What Do You Say To A Mourner In Judaism

What Do You Say To A Mourner In Judaism

Although customs of mourning are observed in other religions, the highly structured and complex customs of Jewish mourning are unique. Certain aspects of Jewish mourning have remained unchanged for millenia, while others have adapted over time. Knowing what to say is critically important in Jewish culture for understanding how to comfort the mourner as well as how to honour the dead.

The mitzvah of comforting the mourner is called nichum aveilim, and is described by the Talmud as being second only to honoring Shabbat. The mourner is first comforted by being reminded that death is the will of God and is the great equalizer. In Judaism, death is viewed as part of a natural cycle and not a personal tragedy.

The mourner is also comforted by being reminded that death should not be feared, as it is a necessary part of the human condition and part of a larger spiritual plan. Jewish tradition holds that spiritual growth is best achieved through experiencing sorrow and pain, so the mourner can be encouraged to view death as an opportunity to grow in holiness.

The main focus of comforting a mourner in Judaism is to recognize and share in the pain that they are feeling. The traditional response that one makes when visiting someone who is mourning is “May God console you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”. This helps to remind the mourner that their pain is shared by the Jewish people collectively.

It is important for a mourner to feel acknowledged and heard. The mourner should be given an opportunity to talk about the deceased, and should be encouraged to share memories and stories. The mourner should be reminded of good times with the deceased. Ideally, the mourner should be given a hug, but it is important to be mindful of the individual’s comfort level and personal space.

It is important to be aware of the traditional mourning periods, or “shivas”. The seven day period of official mourning is called the “shiva”, while the thirty day period of mourning is known as the “shloshim”. Additionally, there is a period of twelve months in which the mourner may practice certain mourning customs, as well as a period of a lifetime in which the mourner may practice more subtle customs.

When you visit a mourner during shiva, do not expect the mourner to initiate conversation. Instead, talk about the feelings of loss and sadness the mourner is undoubtedly experiencing, and share your own experiences of loss or heartache. Keep conversations focused on the deceased, so that the mourner knows that you understand the impact of their loss and want to help them find comfort in their grief.

Expressing Condolences

The most common way of expressing condolences in Judaism is simply to tell the mourner “I am so sorry for your loss”, as well as providing a hug, if appropriate. Other words of condolence may include “May their memory be a blessing”, “May God bless and comfort you”, or “May the family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”.

It is important to remember that words of comfort and words of sympathy should be spoken in a simple, straightforward way. There is no need to say more; the mourner needs no explanations. Empathy and acknowledgement are the primary purposes of these words.

It is recommended by many spiritual advisers to avoid clichéd expressions, such as “time will heal” or “take your time”. These expressions can come across as minimising the importance and impact of the bereavement. While it is true that time will bring healing, it can initially be painful and uncomfortable to hear, particularly in the early days of mourning.

Offering practical help and assistance to a mourner can go a long way. Inquire if you can help the mourner with everyday tasks, such as shopping, preparing meals or managing practical financial matters. If you are unable to offer physical help, please remember that emotional support is just as important.

Attending Funerals

In Jewish tradition, attending a funeral is seen as a show of respect and support for the family and friends of the deceased. It has been traditionally believed that the presence of well-wishers provides comfort to both the deceased and the family of the deceased, and is an important part of the healing process.

Traditionally, when attending a funeral, one should aim to dress sombrely and conservatively. It is also important to remember to make no reference to the good health of the deceased, nor should any discussion about the age of the deceased take place. It is considered inappropriate to openly display tears; rather, it is best to discreetly weep and maintain composure.

At the funeral, the mourner’s chair is the primary place where one should offer condolences. In certain communities, this is the main place to offer food, money or other forms of gift. To express condolences, one should say “May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem,” or “My condolences to you and your family”.

It is customary to be mindful of the traditional mourning periods. While sending a card or letter to express condolences is appropriate during the shiva or shloshim, it is advisable to avoid visiting during these times, as the family may be overwhelmed by visitors or unable to give their full attention to each visitor.

Helping With Grief

In Judaism, grief is not seen as something to be ignored or repressed. Instead, it is viewed as a natural part of the mourning process and an opportunity for spiritual growth for the mourner and their loved ones. The primary focus of comfort is to support the mourner in expressing their grief and to offer comfort as they go through the process.

One of the most effective ways of helping a mourner with their grief is to provide a listening ear and compassionate understanding. Allow the mourner to speak freely, without judgment or criticism, and provide assurance that their feelings are heard and understood. Avoid giving advice or expressing a personal opinion, as this may be construed as minimising the pain and confusion of the mourner.

The Talmud mentions that a mourner should be taken out of their immediate environment to help them gain perspective and process the grief. Taking a mourner out for a walk, a cup of coffee or a meal may be helpful. This can be done with family and friends, or with a spiritual adviser or therapist. Above all, it is important to remember that no single solution applies to all people, so it is best to follow the mourner’s lead and do what feels best for them.

Acknowledging Happy Memories

As part of the mourning process, it is important to acknowledge the happy memories of the deceased, as well as the good that came from the individual’s life. It is also important for a mourner to be reminded of their successes and to remember the value of the deceased’s life. This can be done through recounting stories, displaying photos and discussing achievements.

The Talmud instructs us to talk about deceased loved ones in a positive way, and to remember them with happy memories. Taking time to remember the special times spent with the deceased and to share these memories with the mourner can be a great source of comfort.

It is also important to reflect on the purpose of the deceased’s life, as well as their lasting legacy. Jewish tradition teaches that a person’s impact is measured by the deeds they left behind and the positive impact they have had on others.

Preserving the Memory

In Judaism, there is a tradition of ensuring that the deceased is remembered and honoured in remembrance of the person they were in life. This is done through a combination of practices such as observing certain customs and rituals, attending memorial services and reciting appropriate prayers.

A particularly meaningful way to preserve the memory of the deceased is to gather and share written memories. These memories can take various forms, such as stories, anecdotes or poems, and can be compiled into a book or collated in some other manner. This can be done as a family activity, in which each family member shares their memories and honours the deceased.

The practice of lighting a memorial candle is also a way of preserving the memory of the deceased. This is a symbolic gesture that can be done by family and friends to commemorate the special relationship they had with the deceased. Additionally, it can be used to symbolise the deceased’s spiritual light and energy which will continue to bless and inspire those they have left behind.

In Judaism, the mourning period is an important opportunity to come to terms with the loss and to transform sorrow into understanding and growth. Knowing what to say to a mourner can help to provide comfort and understanding, and ensure that the memory of the deceased is honoured and preserved.

Josephine Beck is a passionate seeker of religious knowledge. She loves to explore the depths of faith and understanding, often asking questions that challenge traditional beliefs. Her goal is to learn more about the different interpretations of religion, as well as how they intersect with one another.

Leave a Comment