Death & Mourning

Shiva

Inspiration

The Jewish practice of shiva demonstrates both psychological and theological brilliance. During shiva, the mourner remains at home for up to seven days. The door to the home is unlocked and visitors enter without being greeted, relieving the mourner of obligations to care for guests. Mirrors are covered so as to defer any attention to personal appearance. Mourners set aside all work obligations. The community might provide meals or straighten up the home so that the mourner may be left to grieve.

The Jewish tradition offers ways of bringing comfort and compassion to the person in mourning. For the community, the most important consolation we offer is our presence. We engage with the mourners primarily by listening to their expressions of sorrow. At such times, having the right words is a challenge for family and friends. A familiarity with prayers, texts and psalms may provide the few words needed to demonstrate our concern and provide comfort.

Prayer

When Will I Be Myself Again

“When will I be myself again?”
Some Tuesday, perhaps, In the late afternoon,
Sitting quietly with a cup of tea,
And a cookie;
Or Wednesday, same time or later,
You will stir from a nap and see her;
You will pick up the phone to call her;
You will hear her voice – unexpected advice –
And maybe argue.
And you will not be frightened,
And you will not be sad,
And you will not be alone,
Not alone at all,
And your tears will warm you.
But not today,
And not tomorrow,
And not tomorrow’s tomorrow,
But some day,
Some Tuesday, late in the afternoon,
Sitting quietly with a cup of tea,
And a cookie;
And you will be yourself again.

Rabbi Lewis John Eron

Text

Job 2:11-13

When Job’s three friends heard about all these calamities that had befallen him, each came from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him.

When they saw him from a distance, they could not recognize him, and they broke into loud weeping; each one tore his robe and threw dust into the air onto his head.

They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights. None spoke a word to him for they saw how very great was his suffering.

Psalm

Filled to overflowing

The Holy one is my Guide;
my life is whole.
We journey together
over fertile hillsides
and rest
beside nourishing springs.
This is my spirit
ever renewed,
for my Guide leads me
down paths of fullness.
Even when my steps lead
into the kingdom of death
I do not fear
for I know you are with me.
Your presence
your shelter
is a comfort to me.
With you I can set myself aright
in the face of
deepest sorrow;
and soon my joy is filled to overflowing.
As I journey on,
nothing but kindness and love
shall follow
until the day I finally return.
To my Source,
my destination.

Rabbi Brant Rosen

Poems

When All That’s Left Is Love
When I die
If you need to weep
Cry for someone
Walking the street beside you.
You can love me most by letting
Hands touch hands, and
Souls touch souls.
You can love me most by
Sharing your Simchas (goodness) and
Multiplying your Mitzvot (acts of kindness).
You can love me most by
Letting me live in your eyes
And not on your mind.
And when you say
Kaddish for me
Remember what our
Torah teaches,
Love doesn’t die
People do.
So when all that’s left of me is love
Give me away.

Rabbi Allen S. Maller