I’d love to have titled this “You Lost Me at Sheloshim”: a quippy little title, and none the worse for its pop-culture overuse. But it isn’t true. You lost me some time ago, what you’ve done now is utterly disgusted and offended me.
My former shul, and the wider community to which it belongs, is communally observing “sheloshim” for the three boys kidnapped and killed in the Settlements and also publicly mourning for the soldiers killed recently in Gaza. Sheloshim being the 30 day period of mourning following a death, and also colloquially the final day thereof. And they have sent me an invitation to attend the…uh….festivities?
I don’t know what else to call them to be honest.
Firstly, it hasn’t been 30 days since the soldiers died so it can’t be their sheloshim. It is the sheloshim for the boys who were killed: tragic deaths they were indeed… I use that in its correct literary sense. On the surface it all seems very right and proper, doesn’t it? So what is my problem, beyond being an irredeemably antisemitic shiksa?
This is not “mourning” according to Jewish Law. It is, in fact, forbidden.
That’s right. It’s forbidden.
Regardless of one’s emotional closeness to the deceased, or how their life or death impacted you, if you are not one of the degrees of relations obligated to mourn (parent, child, sibling or spouse) you are not only not obligated to observe the rituals and timelines of mourning, you are forbidden from doing so. You may grieve (the emotion) all you like but you are NOT a “mourner”.
You don’t observe shiva, you visit the shiva house and comfort the lawful mourners. You don’t stand up and recite the Mourner’s Qaddish, you form part of a minyan to enable the mourners to recite it and say “Amen”. You don’t observe Sheloshim or Yahrzeit (death anniversary)…again except by visiting, making minyan etc. The permitted thing for someone outside those degrees to do is to recite Qaddish for someone who had no mourners when they died, or to recite it publicly on behalf of a female mourner (Orthodoxy only) and that person does not sit shiva or observe any other rituals, except Qaddish.
This rule is so strict that even in the Conservative synagogue I could not stand up in the synagogue and recite Qaddish on my mother’s Yahrzeit because she was not considered my mother any more, ritually speaking. I had no obligation to mourn her ritually, and so was actually forbidden from it. This is the woman who gave me the very first cell to form my body, and 50.1% of my DNA, and carried me within her very body itself, eating and breathing for me. I am physically more like her, more a part of her, more ‘flesh of her flesh’ than I am to anyone but my own children, who carry her DNA and her mitochondrial DNA as well. This is also the woman who taught me Yiddish words, Jewish humour, love of learning, Hebrew words and bits of prayers and Talmud. Whatever is Jewish in me, is owed to her. She did not just create a physical body, she made whatever Jewish soul I might have possible, and shaped and molded it for 34 years. Assuming I have a Jewish spark, I got it from her. She is in every sense the mother of a Jew; ergo, she is a Jewish mother.
But I was not allowed to mourn her as one….by a community that, in the name of political posturing, is about to collectively observe sheloshim for three boys that, to my knowledge, not one of them is actually related to enough to mourn.
Even mothers of 29 day old infants are not permitted to mourn, and you think because the deaths of these boys were politically motivated, or “attacks on the Jewish people” or on Israel that that gives you the right to collectively abrogate Jewish Law? That because you are Zionists “defending Israel and the Jewish people” it gives you more rights than mothers whose arms are empty and whose breasts ache? Shame on you!
This is davqa why the Rabbis forbade people outside the permitted degrees from ritual mourning.
First, that whole communities would virtually shut down if everyone collectively observed all the strictures of mourning.
Second, that the dignity of death and mourning would be replaced with public spectacles, and with the wailing of hired mourners, as individuals, families and communities competed with each other in showing their grief. In showing who was finer. More sensitive. More pious.
And thirdly, because Jewish Law demands that everyone be treated equally in death. No matter how rich, how important, how learned they were or how greatly they impacted others in life. No matter how they died. All go into a plain wooden box, in a plain, unadorned white shroud with hands spread open to show that, whatever it is you had, you can’t take it with you. And the same people mourn; parents, siblings, spouses, children. That’s it.
If I am not permitted to mourn the woman who gave me my very life and made me who I am, how can I be permitted to mourn 3 boys I never met, to whom I am no relation at all, and of whom I know nothing but the circumstances of their deaths?
I know nothing about them except one thing only: they were real human beings, not symbols. And that means I know one more thing about them than you do.
Stop the pretence that you care about these boys’ lives. Thirty days ago they were nothing and no one to you. If you are an Israeli you would happily have cut in front of them in line to shave a few seconds off your daily errands. If you are ultra-Orthodox you would have taken one look at their kippot serugot and called them Amalek. If you are Conservative/Masorti, Reform or secular you would have sneered at them as religious nuts.
Stop the pretence that you care about their deaths. Thirty days ago a Jew was killed by a careless, aggressive or drunk driver. Thirty days a go a Jewish woman, or perhaps a man, was killed by an intimate partner. Thirty days ago a Jewish child was killed by a parent, grandparent or caregiver. Thirty days ago a Jew died on the job because of a negligent workplace. Thirty days ago a Jew died in a violent robbery, or because of organized crime. Thirty days ago a Jewish prostitute, that symbol of normalization par excellence, was killed by a john, or a pimp. Where, may I ask, are THEIR collective sheloshim?
When did it become the case that the only Jewish deaths that mattered were the ones caused by Palestinians, or Muslims? When did their deaths become the only ones worth mourning?
You use the slogan “An attack on one is an attack on all” but in the fine print at the bottom it reads “Jews who have exhibited the poor taste to be killed by other Jews need not apply”.
The only thing that matters to you about these boys is their symbolic value in death. They do make nice poster children, don’t they? I keep seeing “innocent” appended to their names….what a very odd choice of word, Jewishly speaking. Innocent means in origin “not having knowledge” and in the sense of “not having knowledge of a crime” to not be morally or legally responsible or culpable. Which one do you mean? I would hate to think you are suggesting that they were uneducated, so you would appear to be suggesting they are not morally or legally responsible or culpable.
How odd. You see Jewish Law holds that at age 13 a boy becomes morally responsible and culpable for his actions. That isn’t my opinion, it’s the opinion of centuries of Rabbis. I’m an amateur neurologist; I’m still not certain whether anyone under 25 can be totally culpable.
Are you suggesting then that there was no crime for them to be culpable of? Unfortunately there was, and still is. In contravention of international law, Israel still occupies land outside its internationally recognized borders and blockades the borders and ports of another nation. I am also perfectly willing to point out that attacks on civilians are also in contravention of international law but that does not negate the Israeli and Jewish responsibility for Israel’s actions and is a separate, if related, topic. Jews are settling on land that is not theirs by international law and now three young people living on those lands have been killed by the natives in retaliation.
It is really not fair. Naftali, Gilad and Eyal were not more responsible than the other settlers around them, nor more responsible than the people in the Israeli government, which looks away with the eyes at illegal settlements while it has a hand behind its back slipping them money, building them roads and sewers and moving in troops to defend them from the people whose land they’re on. They were not more responsible than Jews around the world who fund charities that support the settlements, or than the parents who brought them there, to a dangerous place, because they have replaced centuries of Rabbis with one Rav, and his fanatical and idolatrous beliefs about the divinity of the land, or the legions of Jews who preserve and propagate this theology. I am not even sure if they are more culpable than the millions of Jews around the world who simply choose wilful blindness, or complacent silence on the issue of the settlements, or the racist remarks made by members of Knesset calling for all Palestinian women to be killed before they can become mothers of “little snakes”.
It really is not fair that they should be killed when so many others are so clearly more culpable, but neither are they innocent. None of us are.
And that is the part Jews don’t want to see. That Jews are culpable also in their deaths. Jews may not have pulled the proverbial trigger, but Jews daily contribute in myriad ways to creating and maintaining the situation that led to their deaths, by distorting the truth, spreading misinformation, and blaming everyone else…by refusing to move beyond the posture of victimhood and recognize that, in this game, Jews are holding the majority of the cards.
Naftali, Gilad and Eyal had the poor taste to be killed partially by other Jews. Admitting that would diminish their value as symbols of the cause….but it might just restore their humanity.
And that is what they deserve in death, as in life. To be human.
Shame on you! Shame on us all! It may have been Palestinians who took their lives, but it is you who are taking away their humanity.
For you to invite me to partake in this travesty of Jewish Law, this politicized spectacle of wailing is repugnant. I may be just as morally culpable in their deaths because I’ve chosen the path of avoiding confrontation for too long, but I have not yet sunk so low that I will prostitute myself. You will all sell your services for an Israeli shekel, and will weep and wail for show, but I won’t join you for this farcical “sheloshim”. Nor for the equally empty vanity of breast beating and pseudo-pious pretence to come on Yom Kippur, in which your lips will be reciting words of moral introspection and your hearts will be far away.
You may as well all just stand up and recite, “Hamas has incurred guilt; Hamas has betrayed…” because that is what you will be thinking the whole time. And when all that is done you can recite the Shema as it is in your hearts too. “Shema Adonai, Yisrael eloheinu, Yisrael echad.”
I have disagreed with you. I have been saddened by you. I have been annoyed and angered by you. But I think this is the first time I have actually felt physically sick with disgust at you.
I keep saying I’m leaving Judaism but this latest replacement of Jewish Law with Zionist Spectacle simply reminds me that everybody else has already left it before me. It’s rather hard to storm dramatically out of an empty room.