Friday, August 9, 2013

Mourning, Comfort and Forgiving

It probably seems strange timing to write this post barely a couple of days after my son's wedding, but it's preying on my mind and must get out.  Yes, "preying" is the right word.

to prey
: to make raids for the sake of booty
a : to seize and devour prey
b : to commit violence or robbery or fraud
: to have an injurious, destructive, or wasting effect prey
ed upon his mind*
Less than two months ago my mother passed away.  It was the first time I became a mourner, in the halachik Jewish Law status.  I've learned a lot during this period of time.  I'm constantly amazed by the continued comfort and special greetings I get from neighbors and others who apologize for having missed the opportunity to comfort me during the shiva, the seven day mourning period when a mourner is supposed to cease all mundane activities and allow others to care for him/her. 

Living in a community of just a few hundred families, I can't say that I know everyone, but generally news like births and deaths are known.  We make efforts to help when help is needed, even when it's not to close friends.  That's a community.  I've benefited many, many times when my requests for rides home late at night from work are answered by people I've never even met.  Even over a month after getting up from shiva, my neighbors still stop me in the street to apologize for not visiting.

My only negative surprise was from people not here whom I had really expected to have called.  I had gotten promises of help from them before my mother died, and they certainly knew of her death... but not a word.  Davka, I had worked hard to calm down and dilute the anger for a friend who had experienced a similar thing complained to me.  We came to the conclusion that those who are further from a Torah observant life are less aware of the importance of comforting a mourner and in many cases don't realize that the period extends much longer than the shiva.  Also, when it's a mitzvah, Torah commandment, people do make an extra effort; it's not just an optional social event.  Another thing people don't realize is that the mourning/comfort extends much longer than shiva and even shloshim, the first thirty days after burial.

Chazal, our sages say that the funeral is to honor the dead and the shiva is for the bereaved.

When I very recently saw the people I had been expecting to hear from I kept waiting for words of comfort, even belated.  I gently got to the subject of my mother to fully ascertain that they really knew of her death.  I'm so used to living with people who are attuned to traditional Judaism, that I had trouble accepting that these other people haven't a clue that their behavior wasn't acceptable, a major faux pas for sure on both sides.  My anger, resentment isn't acceptable either.  It festers and must be destroyed.  We must learn to stamp out such feelings and smash them to smithereens like the glass broken to symbolize the destruction of Jerusalem at weddings.

*emphasis mine


Shy Guy said...

"Pray" - not "prey". :)

Anonymous said...

a blessed shabbat to you and yours. G-d bless your son and his wife with everything that is spiritually good and materially needed. may they be blessed with many children. every jew born is a light to the world.

goyisherebbe said...

A sense of humor helps. When my oldest son was married 11+ years ago within the shloshim for my father a"h, people came up to me fumbling and saying they didn't know what to say to me. So I told them how about z"l tov! It helped, it cut the tension. Also remember that people who have not lost a parent or immediate member of the family really don't realize the depth of feeling which well up in you. No matter how old you are and no matter how old your parent was, you are still an orphan. We are in the same boat. So z"l tov to you and blessings to the happy couple. May we meet at simchas. I'm also going to try to facilitate Janet getting to Tefilat Chana.

Batya said...

Shy, good idea.
10, thanks
goyish, I hope Janet makes it. Maybe there will be rides. Yes, humor does help.

Netivotgirl said...

Batya, I think it has to do more with empathy and sensitivity than how frum someone is. I had a VERY religious neighbor in my building who NEVER said ONE word to me. It took me several years to forgive her, as I had done many acts of chesed to help HER! (i.e. sending a daughter to help her; cooking for her after birth; etc.) I just think she didn't realize how wrong it was NOT to react as she is less sensitive to others than most of my other neighbors/ friends. It's part of being a MENTCH and nothing to do with frumkeit in my humble opinion.

Batya said...

netivotgirl, I think there are also families which somehow don't accept or deal easily with death. The people whose lack of contact most bothered me are two generations of the same family.