Sunday, June 05, 2011

Mourning: Breaking rules that I don't even know :(

Okay, there are some rules that I do know.

When my Israeli brother called yesterday, shortly after we'd awakened from our Shabbos nap, I figure I'd return the call later--I haven't answered the phone on Shabbat (Sabbath) in years. But when he said, "I know it's Shabbat, but . . .", well, I knew that he had to have a really serious reason for asking me to violate the Sabbath.

"Cheit's (sin's) on you."

"Dad's suffering is over."

What could I say but "Baruch Dayan Emet"*?

I still haven't gotten the exact details of my father's death, but I assume that he died on Shabbat. I can't imagine any other reason for my brother calling me then.

I broke the rules again when I told everyone the news at Minchah/Afternoon Service. Years ago, a former rabbi taught that one shouldn't announce a death on Shabbat.

Concerning unknown rules, there was a bit of a timing problem.

After we finished Maariv (Evening Service), I deemed it appropriate, with Shabbat over, to check our Kitzur Shulchan Aruch abridged explanation of practical halachot/Jewish religious laws. As luck would have it, I should have looked before Shabbat was over. I wasn't supposed to have said Maariv, only the Sh'ma biblical quotations without their accompanying b'rachot/blessings. I wasn't supposed to have recited the b'rachah for Sefirat HaOmer either, but instead, was supposed to have waited until this morning and counted without the b'rachah.

It gets worse. :( When I woke up this morning, figuring that my father had already been buried and I was no longer an onenet (onanah?)--someone whose close relative has died but not yet been buried--but, rather, a full-fledged aveilah (mourner), I davvened Sharcharit (prayed the Morning Service) in the usual manner. Then, since I'd forgotten to change to a clean blouse last night, to prepare for mourning, I opened up our Kitzur Shulchan Aruch to see whether the prohibition against wearing clean clothes was a minhag/custom or an actual law. It appears to be a law, so here I am in Thursday's blouse. But while I was looking, I spotted two more laws--(A) A mourner isn't supposed to wear tefillin on the first day of aveilut/mourning, and (B) A mourner is not supposed to eat her own or her husband's food on the first day of aveilut, but should eat only food provided by the community. So I goofed by laying tefillin this morning, and now my husband's en route to the synagogue to see whether he can raid the kitchen there for my breakfast, at least.

Is there anything else that I should know?

"Praised is the True Judge," the traditional response to news of a death.


Anonymous Reb Barry said...

Hi Shira, sorry for your loss. I have a guide with the "basic" rules I prepared, you can read it at .

But there is one very important principle: in matters of aveilut, mourning, we are "makil," lenient. The last thing in the world you need right now is to feel stress that you are not doing something "right." The mourning rituals are there to serve you, to help you deal with the grief; they are not there to cause you stress over whether you are doing something wrong.

May your father's memory be a blessing to you and your family.

Sun Jun 05, 03:31:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous TOTJ Steve said...

May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Sun Jun 05, 04:21:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous rivkayael said...

Hamakom yinachem etchem. I am so sorry.

Sun Jun 05, 06:25:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Reb Barry, thanks for your kind words and the link--I have printed out your PDF.

TOTJ Steve and Rivka Yael, thanks for thinking of me.

Sun Jun 05, 10:42:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous jdub said...


I'm very sorry for your loss, and may you be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim.

Please put away the kitzur shulhan arukh, unless you are an incredibly strict Hungarian. Pick up Rabbi Lamm's book on mourning practices, which is much more mainstream.

I'd also recommend finding a good Orthodox or even (gasp) a Conservative rabbi to ask these questions of. Much that is written in the KSA is not practiced today. Google Rabbi Howard Stecker from Temple Israel in Great Neck (Conservative) and ask him your questions. I know him and he will give good advice. I can give you the names of some modern, understanding Ortho rabbis too, who would be happy to consult with you on these issues as well.

Mon Jun 06, 07:50:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

I agree with Reb Barry that the mourning rituals are there to help you, not provide an additional source of stress. I prefer the Lamm book to Artscroll's Mourning in Halacha, but both are reasonable practical guides. But this is not a time to worry about being makpid (precise) over every detail of the halacha - especially since most of the rules of mourning are customs and details vary.

Mon Jun 06, 09:10:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

May you be comforting amongst the mourners of Sion and Yerushalayim.

Put the book down. Mourn your loss, let people support you as best they can, try to suspend your sadness for Yom Tov. While Shiva doesn't resume, mourning doesn't end.

The things about unclean clothing etc., date from an era where finding clean clothing would be stressful, unclean clothing would be easier to grab.

Deal with your loss, not stressing out.

Mon Jun 06, 09:54:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

JDub, Larry, and Miami Al, thank you for your kind thoughts and your reminders that this is a time to mourn, not to "stress out."

I e-mailed my "G-d Squad" (rabbis and rabbinical students) for advice, and got a recommendation to consult Rabbi Lamm's "The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning." I'll have a look at that, as soon as I can obtain a copy. In the meantime, I'll take your advice try not to be so "Hungarian"--as far as I know, we have no Satmar Chassidim in the family.

I'll probably end up consulting the rabbi of my "kaddish minyan" once I start trekking back there on weekday mornings starting this Friday.

Mon Jun 06, 10:11:00 AM 2011  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>