For the week ending 7 June 2008 / 4 Sivan 5768

What Not To Say

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: While paying a condolence visit to a mourning neighbor I was somewhat disturbed to hear one of the comforters say, "What can you do?" Although I am sure that he said this as a way of expressing his empathy with the mourner, it struck me as being inappropriate. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: Your intuition is correct!

The halacha (see Rama in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Dei’ah 376:2) rules as follows:

"One should not say to a mourner 'What can you do; it is impossible to undo death' because this smacks of blasphemy by implying that if one could do something he should (even though this against the will of Heaven), but should rather encourage him to accept the Heavenly decree with love."

While it may not be the proper setting for publicly correcting the comforter, you can undo the damage by stressing to the mourner the positive aspect of lovingly accepting what Heaven has decided is best for him and for the deceased.

May we know only of joy in our lives and be spared the need to comfort mourners.

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