Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Thing to Say

It is a terrible thing to learn that someone you care about has died. Death, however, is a natural part of the cycle of life, and a person’s passing is as much a part of the Divine plan for the world as a good or bad harvest, winning the lottery or meeting a neighbor at the store just as you realize you forgot your wallet. This is one reason that the Torah prohibits extreme demonstrations of grief not once, but three times: Leviticus 19:28 prohibits cutting one’s flesh. Leviticus 21:5 instructs the priests not to make a baldness on their head, shave the corner of their beards, or cut their flesh. Deuteronomy 14:1 reiterates the prohibition of cutting one’s self and adds a prohibition of making a baldness between one’s eyes.

So what is the proper way to receive the tragic news of the loss of a loved one? The sages wrote “For good tidings one says the blessing for God, ‘Who is good and bestows good’ (Hatov v’hamativ). For evil tidings one says, “Blessed be the True Judge’ (Baruch Dayan Emet)” (Talmud Brachot 60b). These words help moderate one’s reaction and provide a gentle reminder that death is part of life, and is all part of a larger plan.

The sages noted the use of Baruch Dayan Emet (B.D.E. in the language of social media) for evil tidings, and it is most often used upon hearing about the loss of a life, even when one does not know the deceased personally. However, it is a phrase that can apply to a number of situations, since it serves as a reminder that the world, in all its good and in all its sadness, is in the most capable of hands--God’s.

No comments: