Thursday, November 1, 2007

Showing Emotion or Not When Grieving

Click over to read my responsd to A Simple Jew's question to me about some aveilim who seem to show emotion and others who do not. Here is ASJ's question to me...

A Simple Jew asks:

After returning from a shiva house, you wrote to me that you found it remarkable that the widow had a tremendous sense of composure and did not show any outward signs of sadness.

Firstly, please do not misinterpret my words or think me to be insensitive. I understand that people express grief in different ways. In our era, indeed there have even been great tzaddikim who have grieved privately in the manner you described. Yet, not crying seems completely foreign to me. At the funeral of my grandmother in 1999, I asked Mr. J why it seemed like no one else was crying and I, on the other hand, was bawling my eyes out. Mr. J turned to me and said, "You have to realize, you have a different kind of heart."

The Sudilkover Rebbe, though also seems to share my type of heart. When I spoke to him on the phone as he sat shiva, he told me that he would find himself breaking out crying at times as he thought about his father.To me, crying is giving a true expression to your inner self and not crying is attempting to put on a façade of composure; attempting to fool others into believing that you are really an emotionally strong person. When a person grieves inside but not externally, he is not exemplifying the principle of tocho kebaro; he is lacking the quality of simplicity.

As much as I can respect the fact that others may have a differing viewpoint, I cannot change my own on this topic. So, my friend, could you please share with me your thoughts on what I wrote above?

Dixie Yid Answers...

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of Picasso's "The Tragedy," from his "Blue Period," courtesy of

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Anonymous said...

Amazing hashgacha pratis that this topic should come up. Just yesterday at shacharis, the baal tefillah was a man in his late thirties who was saying his last set of kaddishes before his year of availus for his mother was to end. Half-way through his final kaddish, he could not continue, as he was mamash crying. He struggled his way through the end of kaddish, his voice cracking from tears and stood by the amud for a good few minutes. When he finally turned around, it was evident that he still had not composed himself... he walked all the way to his makom in tears. The entire kehilah felt his pain- I myself was on the verge of breaking down as well... it was a universal sadness. It's not to be unexpected when you think about it. But in my experience, this type of thing has been very rare; almost unprecedented. And it will, do doubt, make a positive roshem on me forever.

Would love to hear your thoughts about real emotions (crying/smiling, etc.) during shemoneh esrei, i.e. how "real" is the conversation?

~Yavoh Yedid

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


That definitely must have been a difficult experience, seeing someone in pain lilke that and knowing that there is nothing that you could do about it.

The hardest time like that for my was not at my own grandmother's funeral, a few years ago. It was at the funeral for a 23 year old girl who was about to start medical school. That was the most difficult funeral I have ever been to. She had a large family and there were hundreds of people at the funeral, but it was horrible. From the women's side, there was screaming and sobbing going on almost the entire time. I cannot even believe that I was able to stay there the whole time. Needless to say, there was "not a dry eye in the house."

As far as Shemoneh Esreh, it's tough. When you're talking to another person, you can see him there listening and reacting to what you're saying. You may smile or react in other ways emotionally because you can see that someone is listening.

Hashem has hidden Himself in such a way that even though you and I *know* that He is there and listening on an intellectual level, since we can't *see* him, we (or at least I) don't really *feel* that he is there much of the time. That's the challenge. Having a *real* conversation with Hashem evokes *real* feelings.

The best eitza I have used so far is using that space between "Yihihu l'ratzon" and "Elokai netzor," for a short hisbodedus session. Speaking to Hashem in my own words just makes it realer to me, so that's one eitza. (Although sepparate time for Hisbodedus in addition to that is the ideal.)

What are *your* thoughts on the "realness" of the conversation in Shemoneh Esreh?

-Dixie Yid