Leap of Faith: Grieving

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Leap of Faith: Grieving

Communal mourning is a link to history

Given the nature of both my job and identity, it might be natural that I am biased about the genius of Judaism. However, I am continually reminded of how those sages who came before us really understood so much about the human psyche and the essential nature of marking the passing of time and life. This is particularly true when it comes to mourning – not only individual mourning but communal mourning and also of ideas and changes in history.

On Tisha B’Av – a day of communal mourning – the surrounding readings and rituals re-enact the grief for a dead member of one’s immediate family, while at the same time recognising the difference between the anguish felt when someone close to us dies and when we are grieving a historical tragedy. But in both instances there is a recognition of the shock, even if one knows the outcome at the outset; a recognition of the reality and a journey into a focus on the importance of living, of renewing our commitment to life.

It seems appropriate to reflect at this time that the Queen’s death comes as our Torah has us standing on the edge of the land – a land that Moses has waited his whole life to arrive at. Moses spends his time telling the people everything he wants them to know, to hold onto, to remember. Although the death of the Queen has come as a shock, many believing she would live forever, she has also spent her life preparing us for this moment, attempting to instil in us those values that she held so dear.

As we watch the TV, travel to London, attend memorial services, many are mourning for the Queen, but it is also an opportunity for us to grieve for all the things that we feel we have lost – a national expression of sorrow. Life, as we know, can rush by so fast that often we do not take the proper time to grieve for people who have passed, memories that have vanished and dreams that have vanquished.

Judaism is a religion of sacred time, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said: “Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year.”

As we communally mourn the death of the Queen, we are also communally marking a loss of the past and all those who passed with it. However as the mourning passes we will too turn to the future. I hope that as a community we will live up to the responsibility to live lives worthy of it.

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