Vezos Habracha – Mourning in Hashkafa

We have experienced over the past year and change the passing of Torah giants as well as world leaders. These are losses that have impacted people in a very deep way and have left marks that make us wonder what will be in the future, what is next, where are we heading? However, mourning for these tremendous losses can be put into perspective through one of the final pesukim in the entire Torah from the Torah portion of Vezos Habracha. “The Children of Israel bewailed Moshe in the plains of Moav for thirty days; then the days of tearful mourning ended” (Devarim 34:8).

The Ralbag learns from this pasuk that “it is improper to mourn a person too much, and even though he [or she] had the greatest of qualities possible. For we see that Moshe Rabbeinu with all his tremendous qualities in governing and greatness, still in all the Torah was not in agreement that they should mourn him for more than 30 days, which was the same mourning period for Aharon.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

Besides the great loss of a leader, of a person of tremendous character, an example for every single person to emulate, there is another element which should be addressed, if one internalized what it says in Iggeres HaRamban, “At all times you should think in your heart that it is as if you are literally standing before Hashem and His Holy Presence is upon you since His Honor fills the entire world…and you shall be bashful from all people,” and Rav Yechazkel Sarna zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron, explained that after you accept the reign of your Creator upon yourself, to always be like a servant before his master, you shall also accept the reign of your friend upon yourself” like a servant before his master” because each person was created in the Image of G-D. We find in the sefer Reishis Chochma also the concept of subjugating oneself before his friend just like he would before one’s Creator. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

If that is properly internalized then a loss of a friend and especially a loved one, and all the more so the loss of great leaders should be something which is almost insurmountable to overcome. If one truly felt the respect the way one should feel for every single person appreciating the quality of everyone’s loss and especially one that has such an impact on your life, it makes sense that the mourning process over their loss would be long and hard. However, the Torah says there is a standard, a line to be drawn even for the greatest of people, those who are most honorable and respected, there is still a limit.

We see from here that it is totally natural and healthy to mourn for the dead but within limits and though it might be hard to get over such a grave loss understandably, but the Torah knows it is within our ability to be comforted.

Hashem’s consolation to us is that He is eternal and will always be by our side to sustain us and guide us, this is the ultimate comfort.