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Title: Consolation, The Spiritual Journey Beyond Grief

Title: Consolation, The Spiritual Journey Beyond Grief
Author: Rabbi Dr. Maurice Lamm
Publisher: Jewish Publication Society, Phila., PA

 

The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning by Rabbi Maurice Lamm (1969, Jonathan David Pub.) has remained a staple on Jewish bookshelves for the past 35 years. In it, Rabbi Lamm discusses the many halachot and customs surrounding death and mourning; in his new book Consolation, he offers guidance to both mourners and those offering condolence, and provides pastoral advice to help comfort their grief, with insights for healing.

Maurice Lamm, who was one of Jewish Press publisher Rabbi Sholom Klass’s dearest and closest friends for much of his life, composed the earlier book to answer a need in our society.
The current volume arose from his need to put down on paper what he has learned from a lifetime of pastoral counseling – in teaching as well as practicing.

In 13 chapters ranging from specific advice on how to heal the emotions and fill an empty hole in the heart, to philosophic recommendations for how to connect with cosmic consciousness,
Consolation roams the universe of healing and Jewish spirituality to assist the efforts to bring the mourner’s thoughts back among the living without the necessity of forgetting the departed.

Especially poignant is the section “Words for a loss, When at a Loss for Words,” in which Rabbi Lamm provides a replacement for the banalities that are often uttered in our need to offer comfort and solicitude. He lists some of the things we should not say, as well as meditations and parables that show that we are not alone and others have traveled this road before us. Who among us has never been guilty of “foot in mouth” disease – but better an attempt at consolation than an abandonment of the mourner to his unrelieved grief.

Utilizing the language and thought processes of the psychiatrist or psychiatric social worker, Rabbi Lamm leads us through all the many emotions that we may experience, including anger, numbness, weeping, unraveling, abandonment, fear and grief. He compares the wounds of grief to that of the keriah, where we tear the garment and resew the tear – but if you look
closely you can still see the stitches. We mourn a loss and it leaves an indelible imprint on us emotionally, but eventually we get over it. This book is an instruction manual to help speed the
process.

It is a specific commandment to visit and console the mourner. At the time of grief the mourner suffers from a deep hole in his or her heart and needs to feel connected in order to escape the primal feeling of abandonment of someone close to them. Empathy is even more important at this time than sympathy.

We are reminded that our ritualized process of mourning serves as a process to help us connect to a community in which many events, including birkat hamazon and religious services,
require the presence of a specific number of people joining together. Rabbi Lamm refers to Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman, author of Peace of Mind, who affirmed that the halachic
observances of our mourning laws are validated by the findings of modern psychotherapy as being a remarkably good form of grief management.

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