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JLeslie's avatar

Jewish jellies: what would a rabbi say in this situation?

Asked by JLeslie (46173 points ) October 6th, 2011

A friend of mine, we’ll call her Carol, has a funeral service to attend on Yum Kippur. The son of a friend died. Not a very close friend, but still close enough that usually Carol would go. Carol told me too bad her friend didn’t think about it being Yum Kippur before she planned it, because Carol won’t be able to go because of the holiday. I told Carol, “just go. It’s just a couple hours. God will understand.” She replied to me, it isn’t God understanding, it’s about me and how I will feel.” She went on a little more about Yum Kippur being a day of atonement and her thoughts and focus should be on that, and she fasts. Well, I know what the day is, I just think she should still go to the funeral. This is a funeral of someone’s child dying before them. It is an adult child, but still.

So what would the Rabbis say? I was raised in a non-religious home, so I don’t have any personal experience when these types of decisions had to be made.

Carol is reformed, she does take the holidays very seriously though, and she believes in God.

I support whatever she decides, she said she is still thinking about it. She said she might ask a Rabbi. She doesn’t belong to a synagogue, not that it matters.

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18 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Ha ha ha. Rabbis have been arguing over every word in the Torah, and probably the diacritical marks and punctuation for millenia.

And you think we can answer this? Read the Talmud. Read the critiques of the Talmud. Read the footnotes. Read the explications de texte of the foot notes.

I am surprised that any Jewish cemetery would bury on Yom Kippur>

janbb's avatar

@gailcalled I’m asuming the funeral is not held by or for Jews. It couldn’t be.

I had the same exact situation last year. A close friend’s mother had died. They are Episcopalian. I am not very religious but I usually will not drive and fast part of the day. I did go to the funeral, I felt supporting a friend was in the spirit of my personal credo.

When I get the chance (and if I remember), I will ask a rabbi I know who is Orthodox – my brother.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled The death in the family, is not a Jewish family.

Judi's avatar

I’m not Jewish, but next year, won’t she be making atonement to her friend for missing her son’s funeral?

zenvelo's avatar

I’m not Jewish, but looking at some Yom Kippur activities that are suggested, it seems like attending the funeral is the appropriate thing to do.

Perform a mitzvah: The best mitzvah is to touch the life of someone else and see if you can help him/her in some way

Attend Yizkor: A memorial service for the dead, this Jewish custom requires you to visit the graves of loved ones before the High Holy Days. Performing this deed is considered to have special virtue. It helps us to remember the people who gave us life and inspired us to perform good actions.

Rarebear's avatar

The rabbi would say go to the funeral. zenvelo got it right.

janbb's avatar

@Rarebear I think it would depend on which denomination you are speaking of. It’s not clear to me that all Orthodox rabbis would agree with that; especially if one had to drive.

gailcalled's avatar

And you can attend Yizkor without visiting anyone’s grave, in this mobile society.

cazzie's avatar

So… the lesson is… don’t die during Yum Kippur? I don’t think so. A funeral is many things to many people. Realising your mortality is a big part of attending a funeral, as is supporting friends and loved ones while they are going thought a difficult time. What is atonement, but the realisation that we are mortal and flawed and sorry for our shortcomings. If we don’t support friends during their time of need, does that not, in itself, become a shortcoming? I don’t think any all-knowing deity would punish us for trying to be better people, friends, members of our community, by stepping out and supporting people we care about during their time of need.

gailcalled's avatar

MY mother died on the Saturday of Memorial Day Week-end. Neither the cemetery nor the Synagogue answered their phones on Sabbath.

The cemetery crew didn’t dig on Sunday, and Monday, being a national holiday was out.

So in spite of all our protests and keening and tearing of garments, we had to bury her on the Tues.

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi I feel the same. And, Yum Kippur as @zenvelo pointed out is a day we remember those who have left us. I can’t understand why a rabbi would not think the living person who is now greiving, Carol’s friend, should not have Carol’s support and presence during this horrible time, no matter what the holy day. My interpretation of Judaism, the way I like to think about it, is people come first. That God understands and wants us to help each other first and foremost. Erev Yum Kippur, the day before the day of Yum Kippur, is to ask forgiveness from the people we may have hurt, and on Yum Kippur we ask for forgiveness from God. People come first, God wants us to be good to each other more than anything, more than a belief in him.

But, like in most religions, there are times when there seems to be no logic in the demand or interpretation of the religious text or tradition, @gailcalled was right about that, probably Rabbis will disagree. Most observant Jews just follow the rules, and don’t make allowance for the chaos of life. However, if an orthodox rabbi tells her to go to the funeral, maybe she would be free of any guilt or bad feelings.

Rarebear's avatar

By the way the correct transliteration is Yom Kippur.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Oy. I know. I don’t know why I always write it the wrong way. I am corrected all the time. It’s one of those I always screw up, that and definitely (did I spell it right?). Thanks.

flutherother's avatar

If Jewish people knew, would they need rabbis?

Judi's avatar

I think I should celebrate this holiday. I don’t know why Christians stopped. Would a Synagogue welcome an outsider on this Holy day?

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi Contact the synagogue ahead, make sure they will have room. Sometimes there are tickets given out. I am sure they would be happy to have you if it is possible. Probably you would be most comfortable at a reformed synagogue. My FIL goes to Yom Kippur services at an Orthodox synagogue and he is a practicing Catholic now. But, they probably don’t know. Anyway, he doesn’t belong to the synagogue, they always welcome him.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

What better time to sit in retrospect and attone for sins than at a funeral.

Heck, sometimes I think God PLANS these things.

answerjill's avatar

I can’t speak for rabbis or for anybody other than myself here. As a traditional Jew, I don’t drive or ride in cars on Yom Kippur (or an any Shabbat – and Yom Kippur is considered to be like the holiest of Sabbaths and is the only fast day that has to be observed on the Sabbath if that is the way the calendar falls. All other fasts, if they fall on Shabbat are moved to another day.) If I could walk to the funeral (and it was not too far while fasting), then I might consider going. Otherwise, I wouldn’t go the funeral, but I would be sure to send a card and/or a foodbasket or something to my friend and to be there for her if she needed anything in the upcoming weeks/months. In my mind, there are probably going to be so many people at the funeral and my friend’s grief will be so new that I doubt that she would miss me being there that much. I might change my mind about this decision if she was one of my best friends, though….

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