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Weekly Davar - Emor: Mourning is an expression of love

(Leviticus 21-24:24)

10th May 2012
18th Iyyar 5772

GOOD AFTERNOON!! We have a wonderful lecturer coming in next week. His name is Harold Gans and he was a senior cryptologist at the National Security Agency in the US. He is a highly respected scientist and will be talking about issues such as evolution and the age of the Universe in the context of the Biblical version of events. It’s quite incredible how consistent it all is. No prior knowledge is required for his talks. We have a dinner next Friday night at Tikun (18th May) if you are interested in attending and he is also speaking a week on Sunday and Monday. For more information, please follow this link:

Torah Portion

This portion talks of more purity laws for both priests and offerings. It ends with a discussion of the festivals.

Davar Torah
Mourning is an expression of love

As a general rule, a priest is strictly not allowed to come into contact with a dead body. He is to be holy and not come near that which is considered impure.

However, this week’s portion tells us that for his close relatives – parents, wife, children, siblings – the priest is actually obligated to come into contact with the body and mourn for them. Mourning for a close relative who has passed away is more important than the purity of the priests.

Mourning in Judaism is not optional. It is something that one is required to do.

But very often at a funeral, I will see someone go up to one of the mourners, put an arm around their shoulders and say, ‘be strong’. If I have a relationship with the mourner, I will usually follow up and say, ‘it’s ok to be weak also’.

When someone who we love dies, why is it necessary to put on a brave face? Why be strong? It’s a time of weakness and there is nothing wrong with weakness. It’s ok sometimes to feel frail, to feel insecure, to feel a little bit lost. When someone who you are close to passes away, there is nothing wrong with you if you feel these feelings. Quite the opposite. There is something wrong if you don’t! I don’t know about anyone else, but God willing when my 120 years are up, I would like to think that there are those who will cry when I am gone – not ‘be strong’ and try to forget how they felt about me.

We honour those who we love by mourning for them. This is why the mourning period for a parent in Judaism is longer than any other relative. Because the honour required is greater. But mourning is more than simply honour. Our love for the person who is gone is now no longer expressed in the day to day relationship, it is rather expressed in the pain we feel for their loss. Supressing the pain means supressing the love. And who would want to do that? Pain is never a ‘bad’ thing in Judaism. It just requires a context. And mourning has a wonderful context. It is the new manifestation of the old love. It has the potential to be precious and uplifting – for one who is open to such a possibility. But when we are told, ‘be strong’ and avoid the pain, we also miss out on the deep feeling of love that the pain has the potential to express.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt

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