Monday, July 15, 2013
At our board retreat yesterday, we had the task of choosing a couple of words that articulate what we do as a congregation and will continue to do at all times. One of the words that came up a lot was fun. Our congregation loves to have fun at almost all times, but I told the group that 'fun' cannot be part of our vision because we cannot have fun ALL the time. Put simply: it's just not Jewish. In the next hour or so, we will enter into one of those rare times.
At a shiva home, visitors often do not know what to say to the mourner's. Sometimes, people try and make sense of loss to the mourner's and sometimes they try and cheer them up because they do not want them to feel sadness. The Shulchan Aruch tells us something different - when you approach a mourner, stay silent; let them do the talking, and your task is to listen to them. However, if you must say something, say the words, "HaMakom Yinachem Etchem B'toch Avelei Tzion U'Yerushalayim" "May God comfort you along with the mourner's of Zion and Jerusalem." The phrase is interesting as it connects all mourners to the greatest tragedy that has befallen our people: the loss of our Holy Temple and eventual the end of our independence in the land of Israel.
On this holiday, we acknowledge that not all parts of life are 'fun'. As the book of Ecclesiastes famously says, "There is a season that is set for everything, a time for every experience under the sun....a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance..." Now is the time to cry and to mourn. To mourn the loss of our Temple, the loss of a system of worship, the loss of millions of Jewish souls killed for being born Jews spanning various periods: from the time of the Temples; the Crusades; the expulsions; the pogroms; the Shoah; and bombings and attacks in our modern day period. Today, the whole Jewish people will sit 'Shiva' for 25 hours. It is a time for all us to embrace sadness and mourning because sometimes we must in order to truly experience simcha/joy. I wish you all have a fast that will help you live in sadness for these brief moments. May we never experience the pain and loss that our ancestors experienced, but more than that, may we never forget their sacrifices for us.
Rabbi David Baum