Yesterday I finished sitting shiva for my father Elliott Arian z”l and this morning I am back at work.
This is the first time I have sat shiva. When my mother died four and a half years ago, as you may recall, she had asked for her body to be cremated and for there to be no funeral or memorial service of any kind. When she passed away I was on vacation and Keleigh and I were out of the country. Although I certainly mourned her death, I did not sit shiva per se and there was no rush to get back to work as I was at any rate on vacation.
I’ve said to many congregants over the years that there is a reason that Judaism gives us specific timelines for formal mourning. I must confess that the week of shiva doesn’t seem long enough. I still get the urge several times a day to pick up the phone and call my Dad, or email him an interesting article I just read, and then I remember that I’ll never be able to do that again. Because my Dad had been sick and in pain for some time, his actual death nine days ago was an occasion for relief as much as for sadness, and it’s only now that the sadness is overtaking the relief. But Judaism recognizes that life must go on and the best tribute that we can pay to our loved ones is to dedicate ourselves even more to the values they lived by and good traits that they possessed. We’re not commanded to stop feeling sad or stop missing our loved ones but we are commanded after the appropriate time to ease back into our normal lives. While I’m no longer sitting shiva I am now in shloshim for about another three weeks which means among other things no shaving and no haircuts. I had already made plans to get a haircut next week in time for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah but instead, I’ll be looking a bit shaggy until after the end of Hanukkah.
I want to once again thank the entire congregation for their support during the week of shiva. Providing meals, facilitating the shiva gathering this past Thursday night, cards, phone calls, emails, donations in my Dad’s memory, making sure that there was always a minyan so I could say Kaddish -- all of these means of support are deeply appreciated. I can’t thank you all enough.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian