November 8, 2023
On October 7th, at least 1400 people were brutally murdered in Israel, and 240 more were kidnapped and taken hostage by Hamas. Sunday marked shloshim for this horrific event against Israel and the Jewish people worldwide.
In our tradition, shloshim is the 30th day after the death of a loved one. Of course our sense of loss is magnified exponentially. We grieve as an entire people for the loss of 1400 individual universes of life. And we continue to wait, in anguish, for the return of our brothers and sisters from captivity.
Shloshim is an important marker in time as we move from the acute shock of trauma and loss, to the gradual acceptance of a new kind of normal. I have heard this from many in our CBI community, and the larger Jewish communities of which I am a part.
“I’m finally getting my head above water, after feeling paralyzed for the last few weeks.”
“This was the first day I was actually able to get some real work done.”
“After being in a daze, I’m starting to sort out my feelings and be able to talk about things with people, who at first didn’t understand what I was going through.”
The wisdom of our tradition is that we have these markers of time to work through grief, and to mourn in a gentle way that honors the human heart and soul. The first seven days, after the death of a loved one, are the most intense. We call this period of time shiva. During shiva the mourner is not expected to participate in “regular” life. At all. Those providing comfort give the mourner the time and space to be, and feel, and express (or not) wherever they are–in its raw and heartbreaking beauty.
Unfortunately, many in the Jewish community felt they did not have this initial seven day period of shiva. Almost immediately, we were expected to provide statements, stances, analyses, opinions, and solutions. With friends, family, colleagues, we were forced into corners of having to defend, choose sides, weigh in.
All of this while in deep grief and trauma. I have heard many in the Jewish community use the word “dissonance” to describe their experience. Their feeling-scape does not match what the outside world is either experiencing or expecting from them. Of course we care about the larger circles of pain and suffering. Yet when one is traumatized, it is nearly impossible to grieve beyond our own deeply personal circle of loss. And . . . the passage of time brings us to a larger vista of understanding and reflection.
These days from the trauma of October 7th, through the first week, and up to this first month have been a serious and deeply trying journey through the terrain of loss and grief. We have arrived and now walked through the door of Shloshim. The days and weeks ahead of us will be challenging. We pray that with the passage of one full moon cycle, we have a little more perspective, and can more easily find sturdy footholds.
May this perspective give us the capacity for grappling with and holding unimaginable complexity. May we cultivate our ability to listen closely and to speak respectfully and responsibly. Amen.