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Bestowing Comfort

10/25/2011 09:50:01 PM


Well known are the statements and parables of Chazal that encourage acts of chesed. One of the most famous examples can be found in the Gemara in Sotah (14a) that states that following the death of Avraham Avinu that HKB'H was menachem aveil and attempted to bring some measure of comfort to Yitzchak. In fact, many of the Rishonim believe that nichum aveilim is not only Biblically mandated (this is the position of Rabbeinu Yonah, and to some degree the Rambam) but that nichum aveilim is the ultimate fulfillment of imitatio dei in the sense that we imitate the chesed that was exhibited by the Ribbono Shel Olam.

With Naftali Bamberger and Reuven Gould sitting shiva, I have unfortunately spent time recently thinking about this mitzvah of nichum aveilim. On the face of it, we understand the mitzvah very well. Nichum Aveilim is an opportunity to be there as a friend- to listen, to empathize or just to sit wordlessly allowing the mourner to silently feel the presence and comfort of friendship during what is often the most difficult moments of a person's life. That friendship creates something of a firm embrace when a person perhaps feels as though they can't stand on their own two feet.

In a way though, nichum aveilim extends well beyond the bounds of friendship. I remember speaking to people living in Israel following the tragedy in Itamar. My brother told me that a busload of people traveled from Ramat Beit Shemesh to Neveh Tzuf in the West Bank to be menachem aveil at the home Mrs. Fogel's father. When they got there, they literally couldn't turn onto the block- there were hundreds of people just standing outside of his home. My brother commented that it was just an amazing moment to be a part of Am Yisroel. To have a chance to send a message to the mourners and to the world about the spirit of a nation.

In a way, nichum aveilim always provides this same opportunity, albeit in a slightly less dramatic fashion. Visiting a mourner is an emphatic statement proclaiming that 'I don't have to know you, but we are fundamentally connected as part of a community and as part of a nation'. There is something reassuring and comforting that even in a faceless and impersonal technological era we continue to champion the centrality of the silent human embrace.

Please consider the beauty of what nichum aveilim stands for during the duration of this week as Naftali and Reuven conclude their respective shivas and anytime in the future when a member of our community finds themselves having to escort a loved one to the olam ha'emes.

I look forward to our community sharing semachot in the future.


R' Blass

Fri, May 7 2021 25 Iyyar 5781