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November 21, 1986 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-11-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

CLOSE-UP

EUROPEAN MOTORS
HAS ONE UNDERLYING
PURPOSE...TO HELP
MEN AND WOMEN
ACHIEVE MORE,
WHILE DRIVING.

True Kindness

Continued from preceding page

> , ' 6 v•` ..",

ION

":.

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^

IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR THE MERCEDES
WE EITHER HAVE IT OR CAN FIND IT.

EUROPEAN AUTO SERVICE, LTD.

21425 Woodward, Ferndale

18

Friday, November 21, 1986 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

3994130/31

"Many people are reluctant
to discuss" the deceased, he
goes on to say, "fearing that
they might do harm. And
they don't know how to con-
sole someone. And the mour-
ners feel they have to extend
hospitality."
"The whole thing of serving
food came from the neighbor-
hood helping the mourners,"
explains Rabbi Dannel I.
Schwartz of Temple Beth El.
"Did they have it catered?
That's an American thing.
"To be a neighbor, you try
to help, to care. You do what-
ever you can," he goes on to
say. "Is it necessary to
entertain? No. Should we
make them feel guilty be-
cause they feel the need?
No."
The confusion and frustra-
tion of mourners and comfor-
ters alike are illustrated by
one Detroiter's unsatisfactory
shivah.
"My mother died five years
ago. When I sat shivah,
everybody talked about when
their mother died. They said,
know how you feel.' I
wasn't interested in how it
was when their mother died.
My mother died.
"The whole thing turned
into one big party. I didn't sit
the full shivah. I couldn't
take it anymore. I couldn't
hear it anymore."
Shivah certainly wasn't
created to torture the mour-
ners. "The rabbis were smart
guys," says Rabbi Schnipper.
"They used a little psychol-
ogy. When there's the loss of
a loved one, (one) should
never be alone."
"appreciate
Mourners
people coming. By and large,
it gives the people the oppor-
tunity of unloading."
But how to keep the shivah
on track?
Harriet Sarnoff Schiff has
written two books on mourn-
ing (See Page 16). When her
husband Sander's uncle
Leonard died, Sander tailored
the shivah so that it would be
constructive for all involved.
"Instead of having a rabbi
come in, Sandy conducted the
service in English; everyone
took a part," she says. "After,
he asked everyone to share
his memories of Leonard.
That immediately changes
the tone. Now everyone is
coming up with memories."
She says that Sander em-
phasized the simple truth,
"We are here because
Leonard died. Let's talk
about Leonard."
This "session" lasted an
hour and a half and "no one
wanted to stop. Days later
people would say, 'I remem-
bered something' ... People
were not uncomfortable."
Schiff stresses the impor-
tance of honest memories.
The deceased should not be
turned into a tzaddik, she be-
lieves.
Although she grew tip in
an Orthodox home, Schiff
today is a Reform Jew. Her
views and solutions to prob-

lems tend to integrate the
best of the "spirit" of Jewish
traditions with the cultural
reality of late 20th Century
America. Rabbi Schwartz
echoes this attitude.
"Reform means change," he
explains. "Judaism means
dogma. Which is a contradic-
, tion. You have to offer alter-
natives. Without judgment.
None are right or wrong. It
depends on what works for
you as an individual."
This is a fundamental
cleavage between Reform and
traditional Judaism. Reform
argues that the individual
should be given latitude to
find his way through Jewish
custom so that Judaism will
remain relevant to him. Tra-
ditionalists argue that if
Judaism is practiced in the
traditional manner, meaning
and relevance will come.
"The area of death is not
understood," says Rabbi Le-
vin. "We don't understand"
all the laws and traditions
concerning death and mourn-
ing. "But do we understand
death?
"We can't really answer all
the questions that people ask
... We don't know all the an-
swers, (but we know) this is
how it's done. The biggest
guarantee we have for doing
the funeral correctly is doing
the laws correctly."
"Some people don't want to
sit shivah for the full seven
days," notes Rabbi Schwartz.
"They've picked an arbitrary
middle road of three days ...
Reform has said it's a relev-
ant option. Does that mean
you shouldn't sit seven? No.
"People will tell you, 'I've
been sitting shivah for five
years' with a dying relative.
We would be adding guilt on
to that person's life" by judg-
ing his behavior. "Who are
we doing this for, the living
or the dead?
"Jewish law has to be a
help. And I think that's what
the framers of the Talmud at-
tempted to do: give people the
parameters of how to love
and how to show their love:"
With steady assimilation,
are the Jewish traditions of
death and mourning being
lost?
"I haven't seen any real
erosion," argues Rabbi
Schnipper. "That three-day
thing was there 25 years ago.
The ribbon was here. Most
people are buried in shrouds.
In most situations there
hasn't been a falling away
from these things."
He calls it a stable situa-
tion that needs to be "im-
proved."
"Only in a few instances is
there no shivah at all — usu-
ally when there is no family,"
he says.
He and others noted how
Jews who have been unob-
servant or Reform for many
years will demand an Or-
thodox- funeral-for their- loved
ones.

Continued on Page 22

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