There is a passage from the prophet Ezekiel in the Passover Haggadah, often omitted or skipped over: “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee wallowing in thy blood, I said unto thee: In thy blood, live; yea, I said unto thee: In thy blood, live.” And after the Pittsburgh massacre, that is where the Jews are today, as in some measure they always have been: wounded and bereft, torn and bloody, yet very much alive.
The laws, traditions, and rituals prescribe what to do, which is a comfort. The bodies are treated with reverence by the chevra kadisha, the “holy company” of community volunteers, who ask forgiveness of the departed as they gently wash the corpse and prepare it for burial. The body is not left alone until the funeral, as others recite psalms near it. The coffins are of plain wood, for we are all equal in death. The chants are of immemorial age: “God full of mercy, who dwells upon high, find complete peace beneath the wings of your presence for the soul of …”
In traditional Jewish practice, the mourners return from the cemetery and wash their hands before entering the home, where for seven days their daily wants are supplied by the community, which has covered the mirrors, set up chairs, and brought food while they were at the graveside. They let themselves weep, because unlike those who think that tears indicate weakness, they know that they reveal humanity. Guests will come, waiting for the mourners to speak and following their mood, be it one of reminiscence or grief or both. And then—for a month for relatives, and 11 months for one’s parents—the daily recitation of the kaddish, a sanctification of God’s name rather than a prayer of remembrance.