Six years ago I offered an Adult Education session entitled A Jewish View of Dying and Death. The publicity for the class offered these questions:
Do Jews believe in the afterlife?
Do we permit cremation?
What does it mean to sit shiva?
Will I see my loved ones in heaven?
The publicity further stated, “Judaism offers a path of wisdom when it comes to the subject of death. The class will offer an overview of Jewish beliefs and practices, as well as an opportunity for questions and answers.”
This coming Tuesday night, in the third session of Aging, You and Your Family, I will be teaching again about the Jewish approach to dying and death. However, though the structure of the class may resemble that of six years ago, I know that the manner in which I approach this subject will not be identical. Because of the deaths in recent years of my parents, as well as my father-in-law last month, I now know intimately what it means to mourn someone you love dearly. I carry within me the sense of grief and loss from the deaths of my loved ones and I can now personally attest to the comfort and strength I derived from Jewish mourning customs.
My personal experiences deepen my compassion for others. I am sure this is true for others who have faced losses. A passage from the Union Prayer Book reminds us, “Who among us has not passed through trials and bereavements? Some bear fresh wounds in their hearts, and therefore feel more keenly the kinship of sorrow; others, whose days of mourning are more remote, still recall the comfort sympathy brought to their sorrowing hearts."
Next Tuesday night, March 21, at 7:30pm I will lead a session on Jewish funeral and mourning practices. I believe our tradition offers a path for honoring our loved ones and finding healing.