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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 9, 2007 / 21 Iyar, 5766

Mourning Works

By Jonathan Rosenblum


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I've just finished the year of mourning for my father. From that year I've gained a new appreciation of how well the ancient Jewish customs mesh with the emotional needs of the mourner.


Each stage of the mourning process — the first seven days from burial, the first 30 days, the 11 months of reciting Kaddish — has its own rules and restrictions. Together they impose a structure and discipline on one's life, at least in my case previously unknown. Mourning reminds us that life is finite, and the regimen it imposes teaches us how to get the most out of our time before we too shuffle off this mortal coil.


Until my father's passing, I had only experienced a house of mourning from the viewpoint of one offering comfort. Even then, I was struck by the wisdom of the ancient forms. According to Halacha (Jewish Law), one waits for the mourner to initiate conversation. It is not the job of the one who has come to offer solace to fill the silence, but rather to follow the lead of the mourner. Those who feel the pressure to say something, whether profound or witty, are almost guaranteed to say something stupid. Halacha relieves them of that pressure.


The shiva (ritual mourning) houses I remember from my suburban upbringing were usually filled with food. The mourners acted as if they were responsible for entertaining their guests, and the guests seemed to think their role consisted chiefly of distracting the mourners from their pain with light talk.


Very different is the traditional house of mourning, where mourners sit on the floor or low chairs, little, if any, food is served, and ideally the conversation focuses on the deceased. No ideal is ever fully realized. Inevitably there will be those who insist on hearing about the last week or the last five minutes of a long life, in the hopes of finding a distinguishing detail to reassure themselves that the same fate does not await them. But, in general, the shiva for my father centered on the joy of his life.


I had no wish to be distracted from talking about my father. Throughout the year of mourning, I found the greatest solace from talking about Dad and sharing my memories with others. True, that talk often triggered new crying, but the tears were not only ones of sadness. The pain of the loss was directly proportional to the preciousness of our relationship.


WITH THE end of shiva, I was suddenly thrust into my terror zone by the requirement of leading the public prayers. I would have far sooner faced Roger Clemens's fastball in his prime. (During the shiva period itself, my brothers and I could count on a sympathetic audience composed exclusively of sons and nephews.)


For the preceding three decades, I had occasionally contemplated that I might some day be called upon to lead the davening. But each time, I reassured myself that Dad was very strong and would live to 120. And who would think of calling upon a 99-year-old son to lead the davening? It didn't work out that way: the first time I can remember Dad letting me down.


As it turned out, however, he had not let me down. Forcing me to learn to lead the davening was his farewell present. I no longer feel like a Marrano in shul, dreading that I will be called upon to lead.


I inherited from my father a certain self-consciousness about things I do not do well, and in those first months after his passing, there were few things I have ever done so poorly as leading the prayers. At the end of each minyan (prayer quorum), a large group lined up to offer their suggestions.


But the terror I felt each time I went to the front also brought me closer to Dad by reminding me that only my great love for him could have ever induced me to do so. And davka because he shared my self-consciousness, I knew he would have understood my discomfiture and been appreciative.


Eventually I even came to enjoy leading the prayers.


One of the hardest things for a mourner is the loss of connection with the loved one and the knowledge that one will never again see him or her in this world. But the requirement to organize my life around the thrice-daily minyanim (prayer quroms) and to recite Kaddish meant that I was always thinking about Dad — his face was often before me.


The various restrictions — the inability to attend joyous celebrations, the prohibition on purchasing new clothes — are also constant reminders. Now that the year of mourning is over, I even find myself missing these obligations and restrictions, and the sense of connection that goes with them.


It is normal for mourners to feel some sense of guilt towards their deceased loved one, and to dwell on things they should have said or done. That guilt is made more painful by the feeling that it is too late now.


A Jewish mourner, however, has a way to keep giving. We believe that our prayers, our charity, our Torah learning, ease our loved one's passage into the next world. At the yahrtzeit (anniversary of death) memorial meal for Dad, sons and grandsons got up one after another to complete Talmudic tractates and orders of Mishnayos learned for his benefit.


The Jewish customs of mourning provided me with structure for that first year without Dad. Now comes the hard part of making myself into a true legacy by emulating the beauty of his ways, in the hope that when the time comes my children will remember me with as much love and respect as I will always remember him.


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JWR contributor Jonathan Rosenblum is Israeli director of Am Echad. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2006, Jonathan Rosenblum