Why I Am Not “Sitting Shiva”

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My father, Marty Newman, died three days ago on April 12, 2015. He was 90 years old when he breathed his final breath.

I am not “sitting shiva” this week, even though our family is Jewish and we want to be respectful of our traditions and customs.

Jews “observe shiva” for the 7 days after a loved one dies. The purpose is to grieve and mourn the loss of the person, and is marked by several acts:

The mourners do not work during the week, all mirrors in the house are covered, mourners sit on low chairs below visitors (to show their lowly position and grief), a candle is lit in memory of the person, a black cloth which is ripped is customarily worn, and there is a daily prayer service in which the Mourner’s Kaddish is said.

All in all, “sitting shiva” is a somber, sullen experience. I remember going to my aunt and uncle’s co-op apartment when my grandfather died and we all sat around speaking softly and “looking a bit like death warmed over,” as my dad put it at the time.

I am not sitting shiva because I do not feel somber and sullen about my father’s death. Please allow me to explain! I am sad that I will never be able to pick up the phone and call my dad. We won’t be able to talk about cars anymore, and I won’t laugh at his hysterical stories about life. But all of that is about ME and not about him. This is my grief and loss, and I hope I can lean into this mourning process in the coming weeks and months.

There is also a big part of me that smiles at my dad being free of pain and suffering (no more shortness of breath, no more losing his dentures!). Even more than that, I want to shout for joy at my dad being in the very presence of God and the Messiah, Y’shua. If you are Jewish reading this post you might think, “Uh-oh, Brian is being delusional! He’s lost his mind!”

But I haven’t. I know that we Jews have resisted and rejected the idea that the Messiah has already come, and we have generally rejected that Jesus (Y’shua) is that Messiah. If my dad could say anything to us right now it would be, Believe it! Believe it that Jesus really was and is the promised Messiah of Israel! My dad knows it first hand now.

So there is no compelling reason to sit shiva for me. I do not need to be in a state of somber depression over my dad’s death.

There is one aspect of the mourning process that I simply love. That is, saying the Mourner’s Kaddish. Shortly after my mom called us on Sunday morning to say that dad had passed, I found myself reciting the prayer in Hebrew under my breath. For all of my years going to synagogue on Long Island, I did not know what that prayer meant in English. Now I do. It is all about God’s greatness and goodness, which my father knows now to the full!

MOURNER’S KADDISH

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.

May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

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