Who are the "Mourners of Zion" and why do they keep following me?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ever since Maxie died, I have been receiving cards and emails with these words, "I am so sorry for your loss.  May you be comforted among the Mourners of Zion."  I am sure I have written these words as well in the past, not really knowing what the hell I was writing but knowing that it is what you are supposed to write to other Jews when someone dies. All I can say today is, I have no idea who these people are or why I would find comfort among them.  I mean, ok, I know what is being said.  That somehow knowing that other Jews have suffered loss should somehow make me feel comforted.  Or perhaps, we are like an unofficial "grief group" of sorts - all of the sad Jews.  Even though our losses may be totally different.  Even though we don't even know each other to give one another comfort.  The point is that other people "of Zion" are grieving and we should find comfort together.  Perhaps it is an admission that only a griever can understanding grief....a meaningful way of saying, "Listen, don't look at me!  I have NO IDEA what you are going through.  But, I am going to jot down the name of this group.  You should give them a call".  Mourners of Zion.  Sometimes it feels like this is just one more group of outcasts - now we are part of yet another crappy club and again we don't know the rules, who is in charge, and how we all got here.  Other times it feels like another misplaced suggestion or generalization - meant to console but really only serving to "fire me up".  It reminds me of when a board member of mine approached Ted at Max's Shiva at our home to tell him, "You know, children die in Israel every day."  I still can't figure out if that was meant to be a comfort (it wasn't....it was more like a slap in the face).  Ya, Buddy!  Children die all over the world every day!  Thanks for the 411!  Sometimes the reference makes sense in my mind - there are so many mourners of Zion, because the Jews have suffered a long and difficult history- from the destruction of the First and Second Temples to the Holocaust, there is certainly no shortage of "Mourners of Zion".  In the book that I wrote about last week "Against the Dying of the Light", Leonard Fein talks about a desire he had to be able to count his daughter's death amongst the more "meaningful" deaths....like if she had been part of a suicide bombing or something.  Not that he actually wished that upon her or on anyone for that matter but more like a way to try and make sense of the tragedy - to put it into a greater historical context.  Her death, like Max's death, is in the context of nothing.  Max's death was meaningless and only serves in the greater context of one more SIDS death.  A death that makes no sense and has very little impact in a "National" sense.  SIDS deaths make up such a small percentage of deaths anyway that hardly anyone pays attention.  Would the Mourners of Zion even welcome me into their club?  I would have more in common with a Scientologist who lost a child to SIDS than with a Mourner of Zion, wouldn't I?  I mean, wouldn't I get more out of a comforting interaction with a Buddhist who lost a child than a Jew who lost a grandparent?  The answer from my end is yes.  I'd like to look up my former board member and ask if he can put me in contact with any of the bereaved parents in Israel that he was referring to, as I would actually like to speak to them.  I have a feeling, however, that he simply wanted us to know that we are not alone.  He either meant it like, "Get over yourselves.  Children die in Israel every day." or "You are in the company of our brethren in Israel, where children die every day".  Considering he was in the middle of a gigantic bite of corned beef sandwich, it doesn't really matter what his intention was, it felt to Ted like the former.  We are pretty sure that this particular guy and his wife came over here for the snacks.  They snacked down through the whole mourners kaddish as well - an appropriate time to put down ones sandwich for a couple of minutes.  Anyway, this Mourners of Zion business has been plaguing me for months and I decided that it was simply time to share.  Sadly, I have not found much comfort in them specifically although there are many groups of other Mourners that I have managed to find some comfort in.  For now,  I am grateful to those Mourners.

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