Thursday, 19 June 2014

Some thoughts on Death and Morocco

I offer these words in honour of our member, Ester Bloomberg, who passed away this week.


Josephine and I spent much of last week in Morocco, celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary, and doing the thing that Jews so often do in far flung corners of the world – visiting the Jewish quarter. We were staying in Marrakesh. The Synagogue was indeed beautiful, but truly moving site was the old Jewish cemetery.


There are the classic Sephardi, horizontal, stones, no vertical stones in Morocco lest the wind erases the marking of the graves. There are occasional mausoleums; eternal resting places of the ‘Zaddikim,’ the ‘Gedolim’ and the ‘Mekubalim.’ But the most remarkable feature of the cemetery is the presence, closest to the entrance to the burial grounds, of the graves of children. There is a photo [here -]


Whenever I do a funeral, I’m always struck by the journey to the grave. You walk past lives evoked by brief engraving – lives of others’ lost loved ones – and somehow it contextualises the loss of the life you accompany to the grave. We say, ‘May God give you comfort amongst the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem,’ we want mourners to know, even at the bleakest moments of their own loss that others have lost too. That has to be why the path to the adult graves at the cemetery in Marrakesh leads through the tiny graves of tiny children. It’s heartbreaking and somehow in that brokenness one finds the edge of one’s own loss.


Some religions, and even some voices within Judaism, respond to any loss or pain by desperately assuring that everything is all right, and certainly will be all right, but that’s not my faith. The kind of Judaism that calls me is the one that meets me in my brokenness. None of the images of God as a mighty warrior move me at all, but hidden in the Talmud, God is described weeping along with those who mourn, a ‘companion in sorrow.’ And that works for me.


Shabbat, please God, will be cheery. We have much to celebrate with not one but two Bat Mitzvah celebrations, one in the morning in an egalitarian service and another at Minha. To those celebrating I hope we can celebrate with every ounce of joy and vigour. To those mourning I offer this broken companionship.


Shabbat shalom,


Rabbi Jeremy


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