Twitter is often contentious, but sometimes it turns truly savage. The death of the talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, who could himself certainly be savage, touched off an explosion of gleeful celebration on the site. “For everyone about to tweet out a joke or otherwise revel in the death of Rush Limbaugh I just ask that you pause and ask yourself: am I going big enough?” one user tweeted, urging her followers, “Don’t hold back.”
In my more than 30 years as a rabbi, I have stood at the graves of many people. Some were kind and others less so. Some had a reputation that any of us would envy; others had ruined their public standing through acts or words that followed them throughout their life. But what consistently struck me was the raw, depthless fact of grief.
I have watched people try to throw themselves onto graves, claw and clutch at their throat, at the coffin, at their remaining relatives, huddled in almost paralytic pain. In all its varieties, from silent to wailing, grief expresses the reality that a person can stand before you no longer, hold you no longer, speak and be with you no longer in this world. Death is impossible to understand; that someone with whom I shared a moment yesterday, who was vivid and alive, is now in a box and being lowered into the ground forever is not a fact that the brain can comprehend. And to see such grief, over and over, makes it impossible to view death as frivolous or an occasion for jubilation.