The Shabbat after a tragedy

One of the Zemirot Shabbat that is sung in many homes is the song of Yom Ze LeYisrael. It was composed in the Middle Ages, though verses were added later during the 16th century. It describes, as many other Zemirot do, different aspects of Shabbat.

However, there is one striking verse of this Zemer, that describes a side of Shabbat that is starkly different than the more standard descriptions of Shabbat – but something we can certainly relate to this week.
“It is a delight of the heart to a broken nation.
For pained souls it provides an invigoration of the soul
On Shabbat, the pained find tranquility and security
Shabbat is a day of rest.”
This verse describes Shabbat as a way of finding relief and respite from the challenges of the previous week. Hopefully, we normally do not experience weeks that we feel the need to take hide away from. But when unfortunately such a week comes along, Shabbat does allow us to come together, as families and communities, and gather the strength, and begin to look forward.
For the mourners who have been sitting Shiva this week, the first act they do that will resemble a return to normal life is to walk to Shul on Friday night. Tonight`s Friday night meal is probably the first time the family have been alone, just reflecting internally, not sharing externally, since the tragedy. In those communities affected, the Rabbi will speak, trying to find some link between the events of this week and the week`s Torah reading, thus helping people place this tragedy in it`s broader context.
Fascinatingly, this aspect of Shabbat is even reflected in Jewish custom. In many German communities, even indirect relatives, such as grandchildren observe many of the restrictions of a mourner until the first Shabbat, but not for the full seven days. After Shabbat, there is a different feeling to the tragedy, as we have had an opportunity to internalise the events of the past week, and we can begin to look to the future.
Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh. I do not know how much singing there will be during Hallel – but it will be a poignant prayer, which allow us to reflect precisely on the above point. This Hallel can be the moment we try to put a terrible month behind us, and usher in what will hopefully be a better month for the Jewish people.
Boi Kalla, Boi Kalla – Welcome, the Shabbat bride, Welcome, the Shabbat bride
About the Author
Aron White, 22, is currently studying and teaching in Yeshivat HaKotel, whilst studying for a degree in Politics and International Relations through LSE.