Welcome to Episode #57 of Preparing for the Inevitable – A Podcast on How to Handle Trouble, Suffering, Pain, and Death.
I am your host, Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International. This podcast will help you get ready to face the inevitable unpleasant things that will happen in your life — things like trouble, suffering, sickness, and death — the death of people you love and your own death. Trouble, suffering, and death are common threads that run throughout all of humanity. They are inescapable. You will never meet a person who has not, is not, or will not experience these terrible things in life. Yet, we attempt to hide from these inevitabilities, to pretend they don’t exist or that they won’t happen to us. Our world is filled with news of people dying, children suffering, entire government systems and organizations enduring trouble and turmoil, but we tend to see these as things that only happen to “other people” and never to us. Trouble, suffering, and death come equally to all people, of all races, from every socio-economic status, of every religion, in every country of the world. It makes us all equal. This podcast will show you how to accept these realities of life, and not just cope, but face trouble, suffering, and death in your own life and in the world with confidence, courage, class, and most of all, with faith, hope, and charity.
The Bible says in Psalm 73:26: “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”
The featured quote for this episode is from Cormac McCarthy. He said, “The closest bonds we will ever know are bonds of grief. The deepest community one of sorrow.”
Our topic for today is titled “Grief and Mourning, Part 9: Jewish Mourning Rituals” from the book, “The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come” by Rob Moll.
The Old Testament has plenty of instructions on caring for widows, and by extension, anyone in mourning. Deuteronomy 14:28-29 says that widows are entitled to the nation’s tithes so that they “may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you.” Psalm 68 says God is a “defender of widows,” and in Jeremiah 49 the Lord says, “Your widows too can trust in me.”
Due in part to these commands, the Jewish tradition has developed an elaborate set of rituals to guide the mourning process. Although Jews are not necessarily any better at always following their traditions than Christians are, the set of rituals following a death are becoming popular even among nonpracticing Jews. There are many ways that churches can learn from them.
Following the funeral, mourners begin one week of shiva. During these seven days, the mourner is to do nothing but grieve. The congregation visits throughout the week and every day says prayers. The mourner is not to clean the house or him- or herself. Neither is the mourner to cook, change clothes or play host to guests. The congregation brings the mourner’s food. “If death is not something to be marked for a week because it is so awesome an event,” says Rabbi Jack Reimer, “if death is nothing, if death is cheap, then life is cheap.” Because life is not cheap, the Jewish tradition takes very seriously the time of mourning, especially the shiva. This period allows the mourner to let go and succumb to death’s devastation. But the continuous presence of the community sustains the mourner’s ties to others. And its prayers sustain communion with God.
After a week it is time to rejoin the community. This reunion is in some ways forced on the mourner, because otherwise it may not happen. The mourner joins others who mourn by saying Kaddish, communal prayer, twice a day for the next eleven months. The immersion back into the community–a community of other mourners specifically–can be extremely helpful. Meeting twice daily is a sort of spiritual support group with mourners’ needs as the focus. Those who are working through their own grief are best able to help those newly grieving. The twice-daily prayer also helps those whose anger, because of their loss, may turn into anger at God. Affirming one’s faith twice daily is a powerful antidote to doubt at a time when it is most likely to creep in. On the one-year anniversary of the death, Yahrzeit, the mourner says Kaddish again.
After a year the formal work of mourning is over. But the community still commemorates those who have died. Four times a year special services are held, during which all those who have not lost an immediate family member may be asked to leave. The services remember all those who have died. This is the community of the bereaved, to which the mourner always belongs. This tradition helps the community take care of its widows, widowers and other mourners. It also ensures that the community will always know how to do so. “When we have a problem,” says Rabbi Riemer, “we can look up what those who came before us think we should do.”
Christians can learn much from Jewish mourning rituals in the way they allow the mourner time and space to feel the full force of loss, yet work to reintegrate the mourner back into the community and back to God. Because of the resurrection these mourning actions, while expressing the devastation of loss, are for Christians infused with hope. In Christianity death is not the end but a transition to a better, fuller life. Though Christians may find more hope in their understanding of the meaning of death and life, the Jewish rituals can be powerful.
If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at “Grief and Mourning” in our next podcast.
Let’s Pray —
Dear friend, please understand that after you die, you will be ushered into one of two places to spend eternity, Heaven or Hell. Here’s how you can be sure that you will not go to hell and suffer eternal damnation forever and rather have a home in Heaven when you die. The Bible says, ”Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Here’s how you can be saved from sin and hell and have a home in Heaven when you die in more detail.
1. Accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:20: “For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Romans 3:23 reads: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” In fact, I am the chief of sinners, so don’t think that you’re alone.
2. Accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
3. Accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The Bible says in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
4. Accept the fact that you cannot do anything to save yourself! The Bible states in Ephesians 2: 8, 9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
5. Accept the fact that God loves you more than you love yourself, and that He wants to save you from hell. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
6. With these facts in mind, please repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and pray and ask Him to come into your heart and save you this very moment. The Bible states in the book of Romans 10:9, 13: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Dear friend, if you are willing to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, please pray with me this simple prayer: Heavenly Father, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you believed in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose again, allow me to say, congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour! For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”