Category Archives: Grief

Mourning the loss of an innocent life

Hillel Yaffe Ariel

Hillel Yaffe Ariel

We mourn the loss of Hillel Yaffe Ariel, brutally murdered while asleep in her bed. Hatred, violence, and murder of children do nothing to further the cause of peace or coexistence. Indeed often hardens the heart making the future for two people even more difficult.

Let us take this time to grieve for this innocent child and refuse to let anger and hatred consume us.

May her memory be a blessing.

How do I tell Dad that Mom has died?

How do you tell Dad that Mom has died? This challenging question confronted old friends this past week.

Compassion is such a difficult practice. It is often so difficult to know what is the right thing to do for another person.oldyoung hands

 A friend’s mother recently passed away after a protracted decline. Sadly her dad is suffering from dementia. My friend and her siblings struggled with whether they should tell him that his wife, their mom, has just passed away. Would he find the loss overwhelming? Would he even comprehend the sad news they would share? He has a right to know and grieve the loss of his wife. But if the news was too much for him to handle, should they wait until there was a better time to inform him?

 Further complicating things, he was physically unable to attend the funeral.

 Both options, to tell him or not, are based on compassion for dad. But which one is right for him? She reached out to me for counsel.

My first suggestion was to consult dad’s doctor, someone who knows him and is skilled in these medical issues. The doctor can help ascertain how aware is dad of his surroundings. The children, all adults, can also shed some light on dad’s cognitive abilities, but they are emotionally very close to the situation and may not clearly assess how well dad will process the news. It is likely that despite all attempts to know, it is all but impossible to appreciate how much dad truly understands.

 We cannot know how people will react to this kind of news even without the complications of these circumstances. Maybe dad will have only a moment of clarity or possibly the news will stay with him. He may work through his grief or become overwhelmed by it. I have learned along my journey that we actually only have moments together. Sometimes these moments last and create enduring memories. Sometimes they fade away. The best we can do is to be fully present in each moment together and hope that it endures. The struggle that this family confronts is a struggle we all face, for each of us will experience loss and then try to reconcile with it in the aftermath. We can try to anticipate how people will respond, but we need to be careful in presuming too much, acting for them instead of allowing them the dignity of exercising his or her own agency.

 The Talmud teaches that we treat parents with honor and respect.   Might the ways we do that include withholding speech or information that would be hurtful? If dad still has some comprehension, won’t he feel the sadness in those surrounding him and wonder why his wife no longer visits? Further, how will he react if he learns of his wife’s passing long after the fact without the chance to mourn her loss? Arguably we honor our parents when we include them in even the most difficult things, rather than attempting to protect them. Each of us will be called upon to grapple with a similar situation. We must take the utmost care to ensure that our motives are true and that we act in the best interests of our parents and not fulfilling our own needs disguised as compassion. My friend’s struggle was because she loved her father and wanted what was best for him.

 Zichronah Livrachah may my friends’ mother be a blessing for the family. May her father be given the opportunity to know that too.

Olam Chesed Yibaneh- Thoughts on the Tragedy in Brussels

The terror and tragedy of events in Brussels today requires that we pause and reflect on the horror and pray for those who were injured or killed. I have had Rabbi Menachem Creditor’s rendition of Psalm 89 playing over and over in my head in an attempt to reassure myself that we will get through this too.

 Rabbi Creditor adapted a phrase from Psalm 89, Olam Chesed Yibaneh, in response to the birth of his daughter in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He translates the line as: “You will build this world with love.”

 We are charged, or maybe implored, to engage in the creating of a place where we care for each other, embracing each other instead of permitting hate or fear to separate each other.

 Cain Yehi Ratzon, May this be God’s

 

Terror in France

wtcOur prayers are with the victims of the horrible terrorist attacks across Paris. Now is the time to grieve. The natural reaction is to strike back and avenge the carnage. But before we do, let’s pause and consider our actions, making them deliberate and thoughtful, to do more than lash out and punish. Who is the enemy and how do we best work to defeat them in the long-term war of ideologies in which we are engaged?

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It is enticing to react and retaliate, but violence untargeted or mistargeted will serve to create more victims and foment more hatred. The threats are real, but we need to know who the adversary is and the most effective ways to combat the enemy. Precipitous action will do far more harm than good.

 Sadly, there are those who are struggle to support the French, seeing this tragedy as an opportunity to say “turnabout is fair play” due to perceived and real anti-Semitism in France. We are better than that.   The Jewish values of Chesed and Rachamim compel us to reach out and provide comfort and support. Our compassion helps us to rise above all kinds of hatred and Judaism becomes a beacon of light to the Nations.

Another Shabbat tinged with Sadness

Memorial candle copyThe mass shootings and murders at Umpqua College in Roseburg, Oregon has made this yet another difficult and tragic week in the United States.

 Again, another individual wrecked havoc on a community slaughtering unsuspecting innocents and destroying the lives of the families left behind. This murderer did this with weaponry that was too easily accessible.

 We need to commit ourselves to keep guns out of the hands of people seeking to harm others as evidenced by a violent criminal history or by a struggle with mental illness. People who are inherently irresponsible cannot handle guns responsibly. It is reasonable to keep guns from them.

 We cannot accept that mass murder and domestic terror are acceptable costs of living in the United States. Yet every time we allow no constructive action to reign in gun violence in this country we become part of the problem. These deaths are no longer just the responsibility of individual actors, be they angry or crazy. The blood is now on our hands. The responsibility is ours. As President Obama said in the wake of yesterday’s tragedy, “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.” Indeed it is time to turn our revulsion into action. Write or Email your congressman as soon as you finish reading this and give the necessary support to overcome the politics of the gun lobby and demand an end to gun violence. Support responsible legislation that requires background checks of individuals for criminal and psychological issues; that requires documentation registration of all guns and all transfers of ownership, public and private; perform background checks on sale of ammunition; that requires training and licensing of gun owners.   This cycle of horror will cease only when we demand a change.

 Our condolences extend to the families that have been ripped apart by senseless violence. May we honor the memories of the slain through action to prevent this from happening again.

Shabbat Shalom.

This is Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Comfort. It is hard to take comfort now. It is not the external threats but the threats from within that are the most dangerous, the most discomforting. This has been a week of pain where Jews perpetrated horrible unconscionable acts of violence. We are all hostages of this perversion of Judaism. This Shabbat Nachamu let us struggle with the reasons why such atrocities can exist and what we can do to change this.

As I wish everyone Shabbat Shalom I also wish refuah shlemah to the survivors and deepest condolences to the families of the slain.

A somber Shabbat

Last night I participated in the vigil at Mother Bethel AME church. People of all faiths joined to grieve these senseless tragic murders based in hate. We countered with a message of love and a call to action. In that sacred space we declared, “We are all AME” and we will move forward together to put a stop to this kind of violence that is all too common in our country.

 It is incumbent upon each and every one of us, not only to speak out but to also take action. Words are not enough to affect change. Without actions, words alone are hollow. All of us are diminished by this tragedy. Serious conversation about the underlying issues must lead to thoughtful and deliberate actions to stem the tide of hatred and violence. It is long past time. President Obama admitted to being stymied by the constraints of Washington. So we must look to ourselves, our communities and our states to find solutions to this horrible blight. It all begins with us.

 Today we grieve. Tomorrow we must act.

 Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom, a Shabbat where we might find Peace