Thursday, January 25, 2007

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Conflicts in Mourning

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

A Simple Jew asked my thoughts on his post on the non-religious funeral of his aunt. Here they are...

There are few times when ritual and structure are needed more than death. Though not needed by the primary participant, for family, friends, and community, such an emotional and meaning laden event can perhaps only be dealt with within a firm structure.

Baruch Hashem, I haven't been directly faced with such events very much. While not a young man, only a set of grandparents has left my life. My wife, on the other hand, has lost grandparents and parents and aunts & uncles, becoming in the process a literal expert on mourning and the customs of shiva (as well as the difficult, often extended, processes leading up to the need for such).

I've seen her advise, prepare, and ultimately console others. She speaks of how meaningful each step is, how wise the ways of Torah, our chachamim (our sages), and Hashem, in the kavod (respect) to the departed, and the consolation to the family still here in this world. How the shiva allows the shock to be processed and absorbed at a reasonable pace, how much the human touch of the consolers and people that help mean at such a time, and how it gradually returns the mourners back into the world of the living.

With an area in such need of dignity and humanity to the living, and such a strong desire to treat the departed with respect, it's incredibly difficult in many circumstances today where families are mixed with religious and non-religious, Jewish and non-Jewish, strange secular desires left by the departed, and sometimes greater concern over assets than people. Often we get lucky (so to speak), and it's possible to step into a place of confusion with a template, a plan so to speak, and be gladly accepted as someone who has a way when all others are lost. Other times, firm ideas hold sway and things that violate our understanding of the path of Torah and Hashem are going to occur.

When that's the case, it's time to consult our wise rabbonim (rabbi's), as well as our mashpia (spiritual mentor), for our own emotions will be struggling with our intellect and empathy for others. Consult, and follow the wise advise blindly. When emotions are strong, as they usually are at such times, it's not the time to be doing calculations yourself (such as does respect for the dead override what they might consider a chillul Hashem in confronting the mourners about grossly inappropriate actions and even potential spiritual damage to the deceased????). Even the best meaning intention can cause terrible damage at such an emotionally distraught time.

Be cognizant of the impact to oneself as well. Consult afterwards with one's rav, advisor or friend. Strong emotions need to be processed and settled into their proper place, not let run rampant.

These are great challenges with which to be faced. Recognize it as such and turn to the wisdom of Torah and Hashem, not just for mourning and ritual, but for human relations during a time of powerful emotions and sometimes heightened conflicts between values.

May Hashem help us all react in a worthy fashion at such times.

Tags: death, mourning, shiva, judaism, jews
Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.

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