This Post is Dedicated to the Sassoon Children who Perished in a Fire – LiIluy Nishamatam / for the Elevation of their Souls. May G-d console the mourners and all of those who share in their grieving.
Coping with & Overcoming Difficulties in Judaism
King Solomon said, in Kohelet / Ecclesiastics (Chapter 3:1-5) “For Everything there is a Season and a Time for Every Object under the Heaven….. A Time to Cry and a Time to Laugh, A Time To Eulogize and a Time to Dance…”
G-d made the world in such a way that each time period is separate “air-tight compartment”.
Yet everything is related as well. My doing good brings good to the world. My doing bad, does the opposite.
We lost precious souls last week. I was dulled by the pain and felt like an empty shell of a person for several days.
What can we do when we encounter difficulties?
There is a healing process. Each stage has it’s own period.
In Pirkei Avot, It says “Do not console a mourner when his dead lies before him.” We do not console the mourner until after the loved one is buried. The mourner is exempt from certain Mitzvot – like prayer, saying blessing, putting on tefillin until the burial has taken place. One reason is so that the mourner can concentrate on taking care of the proper burial of the dead. It is possible that this time is also for the mourner to experience and release the pain.
Apparently before a person is buried, the mourner is to experience pain. Experiencing pain is part of the healing process. This is part of the Eulogy process to bring out the feelings and love of the departed. It brings out the thoughts of introspection. It is a period of Emotional catharsis. Once the pain is expressed and felt, one moves on to the consolation.
After this Period, a mourner sits Shiva. A seven day period where friends, family and community members come to the Shiva House to express their condolences. This is to console the mourner. The mourner is offered an opportunity to come to terms with the loss through expressing stories, and feeling and thoughts about the departed.
Healing Process and Understanding
Healing takes the most time. This is when the person tries to come to terms with the pain that they were subjected to. Some mentally try to understand what and why the event happened. Some speak with family or friends or therapists to resolve this period of pain.
We try to find the positive in the difficulties and try to fathom reasons that why G-d – who is good – let this happen. At times we are successful, through learning Torah and consulting rabbis about the “why?” At times we are not. But there is always a reason.
Some reasons that the Torah gives for the passing away of people is
It was their time to go
Their passing was an atonement for others – those that experienced the pain of their passing
Their passing was an atonement for for themselves – for improper deeds made in their life.
They came to the world to make a Tikun / reparation in the world and they accomplished their duty here. At times Transgressions of others cause a chain reaction that ended up in them being taken as an atonement. In this case, we all must do a Cheshbon HaNefesh / Accounting of our Soul – to see how we can improve. To see how we can become better. To see our lacking and do what we can to improve our deficiencies. To repent for past deeds and to make specific resolutions and commitments to correct our faults. That is what one Rabbi said . We must make a cheshbon hanefesh.
– Can we be a little more kind to our fellow Jew?
– Can we talk less gossip or lashon harah / evil speach about others?
– Can we try to make peace with others?
– Can we talk less in Synagogue?
– Can we act with more propriety towards others?
– Can we act more morally in terms of our business dealings?
– Can we act more morally in terms of our human relations?
– Can we indulge less in the pleasures of the world and use the time to bring good to the world?
They came to the world to make a Tikun / reparation to themselves – at times a soul is a reincarnation of another person. At times the previous person who which the soul belonged transgressed and needed to come back to make a reparation for past deeds.
They passed away now because they were going off the proper path – and it was better for them to die in morality rather than steeped in immorality.
G-d wanted them to be Close to Him – At times a person is so righteous that G-d wants them to be close to Him – so he picks the “roses among His garden”.
These children were pure souls. They will surely be resurrected in the time of the Messiah.
Once a Roman noble woman asked a Rabbi How do we know that a righteous person will be resurrected? He said look at a plant. One puts a seed in the ground. The seed starts to decay. Just then the seed starts to sprout a plant. So just like G-s will make a plant grow – so will G-d resurrect the righteous.
Learning, Going Forward and Positive Reactions
Once we reconcile what happened, we try to go forward. We try to learn from the loss. We try to act more prudently materially or spiritually. We try to encourage others to have courage. We say Kaddish to Keep a connection with the souls. We try to do Mitzvot for the elevation of the soul of the departed. We can always be connected through the mitzvoth we do for their memory – it is a way to send a “spiritual gift” to the departed. For each time a person does a Mitzvah in their memory, the soul receives a higher place in heaven.
Some reactions to the loss of the Sassoon children is that people have given out free fire alarms. Some have taken upon themselves to write a Sefer Torah in their memory.
Afterwards, the intelligent use the pain as a springboard to grow. They went through the difficulty and came out stronger. Now they are able to overcome any lesser challenge. Rabbi Yochanan used to console people by showing them the tooth of the last child of all the children he lost, lo alaenu (it should never happen to us.)
The attitude that the person who suffers takes can either make them or break them. If they let the suffering overwhelm them then it is for them to reinforce themselves – through Torah and Mitzvot or other way that will help them overcome it. If they take the suffering to build themselves – then they are following the path that the Torah wants from us. To grow and move on. In The Weekly Torah reading where Sarah – the wife of Avraham – died – he eulogized her shortly to not be overwhelmed by the grief. Choosing when to Grieve and when to move on is partially in one’s hands. He chose not to overdo it.
The process of Overcoming difficulties not only applies to the loss of a loved one, but also to other pain – like overcoming trauma, abuse, and other life difficulties. We should all be consoled for the loss we experienced.
How Can we be Consoled?
We can be consoled that these children must have a high place in heaven. That they died without sin. That they came to the world pure and they left the world pure. They helped people to unite and let go of their petty differences. They caused people to see the good they have and see that their problems aren’t as great as they thought. They caused people to be more careful about safety.
They caused people to overlook small problems in their lives. They caused people to let go of the pettiness in deeds that may have. They let people show their true colors of being caring individuals. They helped people who were pained to have an atonement from the pain and sorrow they suffered. That they helped many people to introspect – to find out how they can improve and to do Teshuva / repent from past deeds. That one day, the parents (they should live long) will be re-united with them in heaven. That they will be resurrected, after the Messiah comes – may it come speedily in our day.
Yet with all of this we will miss these precious souls.