We are all heartbroken from the terrible news of the tragic passing of Gavriel Simcha Epstein. While the funeral will be private, shiva hours are public and as the Epstein family is so connected in our community, we feel it appropriate to share a few points as we prepare for the sad week ahead. We are used to coming to a shiva as comforters to hear the mourners share the stories, accomplishments and characteristics of their loved one. This difficult situation will be unfamiliar and uncomfortable for many of us. Kayla and R’ Binyamin have been suddenly and without any preparation thrust into mourning the life of an infant, whose potential lay ahead of him, and there literally are no words to describe the deep and raw pain they are experiencing.
- The most important thing we can do as comforters is to be present with them; even a silent visit can be of enormous support to the mourners. Our presence itself is a statement that we care, that we share in their pain, and that we mourn their loss with them. In general, mourners are not looking for words of inspiration from us, nor theological explanations for why this happened. The Talmud sums this up most beautifully in one brief statement: “The reward that comes from visiting the house of a mourner is for one’s silence while there” (Brachos 6b).
- The halacha is that one should not speak upon entering a shiva home until the mourners acknowledge or speak to you first. The Sages have wisely instituted this practice to allow the mourners to dictate the tone and the content of the visit. It is their choice and our responsibility to honor their wishes.
- One should not ask the mourners questions like: “Do you know what happened?” While we come to comfort, it is our job to respect the mourner’s privacy as well. They should not feel pressured to share some of their most painful and personal thoughts. It is their choice when and with whom to share information as it becomes available.
- This is not an appropriate time to share with the family other tragedies that you are aware of or even have experienced yourself.
- Your visit does not have to be long. It goes without saying that the shiva house should not become a social gathering. After you have spoken or sat with the various family members, kindly and quietly take your leave and allow others to take your place.
At this time, our focus as a community is centered on trying to offer consolation and comfort to the Epstein and Harris families. At the same time, the intensity of their grief radiates outward and the shock, sadness and distress can be felt throughout our Dallas community. Your Rabbis, as well as the professionals at Jewish Family Service, are here for you as we process this tragedy together.
May Hashem bless all of us with the strength, courage and wisdom to both find comfort for ourselves, and to be a source of communal support for Kayla and Binyamin, for their families and for one another.
ומחה ה’ דמעה מעל כל פנים – May God Remove Tears from All Our Faces.
Rabbi Shlomo Abrams
Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum
Rabbi Yaakov Green
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried
Rabbi Avrohom Zev Kosowsky
Rabbi Shlomo Pacht
Rabbi Ariel Rackovsky
Rabbi Yaakov Rich
Rabbi Aryeh Rodin
Rabbi Ronen Shimon
Rabbi Zecharia Sionit
Rabbi Howard Wolk
Rabbi Nasanya Zakon