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When Sadness Is Appropriate

Translation by Rahel Jaskow

Moti Ashkenazi, 59, of Yavne, father of three and grandfather of two. Michael Ladigin, 36, a new immigrant, of Bat Yam, father of two. Tamir Avichai, 50, of Kiryat Netafim, father of six. These are the names of the three people who were murdered in the terror attack that took place yesterday in the Israeli city of Ariel.

The weekly portion begins by recounting the first burial mentioned in the Torah. “When Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron, in the land of Canaan, Abraham came to eulogize Sarah and to weep over her.” When the Matriarch Sarah dies, the Torah describes how the Patriarch Abraham, the father of the nation, mourns her, eulogizes her, and weeps over her. Our commentators explain how to mourn, and why.

Rabbi Haim ben Attar wrote in his book Or ha-Hayyim that Abraham wept over the wisdom and righteousness that the world had lost with Sarah’s death. Every person who dies leaves behind a great void. The same is true of the three men who were murdered yesterday.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes that while we know what Sarah was to Abraham and how deeply he grieved for her, “the full measure of his weeping was kept private. His grief was infinite, but the full measure of his pain was concealed in his heart and the privacy of his home.” Although we hear the eulogies at the victims’ funerals, in front of the cameras, most of the families’ mourning is private and will continue long afterward.

Over the centuries, many commentators learn from Parashat Hayyei Sarah that it is a mitzvah to eulogize the deceased in a worthy manner, particularly those who did not pass on in old age, but were murdered because they were Jews. Hearing the eulogies should not be something that gets us down; it is important that we hear them. Often in life, we become sad over small things. But in this case, sadness is appropriate, and indifference is not. Some things really are worthy of our grief.

May their memories be blessed.


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