between too much and too little grief. Hence the various stages of bereavement: aninut (the period between the death and burial), shiva (the week of mourning), sheloshim (thirty days mourning in the case of other relatives) and shanah (a year of mourning, in the case of parents). Judaism ordains a precisely calibrated sequence of grief — from the initial, numbing moment of loss itself, to the funeral and the return home, to the period of being comforted by friends and members of the community, to a more extended time during which one does not engage in activities associated with joy."

"The more that we learn about the psychology of bereavement and the stages through which we must pass before a loss is healed, the more that the wisdom of Judaism’s ancient laws and customs become even clearer."