Meal of Consolation (Se'udah Havra'ah)
“Do not mourn when the desire of your eyes (your wife ) is taken from you: “ a mourning of the death you shall not make, put your shoes on your feet…. And you shall not eat the bread of men.”
The TB in MK 27:b traces its source to Ezekiel, Chapter 24:17 where God tells the prophet Ezekiel – do not mourn when the desire of your eyes (your wife) is taken from you; ”a mourning of the death you shall not make, put your shoes upon your feet…. and you shall not eat the bread of men.”
The Talmud explains that this is textual proof that when regular mourning is mandated, the meals of the first day (after burial) is to be prepared by others. Ezekiel was told by God not to mourn and to eat his own food.
God informs the prophet that the relationship between Ezekiel and his wife symbolized the relationship between God and his temple, and both would be destroyed.
The Rabbenu Yarichim (quoted in the B’Y”-Yorah Daoh, Hilchot Avilath, 378-379) also discusses a practical reason as well why the food of the mourner should be supplied by others. The mourner is deeply upset and doesn’t think of eating; the mourner often wishes to die as well (How can I eat when my beloved is in the cold ground?). They would deprive themselves of food in order to achieve a “symbolic death.” (Perhaps that is a reason as well why a mourner sits on a low stool; to be symbolically closer to the person that just died.) Therefore, food is supplied by the community.
Making this “mandatory” doesn’t give the mourner the option, and the mourner understands that as much as they would forgo meals and wallow in solitude, they have not lost their place in the community.
The tradition in medieval Germany and France evolved that food for the mourners was supplied by the community for all seven days. Many were very poor and not being able work they had no funds to purchase food. In order not to embarrass those who didn’t have any funds to purchase food, the community supplied food for all – rich and poor – for all seven days.
We have in our collection an 18th century CK Charity box that was put by the community in a house of mourning, the inscription on which reads in German –Yiddish, “ if you have extra funds please put it in and if you need funds , please help yourself.”
The TY in MK 14:A discusses the issue of a mourner needing to go to work in order to have funds to purchase food. It emphasizes that for the first three days it is imperative the mourner not go to work and after the third day one can go to work “Ba’tzina” hiddenly or in an unobtrusive manner.
Judaism demands that at moments of great joy or great grief – both which require concentration and undistributed mediation – we refrain from daily pursuits. This is based on the prophet Amos 8:10 recording the words of the Lord: “And I will transform your festivals to mourning”; teaching us, just as on festivals, labor is prohibited, so too in days of mourning.”
The Korban Ha’yadah (quoting BR Chapter 100) explains that the soul hovers over the body the first three days wanting to reenter the body, but on the third day the facial features decompose and the soul no longer recognizes the body and it “releases” its hold on the body.
An early Midrash (Tana D’ve Eliyahu) alludes to the fact that for the first three days, the soul is trying to find its shadow; on the third day of not finding its shadow, the soul goes to a muddy riverbank and tries to imprint his/her footprint in the mud ; when the deceased sees that there is no footprint, it then releases its hold on the body.
The Iggerot Moshe in Yorah Da’oh 279 (magisterial responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein) discusses the fact that bringing food to the mourner fulfils the commandment of consoling the bereaved. One should not eat of their own , thus forcing others to bring the mourner food and, therefore fulfilling the obligation of consoling the mourner, and this is valid for all seven days.
Isaac Pollak is President and CEO of an international marketing business for almost 4 decades at this point. He holds graduate degrees in Marketing, Industrial Psychology, Art History, and Jewish Material Culture from City College, LIU, JTS, and Columbia University. He has been a student in the Gamliel Institute, and serves as a consultant to the institution. He has been the rosh/head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC, for over 3 decades, and is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, having several hundred in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC. Born and raised in NYC, married, with 3 children and 3 grandchildren.
Isaac has written for Expired And Inspired multiple times over the years, contributing a wide variety of entries, many scholarly and detailed with sources, on history and tradition.
Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, held monthly. On the third THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is March 15th with a discussion led by Dan Fendel.
If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taste of Gamliel Series
Register now for our 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance. The series features Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, Maharat Victoria Sutton, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, and Jacob Klein of Keshet. They will be discussing topics such as Sephardic Customs, Understanding the Mourners Kaddish, an Alternative Yizkor Service, Disenfranchised Grief, and Trans Day of Remembrance, all relating to remembrance and memory.
The series began Sunday evening, February 4, and will continue on Sunday evenings, generally one session per month, at 8 PM Eastern time and 5 PM Pacific time. Each session runs approximately 90 minutes. Upcoming sessions are:
April 8: Jewish Trans Day of Remembrance – Jacob Klein
April 29: Disengranchised Grief – Rabbi Yonatan Cohen
May 27: An Alternative Yizkor Service – Rabbi SaraLeya Schley
If you cannot attend a session, no worries! They are recorded and made available to those registered.
Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The sessions are free, but there is a suggested minimum donation of $36 for the entire series.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.
Gamliel Institute Course 1
Chevrah Kadisha: History, Origins, & Evolution
This course will begin April 3rd and run for 12 weeks. Register now at https://www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. If you want to know how the Chevrah Kadisha developed and why we do what we do today, this is for you!
Gamliel Continuing Education Courses
Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms.
The next course will be April 25, May 2nd and May 9th, and will look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.
Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Contact us for information, by email email@example.com, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.
16th annual Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference and Gamliel Day of Learning
Mark your calendar and hold the dates! June 3-5, 2018, in the Washington D.C. area.
Click here to register
Location – The conference will be at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Maryland (just north of Washington, DC)
Dates and Times – The main part of the conference will be from noon on Sunday June 3 to 1pm on Tuesday June 5, 2018. There will be tours and hands-on workshops on Sunday morning.
The Gamliel Day of Learning will be from Tuesday at 2pm through Wednesday at noon. You will not want to miss this – we have arranged for Erica Brown to teach at this event on Tuesday – this day of learning is going to be fantastic!
Who Should Attend? Consider attending the conference if you:
- are interested in the fields of community organizing, consumer advocacy, bikkur cholim, chaplaincy,rabbinic texts, thanatology, hospice care, grief therapy, funeral direction, cemetery management, and legacy planning
- recognize the importance of liturgy and ritual in ensuring that the spiritual dimension of the end-of-life continuum is appreciated, and that the work of the Chevrah Kadisha is done with full regard for the respect and dignity of all involved
- want to learn more about the entire end-of-life continuum – dealing with life-threatening illness, legacy and preparation of ethical wills, preparing for death and at the time of death, care for the body- taharahand shmirah, care for relatives and friends, funeral and burial, mourning, grieving, remembering and providing comfort – with underlying themes of communal obligation, care for the poor and elderly, consumer protection, and Jewish continuity.
- believe it is essential to shift the culture surrounding continuum-of-life issues in the Jewish community – from an attitude of denial and neglect around death, to a more open attitude towards death that includes increasing awareness, acceptance, and healthy integration into family and community life.
- want to participate in the development of a strong Jewish corps of professionals and volunteers to become communal leaders who work to inspire, support, organize, teach, and advocate for the full range of Chevrah Kadisha work in synagogues and communities.
Workshop Leaders – If you are interested, or know someone else who might be interested in leading a workshop, suggest it to us with a short paragraph of explanation – send to info@Jewish-funerals.org
Registration – Registration is open now.
Organization Pricing – is available if three or more members of an organization are attending the whole conference and the organization has paid membership dues of $180. You can cover the cost of organizational membership right on the registration form. Even if you don’t have three members attending the conference, we appreciate your organization’s support as a member.
Books – This year you can pre-order and pre-pay for books right on the registration form.
Exhibits – If you, or someone you know, would like to exhibit at the conference, let us know by sending us an email – info@Jewish-funerals.org
Meals – In addition to Sunday brunch, we provide six supervised Kosher meals as part of the conference registration. Please let us know if you have allergies or special dietary needs.
Flights – Many cities have direct flights to National (DCA), Baltimore Washington (BWI) and Dulles (IAD).
Ground Transport – Direct connections to the Metro are available from National Airport. We’ll update the website mid-January with additional ground transportation options.
Hotel – We have negotiated a great hotel rate at American Inn. Contact them at 301-656-9300 and give them group booking code KNG or email or phone our hotel contact Minoli Minoli.Muhandiramge@baywoodhotels.com who is at extension 111. Our group rate is $139 plus 13% tax per room per night for singles or doubles. There are a limited number of doubles.
Home Hospitality – will be available. Let us know if you are interested.
Shabbat – If you would like to be connected to a family for Shabbat dinner, home hospitality, and synagogue services, let us know.
Refunds: 90% of the registration fee will be refunded if you cancel in writing before May 1; 80% before May 15; 50% May 15 or later, only if you have a really good excuse!
Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the annual conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Continuing Education courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.
You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD 21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.
You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).
If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to email@example.com.
Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.
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If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.