This has been a week of light. The light of Chanukah and the fading of light in many homes. Our community experienced more lights going out than ever before (in a week). Joseph Safra (NY, Brazil) Pilippa Jacobson, Solly Maloon, Jacoby Wolman (Israel), Ruth Kaplan all passed during this week of Chanukah, their light became part of the Infinite Light. For me, these deaths highlighted a fascinating teaching on grief and mourning found in this weeks Parshah narrative.
Thousands of years ago, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. They soaked his clothes in goats blood and told their father, Jacob, that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. While the ruse kind of worked, Jacob noticed over time that he wasn’t progressing through the stages of grief.
Studies show that the grief experienced by a parent who has lost a child is remarkably different and far more difficult to reconcile with. It is more common amongst such mourners to never return to work, to remove themselves from social activity and higher awareness of guilt when participating in joyful activities.
However, Jacobs grief and debilitation was far more intense than the above. For 22 years, he lived as if Joseph had been killed that very day. He was never able to move beyond the very intense first wave of sadness. This is what led him to believe that perhaps his son Joseph, had not actually been killed but was alive somewhere. He must have understood pain of losing a child (remember, until the era of modern medicine, it was very common for parents to lose not one, but multiple children in their own lifetime, death as a whole was much more a part of life than today). Indeed, he was correct, Joseph was alive and well and royal vizier of Egypt.
Kabbalah explains that the pain we feel when losing a loved one is not just a result of loss and longing, it is also a mirrored experience of the pain and sadness the soul of our loved one experiences after death. As our loved ones soul becomes more settled within the Infinite Light so we become more settled with the loss. To understand more about this, please watch this video on the relationship between souls after death and what we learn from Joseph and Jacobs’ pain. I dedicate this teaching to the families and souls of all who are experiencing sadness and grief this week.