“I put down these memorandums of my affections in honor of tenderness, in honor of all of those who have been conscripted into the brotherhood of loss…” Edward Hirsch
Part of living in a Jewish community is caring for one another. Jewish tradition knows this and memorializes it in our rituals. When one of us suffers a loss, the rest of us can be there to care, comfort, and support the other. We do very well when it comes to funerals and sitting shivah: we offer comforting words, prayers, eulogies, and provide meaningful rituals of burial and mourning.
In the year following the death of a close loved one, our tradition tells us that we are to gather daily to recite Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. We are not permitted to say Kaddish without a minyan, the requisite quorum of ten Jews. This is so that we do not grieve alone, and in doing so lose touch with our community. And for those of us who are not mourning ourselves, it is a mitzvah for us to step forward and be counted in that minyan.
In our community, we see people each week coming to say Kaddish following the death of a loved one, and we stand with them. But we can do more. Often, after the funeral is over and shivah has ended, the connection between mourner and community thins, and the bereaved is left to grieve very much alone. Grief is a process, but not one that can be worked through one night a week, or in a few evenings. It is often a long, slow, and painful process. But it is one that everyone experiences at some point in their lives, as unique as our grief can feel.
In order to provide people in this community with a space to grieve, to mourn, to weather the difficulties of loss, we are planning on offering a Sichat Aveilut, a space for conversations between mourners, for those who have lost a close family member in the last year and a half. We, along with members of the Caring Committee and other people who have experience dealing with loss, would like to provide a regular space here at Temple Sinai to hold our grief. Both those whose grief is fresh, and those who have been in mourning for some time have things to offer each other. For this is why our tradition tells us to mourn together: we cannot support ourselves all the time and so we do not have to, because we have a community.
Rabbis Sara and Benjamin Zober