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Meron and The Chapter Break

04/30/2021 11:14:59 AM


Rabbi Barry Gelman

Dear Friends,

We are all shocked and saddened by the tragic events that took place in Meron, Israel. A night that was supposed to end a period of mourning has ushered in a new period of sorrow for the 45 people who lost their lives.

While we are preparing our shabbat meals, dozens of families in Israel are preparing for funerals.

The Sefer Hachinuch writes that we learn the obligation to mourn our loved ones from the week's Torah portion. The Kohein, who is normally not allowed to become Tameh by being in the presence of a corpse,  is obligated to become Tameh and mourn his loved ones. The Sefer Hachinuch concludes from this that certainly those who are not barred from becoming defiled are obligated to mourn. 

Rabbi Soloveitchik writes movingly about the mourning process and his words provide a constructive response to this massive tragedy.

The Rav notes that it is often only after someone has passed that we recognize how much they meant to us and how much they contributed to our lives. “ Our awareness of his specialness, as someone vital and precious to us, comes at the instant he departs and withdraws into the mist of remoteness. Only then do we inquire with painful longing, “Who was he who brightened my days? What did he mean to me?”

These questions, says the Rav, lead to feelings of guilt. “These...questions, which descend...upon the grieving mourner, are extremely soul searching...Why didn’t I ask these questions yesterday, or yesteryear? Why wasn’t I more expressive, more helpful, more appreciative?...What exertions or treasures we would now readily expend for only five minutes with them...? If only we could...but alas, it is too late.”

Maybe some of the mourning families are experiencing such feelings and asking similar questions today, especially considering the unique circumstances surrounding the death of their loved ones.

Even as we mourn in our own way for this terrible loss, we can also use this time that we are thinking about death to appreciate those in our lives, to be aware of their specialness and why they are precious to us. To promise to not find ourselves, as Rabbi Soloveitchik described longing for just a few more minutes to with our loved ones.  This moment that has been thrust upon us can be used as a “chapter break”, an opportunity for reappraisal, and can serve as an impetus to pivot towards a new appreciation of our loved ones. 

Take time today to reach out to your loved ones. Take some time to look around your shabbat table and express gratitude for family. Most of all, take a moment of silence today to appreciate those in your life you are closest to.

Yehi Ratzon...May it be God’s will that all of the grieving families find comfort and may God bless us with a Shabbat of peace and love. 

Tue, May 18 2021 7 Sivan 5781