Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sitting Low

An Aveilus GeMa"Hh organization called 'Misaskim' was kind enough to drop off siddurim, books on the laws and customs of mourning, and low shiva chairs by my uncle's place. Interestingly enough, some time on my way either from my parents' apartment to drop off one of my father's taleisim at the hhevra qadisha, or from the hhevra qadisha to my uncle's house the night before the funeral, I saw a van belonging to Misaskim, and wondered what it is they do. Now I know.

This is what the shiva chairs looked like:
(with a regular chair for comparison)

They sawed off the bottoms of the legs of plastic lawn chairs.

Is it just me, or does this seem like too much? I remember the days of cardboard boxes and milk crates. What happened to the stools? I felt way too comfortable lounging around and leaning back in my big plastic chair with armrests(!) when I felt like I should be sitting on a small wooden stool with no back, or a milk crate whose plastic mesh hurts your butt. Maybe we should've just gone back to sitting directly on the floor.


Blogger Amishav said...

Regardless of where you sat, or what you sat in, I'm sure that your grieving process was unaffected. That being said, it must have been strange to have that chair-

I hope that you and your family are doing ok and that now that shiva is over, you are starting to move forward with all that you have to cope with.

3/01/2007 3:09 PM  
Blogger Elie said...

Interestingly, Gemara Moed Kattan states that the comforters should sit on the floor with the mourners, as to join them in mourning during the visit. This is not done today obviously; I suspect it's fell out of use because of superstition; i.e., inordinate fear of "ayin hara".

3/01/2007 4:33 PM  
Blogger Lipman said...

This is in fact how it should be. But when you're an ovel, you don't want to lecture those who come to comfort.

The other way around, I found it interesting how people reacted to my keeping older menogem that have been reformed in or on the way to today's chareidi lifestyle, such as partly covering one's face, sitting really on the floor, and some smaller issues in nusech.

First of all, to be sure, nobody was bold in language. Some people simply lectured me (admittedly people who didn't know me or my credentials well). Some discussed the issue, trying to prove their doubts. A locally distant cousin discussed nearly random eveiles matters with me on the phone, which I found moving because it looked like he really wanted to hug and comfort me but for chareidi earnest and lomdes, which in this case, of course, has to be confined to hilches eveiles. Some people showed interest and asked about the customs. Some people simply tolerated them without the disdain I was used to.

Terrible situations like these bring out the good side of people, or shift them one level further in the goodness they have anyway. A friend who's an asthmatic and has a strong cat allergy insisted on coming to the minyen in our flat. He hung around in the staircase with a surgical mask and came in when we started to ore. Other people I wouldn't have expected organised a seifertôre.

3/02/2007 7:38 AM  
Anonymous GoldaLeah said...

When my grandparents died, my mostly secular family cut shiva short and didn't observe the cursom of sitting on the floor or on low stools. Does this mean we didn't feel the loss as deeply? I can't know for sure, but I doubt sitting on a stool would have made me grive for my Nana more. Differently, perhaps, but more so? I have to be uncomfortable physically to grieve adequately?

On the other hand, we did observe the custom of everyone throwing a shovelful of dirt onto the casket, and I will never ever forget that sound or the effect, literally an impact, it had on my soul. Perhaps sitting low would have had a similar effect and I missed out on it.

Not a very helpful comment, I know. But don't beat yourself up, Steg about not sitting uncomfortably enough.

3/05/2007 12:44 PM  

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