Don’t miss this opportunity to explore Israel off the beaten track, feel the conflict first hand, understand the security issues and politic realities, and have an unforgettable trip!
How does one comfort an individual mourning the loss of a loved one? What does one say so that the grieving person will feel consoled?
In Part One of this series on validation, the above questions were presented. To illustrate the vital points of the mitzvah to comfort the bereaved, we referred to the story in Maseches Avos D’Rabi Noson (14:6). In this segment, we will further explore these questions using some of the details in the story.
When Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai sat shiva for his son, several of his students tried comforting him. Yet, only one accomplished that goal. The first disciple referred to Adam as an illustration of one who had suffered a loss and was consoled. The student concluded, “You also should accept consolation.” Reb Yochanan responded: “Not only do I have my personal suffering, but now you remind me of Adam’s suffering, too.”
The second student presented Iyov (Job), one who had suffered the loss of his entire family in one day, and had also been consoled. The student then added the same concluding comment, as the first student. And in a similar vein, the Rebbe responded as he did earlier.
The third disciple mentioned Aaron and his loss of two sons (both in the same day), indicating that Aaron was consoled. The same concluding statements followed, both by the student and the Rebbe. And finally, the fourth student pointed to King David as one who had suffered a loss and noted that he, too, was consoled. Again, the student concluded with the same statement to his Rebbe as did the disciples before him, as was the Rebbe’s response. It would only be with the fifth student that Reb Yochanan would be consoled.
The question, therefore, begs asking: Why did Reb Yochanan not accept consolation from his four students? Was there something in their content, style of communication, language, attitude, disposition, or perhaps something else that precluded their achieving their goal? And on the other side of the pole, why was RebYochanan comforted by his disciple, Rabbi Elazer ben Aruch? How was his approach or communication different from that of the other students?
Interestingly, there seem to be several common threads present in the scenarios of the first four students. Firstly, theindividuals who had been identified as “also” having gone through their personal experiences of grief – as did Rabbi Yochanan – were four great Torah personalities. Secondly, the responses given by each of the four disciples was that of the same nature: of comparison. Thirdly, the comparisons could be perceived as containing within them a component of judgment – as if to say – “If this great person was able to take comfort during his time of grief, then you, too, should do the same.” Then again, sometimes (and for some people), utilizing comparisons potentially can offer chizuk (inspiration). Referring to a righteous person as a source of inspiration can motivate a person to feasibly achieve that which the great personality has accomplished.
However, when comparisons are used as a paradigm, it is possible that such an approach can negate an individual’s feelings. One can, therefore, wonder If the students were implying how their Rebbe “should” feel, is it possible their words might be invalidating how, in fact, their Rebbe might be feeling?
Enter Rabbi Elazer ben Arech, a student whose words took his Rebbe on a different path. He did not refer to anyone else’s loss; he made no comparisons. Instead, he used an allegory as his style of communication; and it worked (parenthetically, there are instances in both Midrashic and Talmudic stories where allegories are used as a means to convey lessons). He “reached” his Rebbe, something which was not attained by the other disciples.
Based on the responses Reb Yochanan gave, it would appear that he possessed a profound depth of empathy for others who had experienced personal loss. Additionally, being so sensitized to their anguish, it would seem that he also internalized their pain and grief on top of his own. One can only imagine: feeling a double degree of grief certainly would not be conducive for a mourner to receive comfort and consolation.
Reb Elazer had to have understood his Rebbe and that which he required most. He also had to have recognized the values which Reb Yochanan honored and held dear to him. In his case, it was helping him reflect on the true meaning of parenting. As the allegory suggested, Reb Yochanan’s role was to be the keeper, charged with maintaining the precious object lent to him, and returning it to The King undamaged, unsoiled and in a perfect state. To that end, Rabbi Elazer reviewed with his Rebbe that which his son accomplished in his lifetime. As a Torah scholar who had studied all of Torah (the oral as well as written), his son left the world without sin.
One can assume that Reb Yochanan did not require people to sit with him and empathize with him for his loss. Obviously, Reb Yochanan’s greatest consolation came from tuning in to that which he felt in his heart and soul – the fulfillment of his role as a parent.And while we are not on the level of Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai, it behooves those who offer words of consolation, to remember one of the most important aspects of the approach used by Rabi Elazer ben Arech: We are all different and everyone requires something different in order to feel comforted and consoled. Tune in to the needs of the bereaved and be sensitized to their needs before you say anything. If one’s words will not be received as consolation, are they appropriate altogether?
The subject of validation continues in Part Three as we move to a different landscape.
Debbie Brown is a certified life coach specializing in parent coaching, and is an NLP Master Practitioner. She is available for private, confidential phone coaching sessions as well as lectures and group workshops. For further information or to express feelings regarding the Parental Perspective topic, Debbie may be contacted at email@example.com.
About the Author:
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
For many, contemplating our exile from our homeland is more of an intellectual endeavor than an emotional one.
I encourage all singles and their parents to urge their shadchanim to participate in ShadchanZone.
People definitely had stress one hundred and fifty years ago, but it was a different kind of stress.
It is inspirational to see the average Israeli acting with aplomb and going about daily routines no matter what is happening.
Participants wore blue and white, waved Israeli flags, and carried pro-Israel posters.
To support the Victor Center for Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases at Miami Children’s, please call 305-666-2889 or visit www.mchf.org/donate and select the “Victor Center” fund.
The course will be taught once a month for seven consecutive months and is designed for women at all levels of Jewish knowledge.
Like many of his contemporaries, he went through some hard years, but eventually he earned the rewards of his perseverance and integrity.
The president’s message was one of living peacefully in a Jewish and democratic state, Jews of all stripes unified as brothers, with Arabs or citizens of other religions.
What Hashem desires most is that we learn to connect with each other as children in the same family.
You are my brothers and sisters. Your pain is my pain.
Having parented a struggling adolescent for several years, Yael was expecting that life would be different for her now twenty-year old son. She was, and still is, an excellent student, diligently applying the tools she has been gaining in our coaching sessions. Harmony and peace has returned to her home, and the relationship (with her son) she was working on mending has become a reality. Admittedly, she attributes the restored relationship to a parenting methodology she has undertaken — the love-tough approach.
Toxic Language Tishrei — and the yom tov pattern returns! Of which pattern am I speaking, you ask? If we were to identify the main aspects of each of the holidays during this month, generally speaking, and in rather simplistic behavioral terms, the pattern of the night and following day might look something along the […]
Recently, I asked a family friend, a financial advisor, to share with me his perspective on the importance of rapport in the world of sales. In a general way, I knew that successful salespeople maintain good rapport with their clients. And so I was curious. Was the need for developing rapport in business any different than doing so in a parent-child relationship? To that end, I posed the following questions: “How do you establish rapport with a new client? And what do you believe is a key issue to creating rapport?
A political figure refuses to comment on a current news story in which he is involved.. In the hope of avoiding a scuffle with her parents, a teenager, who has broken curfew, quietly opens up the front door. As she makes a mad dash to her room, she tries to avoid being noticed and questioned. In both situations, a lack of communication may be perceived as failure on the part of the individual to take responsibility for his/her actions, and/or an admission of guilt. In such cases when the person does not say yes, the message being conveyed to others can be perceived as noby default, and vice versa.
The Meaning of The Communication Is The Response It Elicits
In most homes, as women prepare to join the Seder (hopefully, somewhat rested), the anticipatory anxiety associated with the “P” word (pre-Pesach angst) is no longer. The cleaning, preparations, shopping and cooking are now a thing of the past. And finally, the Hagaddah’s legacy of yetzias Mitzrayim (exodus from Egypt) takes front stage.
What does it mean to be validated? In what areas of life can one expect to be validated? What attitude, behaviors or actions convey a message (or feeling) to someone that s/he is being validated? How does one validate, or invalidate? What benefits are there to validating and being validated – in the short term as well as long term?
In the first two parts of this four-part series, we discussed the need to validate someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one. Utilizing a Rabbinic illustration, we presented the story of Rav Yochanan ben Zakai when he sat shivah for his son. The focus was on his receiving consolation: why he received comfort from his one student, Rav Elazer ben Aruch, and not from his other four students. Now let us move to a Biblical backdrop as we continue.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/a-validating-experience-part-ii/2010/01/06/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: