When mourning is going close to death without dying

I haven’t been posting for a while because I haven’t known what to say beyond what I’ve already said about this awful war that Hamas thrust upon Israel and the Jewish people.

I’ve been grieving along with everyone I know in Israel and the United States the loss of the 1200 Israelis murdered and desecrated on October 7, and the growing number of young Israeli soldiers fighting and dying in Gaza. I’m deeply worried about the lives and well-being of the Israeli hostages still imprisoned by Hamas. I’ve not stopped feeling the rage I experienced after the vicious and cruel attack, and my disgust has intensified like bile in my mouth as reports became known of how badly the freed hostages (children, women, and the elderly) were treated in their captivity in Gaza. And my shock and rage have been strengthened exponentially when I learned of the massive sexual violence perpetrated by savage Hamas terrorists against Israeli girls and women on October 7.

I’ve also been saddened by the deaths of all the innocent Palestinians in Gaza and I empathize with their families too, because that’s what we Jews do – mourn the loss of every innocent life.

I was recently reminded of a poem by Mary Oliver called “Heavy.” She expressed well how I’ve been feeling since all this began and how I presume so many Israelis and perhaps, many of you reading this also are feeling in these days:

That time / I thought I could not / go any closer to grief / without dying

I went closer, / and I did not die. / Surely God / had his hand in this,

as well as friends. / Still, I was bent, / and my laughter, / as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found. / Then said my friend Daniel / (brave even among lions), / “It is not the weight you carry

but how you carry it— / books, bricks, grief— / it’s all in the way / you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not, / put it down.” / So I went practicing. / Have you noticed?

Have you heard / the laughter / that comes, now and again, / out of my startled mouth?

How I linger / to admire, admire, admire / the things of this world / that are kind, and maybe

also troubled— / roses in the wind, / The sea geese on the steep waves, / a love / to which there is no reply?

Regaining perspective in these days is important for our emotional and mental well-being. So is breathing, seeing and appreciating the quieter things that are meaningful and filled with beauty and loveliness – the natural things, family and friends and creativity of all kinds.

May our people in Israel be fortified in this fight, and may the IDF be victorious over the evil Israelis are confronting. Then may peace come to Jerusalem and to all the peoples of the Land.

About the Author
John L. Rosove is Senior Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Israel of Hollywood in Los Angeles. He is a national co-Chair of the Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet of J Street and a past National Chairman of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA). He serves as a member of the Advisory Council of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. John was the 2002 Recipient of the World Union for Progressive Judaism International Humanitarian Award and has received special commendation from the State of Israel Bonds. In 2013 he was honored by J Street at its Fifth Anniversary Celebration in Los Angeles. John is the author of 3 books - "From the West to the East - A Memoir of a Liberal American Rabbi" (2024), "Why Israel Matters - Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to the Next Generation with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove" (Revised edition 2023), and “Why Judaism Matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to his Children and the Millennial Generation with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove” (2017). All are available at John translated and edited the Hebrew biography of his Great Granduncle – "Avraham Shapira – Veteran of the Haganah and Hebrew Guard" by Getzel Kressel (publ. by the Municipality of Petach Tikvah, 1955). The translation was privately published (2021). John is married to Barbara. They are the parents of two sons - Daniel (married to Marina) and David. He has two grandchildren and he lives in Los Angeles.
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