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By August 10, 2019 Read More →

Eichah – Coping with death & loss

Today is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, when we remember the destruction of the Temples and other tragedies that befell the Jewish people.

As humans we have to cope with loss and bereavement.

I would like to suggest, that Megilat Eicha ( Lamentations), which we read over Tisha B’av is in fact a guide of how to cope with personal loss. Eicha needs to be viewed in human terms – In Eicha, Yerushalayim is compared to a widow, a barren woman and a Niddah and this reflects the very human nature of Eicha.

I see 3 layers, 3 steps, 3 stages in how Eicha suggests we cope with the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Bet Hamikdash. These 3 layers,3 steps, 3 stages can be paralleled with how we, as human beings, cope with personal loss.

In chapter 3:1, the author of Eicha is sitting alone trying to work out what has happened – why has Yerushalayim and the Bet Hamikdash been destroyed. Why has this tragedy befallen him – why have I lost my loved one? why did he have to die from that terrible illness? why has my friend died?

The first stage in the responding to this question in Eicha is emotional and totally from the heart. He can’t rationalize or make sense out of it and is in total despair, helplessness and depression. The future is bleak and dark.He sees no future, reflected by the reference to Yerushalayim being barren – ie, having no future.

Eicha describes Yerushalayim as a place where children and youth dying, 4:10 refers to mothers cooking their children – ie. they can’t cope with the loss and see no future. The phrase, ‘With no-one to comfort her’ comes up a number of times in Eicha. In other words, Yerushalayim is inconsolable. Eicha describes Yerushalayim crying – Nothing makes sense.

I would like to suggest this initial, first response is parallel to the first response a person goes through when they have to cope with loss and bereavement.His world has fallen apart. He sees no future. Day is night and night is day. Even though people try to comfort him, he cannot be consoled.

Eicha, 2:18, describes Yerushalayim crying out,just like in the first stage of mourning, a person who has lost a loved one has to cry as they can’t express their feelings articulately through words.

The second stage evident in Eicha is that he does try to rationalize and fathom why the tragedy is happened. There is a degree of acceptance. He attributes the destruction of Yerushalayim to the Jewish People sinning. Verses 1:5, 1:8, 5:7 as well as others describe why Yerushalayim and the Bet Hamikdash had to be destroyed, as they sinned and didn’t keep their part of the bargain.

G-d created man to be a partner in creating and running the world. As the Jews sinned,they could no longer be partner with G-d in the evolution of the world and so the Bet Mikdash had to be destroyed. Verse 4:13 describes the Prophets sinning and Kohanim as being corrupt. In other words, there was a reason why they were punished. We have moved on to the second stage of dealing with loss – that of rationalization and conceptualization.

We know the Gemarah says, the first Bet Hamikdash was destroyed due to murder, idolatry and incest and the second because of baseless hatred.

I would like to parallel this second stage that Eicha gives for coping with the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Bet Hamikdash, with the second stage or level of coping with grief and bereavement -That of rationalization and acceptance. The mourner is no longer alone and connects with others who have also suffered like him. Through connecting with others and getting help, his loss begins to be understood, internalized and conceptualized.

However, the loved one or friend died – from old age, an accident, an illness, a terror attack or in war, still the mourning family members or friends, can learn to come to terms with it. During this second stage of grief, you learn to understand and rationalize what happened. You can approach your loss from a rational, intellectual perspective and not just emotionally. Yes, a young person dying tragically will never make sense, but in this second stage,at least you are able to get used to the new harsh reality and begin to be able to move on.

The third stage that Eicha suggests in dealing with the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Bet Mikdash is yearning for rebuilding and re-birth. Of going back to how things were. The last verse 5:21, says take us back to how things were. In other words,Yerushalayim has gotten over her destruction and is now looking to go back to normal and to how things were.

I would like to suggest, this third stage described  at the end of Eicha, where the author is ready for Yerushalayim and the Bet Mikdash to be rebuilt, is parallel to the third stage of mourning the loss of a loved one, when yes, you will never be able to replace them and living with memories is very painful, but still you are ready to rebuild your life and get back into routine, daily life and move on however difficult.

So, seeing Eicha in these terms, really shows us what Eicha and Tisha B’av is all about. It’s about as a result of the Batei Mikdash being destroyed, because of our sins,we lost our connection and relationship with G-d. This loss of our relationship with G-d, is paralleled to losing a loved one and we should feel that same void and emptiness and go  through the same 3 stages of recuperation .

May we see the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the Bet Mikdash soon in our days,

Benjy.

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