The Widow As An Ushpizin In The Sukkah

When my brother-in-law disappeared from my life, shortly after the death of my husband, I believed that it was my fault. As I was so deep in mourning perhaps I wasn’t sensitive enough to his needs. But after talking to many other widows, and especially after I opened the Facebook group “Widows Move On” (that has over 900 Israeli widows) I realized that the disappearance, some say evaporation, of the relatives of the deceased husband is a very common reality.

Bur since it is so troublesome, and even humiliating, to feel unwanted, excluded and even cut and erased from the world where you used to occupy all the years of your marriage, widows tend not to mention it, because of the shame.

Of course the relatives of the dead husband, his brothers and sisters, suffered a terrible loss. But naturally they go on with their lives surrounded by their nuclear family. However the life of the widow basically stops, and the family, as she and the children have known it, ceases to exist.

In the Bible widows and orphans are regarded as the most vulnerable members of society and it is the duty of the community to take care of them. As today is the eve of Sukkot and many people are busy with Mitzvot and going to Shul, here are some reminders:

Exodus 22:22-3 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry

Deuteronomy 27:19 “‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen”.

It is true that widows, especially new widows, and their children are not the life of the party, and probably it’s not that much fun to have them as Ushpizin (Aramaic for “guests”) in the Sukkah.

But being a mensch or a wo/mench is not always fun, or easy. So perhaps next time before you tell your late brother’s wife that it is too early for you to meet her, or that it is just too hard, remember it is much harder on her and her children 


About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.
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