Friday, December 18, 2009
Traditional Words of Comfort
These are the traditional words of comfort said to Jewish mourners during the first 30 days after burial of a loved one:
המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים
HaMakom yenachem etchem betoch shs’ar aveilei Tziyon V’Yerushalayim
"G-d will comfort you (plural) among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."
I've visited mourners during their first week of mourning. I have said the English translation for these words to mourners. It does not matter what language you use but it is what we are supposed to say.
The worst catastrophe to ever happen to the Jewish people was the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and exile of the Jews in 586 B.C.E. and again in 70 C.E. If the Holy One, Blessed Be He, with his infinite knowledge and ability, were to say words of consolation, no doubt they would work. We don't know what those words would be, but we would want to hear words that really really work. Like a magic elixir.
So I guess we are supposed to feel better because a person says these words.
People that don't know the line in Hebrew read these words in Hebrew off a piece of paper. So they don't look at the mourner - they look at the paper. Others say the translation, and they may know what the English words mean.Others say the words really fast, in a mumble. I have no idea what they may be thinking when they say it. When I say it, I am thinking that I am saying what I am supposed to say. If that's all I say, I may be cheating someone (myself, the mourner, or both). So many people add, "may you know no more sorrow," or "may you have only simchas (happy occasions) in the future."
Frankly, I think the traditional words are for the people that say them. As a mourner during shiva, my mind was on too many things. The main thing in my mind was, "when can we get this over with?"
Let me know when someone comes up with something that really works. In the meantime, my son and nephew went out erev shabbat (sabbath eve) during shiva and brought home some Gentleman Jack, which I found to be somewhat better of an elixir at our shabbat table. Thanks, guys.