When We Mourn

When We Mourn

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

“A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven. A time for being born, and a time for dying” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).

We only have to read through verse 2, before we need to stop, pause, and take a breath. The inevitable fate that we must address and cannot avoid lies before us in the wonder of birth and death. To bless babies with our hopes for them is much easier than it is to accompany our loved ones to their final resting places. It goes hard against nature to feel at ease with the latter, so we turn to faith and wisdom for support, guidance, and peace.

Judaism teaches us about death in a classic tale about a ship that leaves the harbor on its maiden voyage. Rather than celebrate its departure, because its way is unknown and its safety is unassured, Judaism honors the ship’s return because tales of its journeys can be told and gratitude for its safe return can be expressed. Likewise, only after having lived can we honor our loved one’s journeys and retell stories of their deeds.   

In a new book published by the CCAR Press, “The Year of Mourning: A Jewish Journey,” the editor, Rabbi Lisa D. Grant, PhD., and consulting editor, Cantor Lisa B. Segal, bring together steps and stages for mourners to find their way. Chapters on subjects of pain, brokenness, sadness, comfort, resilience, acceptance, and gratitude, include readings, prayers, and questions to engage readers and accompany them through the first year of mourning.

In addition to the book, a phone app is available for Android and iPhone, to make the book and its purpose available to mourners wherever they are. Imagine picking up the phone, not to read an email or respond to a text, but to find a reading, a prayer, or a response to feelings of loneliness, angst, or renewed strength. A book or app that assures and validates us with Jewish insights and wisdom can become a faithful companion in the year of mourning. 

Mourning can be an experience and journey that must be taken alone, but it can also be shared with others who know what only mourners can know. The book offers group rituals to consider as the year commences and concludes. I urge those who are interested in the book and app to find it at https://www.ccarpress.org/shopping_product_detail.asp?pid=50594, and to download the Android or iPhone app as they become available in coming days.

In addition to these resources, please know that Congregation Beth Israel’s rabbis and cantor are here to assist, listen, and guide. Especially unique to members of Beth Israel is the Center for Healing, Hope and the Human Spirit. Directed by Tom Cole, Ph.D., individual and group sessions welcome participants to engage in deep issues on their journeys to find healing and hope as the human spirit emerges and grows. Please reach the clergy and/or Dr. Cole at the synagogue.

Congregation Beth Israel supports those who mourn and welcomes their steps with helpful hands, meaningful resources, and prayers for renewed strength and peace. Ecclesiastes also teaches that there is “a time for weeping and a time for laughing.” May we all find paths to renewed faith, hope, and joy.

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