Death & Birth – Musings & Questions

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– My friend was buried on Tuesday. Two friends read addresses they had written; they were beautiful and, strangely enough, comforting. Then her nephew read a letter she had written a few weeks ago to be read during her funeral. Obviously this was very moving.

As my friend was Orthodox (as in Christian Orthodox) and since there is no Orthodox church in my hometown, the funeal wasn’t in a religious building. At the cemetery, however, a priest said a few words in Greek.

A few years ago I questioned my rabbi about attending a non-Jewish funeral. Living in a predominantly Christian culture, I felt the need for clarifications so that I knew how to deal with the funerals of the people who are dear to me. His advice helped me deal with the issue Do you attend the funeral of non-Jews? What are your limits?

– A friend of mine and his wife have just had a baby girl. They are waiting for the rabbi’s approval before she can be named. They have submitted a name, a double one in fact, and should get his answer pretty soon. Is anyone familiar with this custom?

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18 thoughts on “Death & Birth – Musings & Questions

  1. Of course I do … attends non-Jewish funerals of friends, or people I know well, or parents of friends etc., no matter where it is being held. Paying my last respects goes beyond any religious law there may possibly be (that I don’t know of) telling me I should not. IF there is such a law, the mere thought of it makes me shiver.

    Ask the rebbe if I may give MY child a certain name? Never heard of that one and would never even think of it. We’re not a fanatic sect, are we?

  2. If it is a friend of mine or a person dear to me, I don’t care about religion. Religion is not important, important is that you loved this person. In whatever religion on earth love is the first thing which counts.

  3. Again, so sorry you had to suffer the loss of your friend.

    What bothers me is not asking about a name. It’s matters of health – women who will obey their rabbis when their doctors say something is unhealthy. That is not Judaism to me.

  4. I know of two chareidi couples who consulted with their respective rabbis about their kids’ names.

    Personally, I find this very hard to understand. After all, the Gemara (BT Nidah 31a) teaches that there are three partners in the creation of man: the father, the mother, and Hashem. I don’t see where one’s rabbi fits into this picture…

  5. I hope you are doing OK, all things considered. Sayng goodbye to friends is an altogether different issue than saying goodbye to family members, I find.

    As to whether to attend funerals of non-Jewish family or friends – I wouldn’t even give this a moment’s thought. Yes, religion is important, but it doesn’t dictate to me – that’s one of the things I love about Judaism – you can question, question, question. So, of course I would attend and say goodbye to the person both communally and privately.

    With regards to seeking the consent of the rabbi about the baby’s names – nope. That’s the parents’ decision, in my opinion! But then, different branches of Judaism do things differently.

  6. I’m so sorry about your friend, and your own loss.

    I know there is concern of avodah zarah in attending a religious service, but I’m less familiar with concerns about avodah zarah at a funeral. I imagine you’re secure enough in your Judaism not to hesitate to attend a friend’s funeral.

    • From what I understand, attending a non-Jewish funeral is ok as long as it doesn’t take place in a church, or I assume a Buddhist temple.
      But I totally agree with you about feeling secure enough in my Judaism not to hesitate about this. I suppose there are (were) reasons for this restriction but I fail to see how the mere sight of a statue could make someone wish to change religions. Even if it is clear that we can’t be expected to participate in other ways than be present.

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  8. I’m so sorry for your loss. This has been quite the week for funerals around the blogosphere :(. I’m glad there are new babies entering the world and creating new joys at the same time.

    To answer your question, I would never let religion dictate who or how I could console a loss, nor would I seek approval from anyone other than my husband for my child’s name. Of course as a secular Jew I don’t seek this approval for other aspects of my life either so I’m probably not the one to ask ;).

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