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For everything there is a Season...

04/04/2024 09:24:24 AM


Rabbi Me'irah Iliinsky

For everything there is a Season, and a time & purpose for everything under Heaven. Kohelet/Ecclesiastes 3:1

In response to the recent death in our community of Reisel Berger, I have been rereading some texts on comforting mourners. This teaching stood out for me: “Do not comfort a mourner when their dead lay before them.” (Pirke Avot 4:18)

What could this possibly mean?

In our tradition, the period from death to burial is known as ‘aninut,’ and the mourner (technically, the mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or spouse of the deceased) is called an ‘oneyn.’ This is the stretch of time that the quote is referring to. It is a time of shock, of time slowed down, of disbelief of what has just taken place… a liminal time, out of the realm of familiar experience. The oneyn is burdened by many practicalities. It is not a time that has the necessary space to feel and tend to one’s emotions.

Our normal response, as friends, is to want to tell the oneyn how deeply moved WE are at their loss; but this becomes yet another burden for them to acknowledge, to tell us how grateful they are, to comfort us. Once shivah, begins, the evening of the funeral, the oneyn, now relieved of worldly duties, can attend to their grief.

Even now, our tradition tells us not to speak to the oneyn, unless they approach us first, signaling their readiness to engage in conversation. Until then, it is best to share a silent look of compassion, or a touch, without words, until the right moment for grieving arrives, hopefully during the days of shivah.

Blessings, Rabbi Me’irah

Sat, July 20 2024 14 Tammuz 5784