Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Dislocation" and Insecurity During the Year of Mourning

One of the customs I've accepted for the year of mourning my mother is that I don't sit in my usual synagogue seat.

front and center, my official seat, best view in the shul

This custom isn't always observed on Shabbat according to some experts, but since I only go to shul synagogue on Shabbat, and neighbors who helped establish our congregation and instituted many of its customs moved around during their years of mourning parents, I, too, have taken it on. 

From what I read about the custom in The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning by Maurice Lamm, the custom is to sit further from the Bima and Ark.   Since my regular seat is as front and center overlooking them as one can get, that's pretty easy.  That is except for the fact that the Ezrat Nashim, Women's Gallery has pretty much all seats sold and is rather full on Shabbat and Jewish Holidays.  Add to that my sensitivity to drafts and hearing plus concentration problems when there's noise, you can imagine that it can get complicated.  But I think that's part of the reason for the custom.  We must get out of our "comfort zone" during the year of mourning to remind us that life in This World is temporary and just our preparation for the Next World.

Over the past couple of months, I've found a few places to sit in the back rows.  Regulars in shul are used to seeing me there.  But on Rosh Hashanah there were guests, mothers of neighbors who have known me well for years, and they asked me why I wasn't in my usual seat.  I had to tell them that I'm in sh'nat avel, year of mourning my mother.  They would have visited or called during shiva if they had known.  So, I had abbreviated "shiva, consolation discussions" with them.  The custom is to comfort the mourner of a parent for a year, so it was the right thing.

This experience is very much like I would have had if I had managed to make a pilgrimage to Har Habayit, the Temple Mount during shloshim, the first thirty days of mourning. The custom is to walk around Har Habayit to the right, except for mourners in shloshim  who walk to the left.  People are supposed to ask them why they're in the wrong direction, and then linachem, comfort them as a response.

I really feel that this custom, this minhag,  is very fitting, at least for me.


Esser Agaroth said...

This post has been included in this week's Haveil Havalim Jewish/Israel Round-Up.

Batya said...