Let Them Cry

Speeches. There will be speeches and ceremonies and candle-lit vigils. There will be outcries and op-eds and pros and cons of gun control. Newtown, Connecticut will host the press and the president and wonder “Why?” And staring into the bright lights of all the questions and attention will be those 20-odd families whose lives and hearts have been ripped asunder with pain that only a day ago was impossible to even imagine.

And I ask, for their sakes, that in the midst of all the debate and memorial and public questioning of fate, that we recall whose lives have been forever changed by the horror of loss too great to comprehend. Many will mourn with the families of the young children and teachers cut down so cruelly—but too few will be able to fathom their tragedy. When my own sixteen-year-old son was murdered in a Jerusalem terror attack, my family and I found ourselves both at the center of a great deal of attention, while at the same time all alone with our pain. As Tolstoy wrote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Each unhappy family needs to mourn as they feel fit. Each needs to move at their own pace—despite the roar of the crowd expressing their support.

There may be some for whom the public memorial service is a gift, others for whom it is a nearly unbearable burden. Some families need attention to help process their pain, others solitude to regain their equilibrium. Let them decide. Let your own need for connecting to the tragic, for helping, take a back seat to their pain.

For those who wish to offer their thoughts and condolences to the bereaved, one of the best means of connecting is through the old fashion letter. It is absolutely non-intrusive. I received hundreds of letters when my son was killed and only began to look at them months later. Some amused me; some moved me. But I was able to read them when I was ready and react to them as I saw fit. Nobody was on the other end of the phone or email expecting an immediate response.

Our world is tragic and our humanity is at times measured just by our response to tragedy. May our prayers be with those who are suffering and our thoughts focused on how to lessen their pain.

About the Author
Naftali Moses, born in NYC, has lived in Israel for over 30 years. He holds a PhD in medical history from Bar-Ilan University, and teaches and writes on the nexus of medicine and Judaism. The author of "Really Dead?" and "Mourning Under Glass", he has also translated several books on Jewish thought into English, published on philosophy in the Mishna, and aggadah.