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Lamenting

Lamenting

Monday, 24 July, 2017 - 4:00 pm

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As we are about to begin the 9 days of mourning the Temple, I am reminded of how, while reading Lamentations last year during Tisha B’Av, I came upon an understanding of how our Jewish heritage supports and informs the Chaplain’s practice of encouraging patients to “lament”.

At first glance it may seem to run contrary to many of the dictums in Judaism that encourage joy and a positive outlook as key elements in faith and worship of G-d. However we do find other practices in Judaism, such as the communal mourning and extensive reading of lamentations that point to the opposite.

As I was reading the Kinos for several hours I began to question: Why is it that we read the entire Kinos at one time? Could the reading not be divided over the first 9 days of Av when we observe many mourning practices? Similar to the reading of Slichos, where we read the Slichos over a similar period of time 30-40 minutes per day?

The answer I believe is found in our pastoral practice of lamenting. A designated period of time needs to be dedicated exclusively to the expression of sorrow and anguish to fully process those feelings and to allow the patient to move on. Not taking care to fully mourn the situation will cause the sadness to linger.

Similar support for this practice can be found in the dictum from Ethics of Our Fathers: Do not placate your fellow in the moment of his anger, do not comfort him while his dead lies before him.. In addition we have the Jewish practice of Shiva, when an entire week is dedicated to mourning the loss of the deceased by close relatives. Visitors to the Shiva house are encouraged to listen to the mourners and speak little themselves. The mourners are encouraged to refrain from engaging in practices that will distract them from mourning their loss.

The immediate take away from this understanding I applied in my recent attempt to use my pastoral skills in conflict resolution. I had called one of the parties in the conflict to wish them a Good Shabbos and also to suggest that we get together for a face to face dialogue about how to improve the situation. His response was a tirade, during which he insisted I not interrupt him, during which he asserted I was missing some of my skeletal elements and claimed I was a small cog of his opponent’s machine. At the same time he praised me and my sons in law.. Which left me wondering if this was sincere praise or an attempt to get me to his side?

Based on this newly appreciated understanding I decided to apply the last dictum in the quote from Ethics of our Fathers “do not seek to see him at the time of his degradation” and to allow him to fully lament his current situation and process his anger.

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