American Yahrzeit: Reflections on the Pittsburgh Massacre

In the Jewish laws that apply to mourning the dead, there is a concept called aninut. It means intense grieving, and according to halacha it lasts from the moment a mourner has learned of a death until the end of the burial. In that in-between time, he or she is exempt from all commandments that require action and attention, including praying or even reciting any blessings at all. Some rabbis will go further and in fact forbid any action that involves expressions of faith or fealty to God. We are not simply allowed to be angry in the immediate aftermath of loss; we are strongly discouraged from even trying to force ourselves out of that pain.

The Jews of Pittsburgh—and, we would argue, many people around the world whose eyes and hearts are turned to them—are currently in aninut. Under normal circumstances, Jewish burials must happen within 24 hours of death. But the Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 people were murdered while praying this past Sabbath, remains a cordoned-off, and by all accounts spectacularly gruesome, crime scene. The first funerals are being held today.

via American Yahrzeit: Reflections on the Pittsburgh Massacre

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