This is Part Two of last week's newsletter that covered the Torah portion Shmini, which gave a general overview of the portion. Part Two extends the section on death, burial, and mourning, and why each step is important.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Ps 116:15)
In the Torah portion Shmini, the death of Nadav and Avihu resulted in important instructions for death, burial, and mourning. These were not new, but affirmation of rituals practiced earlier for spiritual leaders such as Abraham, Sarah, and Jacob. In spite of the death of both sons and brothers, Aaron, Itamar, and Eleazer were not permitted to leave the Mishkan because the anointing oil was still upon them. They were not permitted to 1) let their hair go unkempt 2) tear their clothes or 3) wail, weep.
These are established rituals of mourning for the seven classes one is obliged to mourn: father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, spouse. Can we mourn for more than those seven required relationships? Of course. The whole congregation of Israel mourned for Moses and Aaron. You can add more, but not decrease. In modern Judaism, those rituals are observed during shiva (seven days) and thirty-day periods. When news of death is received, a small cut is made in the collar, and a symbolic tear is made. The hair is not cut during this period. The mourner may keep silent, like Aaron, or he may talk and weep, whatever he or she chooses to do.
Aaron, however, could not bear to eat the sin offering:
'When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the LORD?' When Moses heard that, it seemed good in his sight. (Le 10:19-20)
Although required to maintain outward dignity because the inaugural anointing oil was still upon them, Aaron's inward, silent grief prohibited him from eating the sin offering in the holy place. Indeed, even the average Israelite had to guarantee that his Sukkot offering was not gathered while he was in a state of mourning, for it was most holy:
I have not eaten of it while mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor offered any of it to the dead. (Dt 26:14)
No matter how exalted one's position or how low, a human being's death is to be treated with respect. Aaron was allowed to mourn silently for his sons and skip eating the sin offering. And Moses ensured that Aaron's sons would be mourned properly by all Israel:
But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the LORD has brought about.
Mourning and respectful burial is an important obligation of the living to the dead. These essential courtesies of death help the mourner to complete the seven-day and thirty-day periods of mourning that help him or her to move to less soul-intensive periods of grief in a healthy way. Going on as if nothing happened is not an option. The soul (
nefesh) is appetites, emotions, desires, and intellect. Because it is the life-force ("the life [
nefesh] is in the blood") of a human being, it is most powerful in controlling human behavior, and one spends a lifetime teaching the nefesh to yield to the authority of the ruach (spirit).
The Father in Heaven created us; therefore, He established ways of dealing with the incredible power of the soul, even in mourning. Grief is an emotion so powerful that it does overpower everything else for a period. It dominates the thoughts and emotions. This is why one cannot gather his Sukkot tithe in a state of mourning. It overpowers the intended spiritual benefit of preparing to rejoice with it. Uncontrolled grief can take over life and steal away the intended vitality and joy of being human.
It can also cause distress to the very deceased over which one mourns excessively, who, according to Yeshua's Rich Man/Lazarus parable (Lk 16:19-31), still has an awareness or consciousness of his family on earth. When the living persist in transgressions, the dead may be aware of it. The best memorial for the dead is to live a life of spiritual, Word-obedient transformation.
The dead are not pleased with tattoos, séances, or even drunken parties to celebrate their lives (horrified, probably; Le 19:18; Dt 18:11). They do not want to be asked to take the place of Yeshua as an intercessor for our sins. They do not want to be worshiped, but honored and mourned as they start the journey without their physical bodies, the only home they've ever known.
Mourning, crying, remaining silent, or speaking warmly of the deceased?
Yes! Scripture establishes these things.
Remembering aloud their acts of faith?
Yes! Scripture establishes these things.
Grief must be given control for a defined period of mourning, and then it is gradually quieted "like a weaned child" (Ps 131:2). The memories, and even the regrets, become part of personal growth and inner contemplation. Ironically, once the grief begins to function in its defined role, even bitter memories can be sweetened over time.
In the grief, the individual searches for answers, and in many cases, there are no answers, but the Father is closer than He's ever been. Given time, however, the deceased person's life, and even mode or time of death, is answered within. It is not so much a conscious resolution, but one understood at the higher level of the spirit, or
neshamah. A peace that passes all understanding.
One way of remembering the dead is to say Kaddish in their honor, which is a prayer, for up to a year after their passing. It is the Jewish way of saying as did Job,
Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21)
A shorter form of the prayer goes like this in English:
Magnified and sanctified be His great name in the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of the whole house of Israel, even swiftly and soon, and say amein.
Let His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed, praised, and glorified, exalted, extolled and honored, magnified and lauded is the Name of the Holy One, blessed is He, though He is high above all the blessings and songs, praises and consolations which are uttered in the world. And say amein.
May He Who makes peace in His high places make peace upon us and upon all Israel, and say amein.
Mt. Arbel overlooking the Galil.
Saying Kaddish to honor the memory of the dead is very emotionally intense in the first days and weeks. At first, one may even feel nothing, for the first reaction can be, like Aaron, silent shock. Over the passing months, the mourner notices that there is still a catch in the heart or moisture in the eyes, but gradually a sweet sorrow fills in the void of the horrible pain. The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) stitches those torn places from where the loved one's presence has been ripped from the soul.
As Teresa Botkin so delightfully and wondrously shows in her presentation on suffering, the repairs of gold between the pieces are more precious than the unbroken, original vessel. If a relationship with the loved one has been less than stellar, it is time to resolve those things in prayer and let beauty replace ashes.
There are significant passages in the Kaddish that sanctify the Name of the Holy One:
Magnified and sanctified be His great Name in the world which He has created according to His will...
Blessed, praised, and glorified, exalted, extolled and honored, magnified and lauded is the Name of the Holy One...
When one reads the Kaddish prayer, it is not easy at first to see what such a prayer glorifying the Father has to do with comfort for of the loss of a loved one. To find the connection, let's examine what happens when proper mourning
does not occur for a beloved family member or national leader.
The Kaddish is another form of a Hebrew root word meaning holiness,
kadash. In Exodus 20, the Israelites camped at Kadesh, a place where the Name should have been held up as holy,
Something horrible happened there, though:
Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at
Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there. There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron.
What is missing between "...buried there." and "There was no water..."?
Why were the people not given thirty days of mourning for one of their leaders? Miriam was a national leader and comfort to the nascent nation of Israel. "All the women followed her." In fact, the sages say that the manna was given in the merit of Moses, the pillar of cloud in the merit of Aaron, and the rock of water in the merit of Miriam. An ancient synagogue mosaic pictures Miriam's rock streaming water to the encampments of each of the twelve tribes.
This, the Jewish sages say, is why the water dried up after Miriam's death when it had flown so freely on their journeys. Miriam was a comforter, teacher, and praise leader to her people:
Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and ransomed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam. (Micah 6:4; also see Nu 12:4, 15:20)
Miriam was one of "you three." Why would Moses and Aaron neglect to mourn and call all Israel to mourn for her passing and honor her memory? Instead of comforting the grieving Israelites who had lost a spiritual mother, why did Moses and Aaron call them names, "You rebels...shall WE bring forth water from this rock...?"
Mountain overlooking Miriam's Spring in the Wilderness of Tzin.
Think of the significance of that rock. Yeshua was the Manna; Yeshua was the Angel of the Presence in the pillar of cloud (in whom was the Name); Yeshua was the Rock of water. All three leaders in Israel were living prophecies of Yeshua, who supplied every need.
Did it make sense, then, to become angry and to strike the Rock TWICE in front of the whole congregation? Do you see how Miriam's memory and the sin of Moses and Aaron are related? After all, Moses and Aaron
taught mourning rituals to Israel:
When all the congregation saw that Aaron had died,
all the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days. (Ex. 20:29)
Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.
So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end. (Dt 34:7-8)
Mt. Hor, where Aaron died in sight of Kadesh, where his sister Miriam was buried. This photo was taken from Miriam's Spring.
Aaron and Moses were honored with national mourning, even Nadav and Avihu after they offered strange fire, but not Miriam. This was not just a horrible oversight, dishonoring the work and memory of Miriam, it was a failure to regard the Rock as Holy. Moses and Aaron said, "Shall WE bring forth water from this rock...?" What came forth was not the comforting waters of Miriam, but the controversial (
Meribah), tumultuous waters of unbridled emotion.
When we do not allow ourselves to mourn, those powerful emotions will manifest themselves eventually. It may be through anger, depression, irritability, hyper-sensitivity, complaining, or any number of emotions for which we cannot exactly find a reason. When a loved one dies, mourn. Mourn appropriately, but mourn. Honor the memory, for within each human being is some spark of our Creator.
Whether your deceased loved one was righteous, wicked, or somewhere in between, the greatest post-mortem comfort they can have is to be conscious that you are living in obedience to Yeshua the Word, sanctifying the Name of the Father.
Now Moses' and Aaron's bitter reprimand from The Holy One makes sense:
Then Moses said to Aaron, 'It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
"'By those who come near Me
I will be treated as holy,
before all the people I will be honored.'" (Le 10:3)
But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you have not believed Me,
to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them." Those were the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel contended with the Lord, and
He proved Himself holy among them. From
Kadesh Moses then sent messengers... (Ex 20:12-14)
Mourning for a righteous person is good, loving, kind, just, and holy, and in doing so, one sanctifies the Name and allows the temporarily overwhelming power of the soul to be directed in a positive, honorable way. I believe that the Father sent Yeshua himself to escort Miriam home, not just an angel, for Yeshua is the Good Shepherd. When one reads the Kaddish prayer, it is not easy at first to see what such a prayer glorifying the Father has to do with comfort of the loss of a loved one:
...blessed is He, though He is high above all the blessings and songs, praises and consolations which are uttered in the world...
Taking into context Miriam's dishonorable farewell from her two brothers, however, it begins to make sense. Yes, The Holy One IS high above all blessings, songs, praises, and consolations uttered in the world, but why do it anyway? Miriam was a blessing and a praise song to Israel and from Israel to The Holy One. She echoed Moses' Song at the Sea!
Blessings and consolations should have been uttered at her death to honor her service to the Father, but instead Moses and Aaron respond with words like, "You rebels!" This is a play-on word in Hebrew, for the root of Miriam's name,
marah, means rebellion or bitterness. "You followers of Miriam!" Well, of course they were! God sent her to Israel to go before them. Except for one recorded failure (if only there were only one recorded in the Books for all of us!), Miriam the Prophetess was quiet water for the Israelite tribes.
If, as Yeshua taught in his parable, the dead still have a consciousness of their family on earth, then what must Miriam have thought while she made her post-mortem journey with the angels? Why did her brothers and the tribes not help her cross over to her resting place of comfort with Father Abraham? No wonder Yeshua says, "Miriam!" when Miriam (Mary in English) Magdelene sees him in the garden after the resurrection. What a beautiful resurrection reminder to the readers of the Gospel of John!
Now try reading Psalm 23 as not just David's psalm, but Miriam's death psalm. Mizmor L'David (A Psalm of David) can be read without the vowels as "A psalm of Beloved." See now why it still comforts so many of those who are mourning their deceased loved ones, Beloved of Yeshua:
A Psalm of David
The LORD is my
A shepherd controls the sheep with a slingshot. The sling is the symbol of being flung out of the bundle of life in Samuel I 25:29. The Good Shepherd gathers those who will be resurrected in the first resurrection.
I shall not
"Want" in English is from
) in Hebrew: lack, empty. Miriam will not be an empty vessel, but will be resurrected. The future tense of the psalm alludes to resurrection in the future. Chasar describes the unleavened flour offering in the hand of the priest that has no empty spaces in its full measure. Eating the bread of poverty with Yeshua at Pesach (Miriam dies in the month of Nisan; the month of Passover) is to be filled with the treasures of the Kingdom.
He makes me lie down in
He leads me beside
Moses and Aaron called forth the waters of Meribah, strife, instead of the healing, quiet waters of Miriam in the waste of the wilderness. Israel needs the quiet spirit of Miriam, the prophecy of Yeshua the Messiah.
restores my soul;
Miriam will see the resurrection and full restoration of her soul and a transformed body.
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
His name is Holy. Aaron and Moses desecrated the Name by striking the Rock, of which Miriam was the symbol and Yeshua the reality.
Even though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death [
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Miriam walked through Tzalmavet (the Valley of Death), or Sheol, to Abraham's bosom with the Shepherd. Evil resided on the other side of the great gulf fixed between the righteous and wicked while they awaited resurrection. The Good Shepherd's arms shielded her from fear of crossing that Valley.
Aaron and Moses did not proclaim days of mourning befitting the leadership of Miriam or the sanctity of the Name in the Rock Yeshua. Miriam was not escorted through her seven and thirty days by the prayers of Israel.
rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Moses and Aaron used the staff to strike the rock, and with anger they railed against the Israelites during a time of mourning. They struck the Rock instead of speaking comforting words to the mourners or being comforted themselves.
prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies (
The righteous dead dine with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Lower Garden when they enter the Kingdom. "Tsorerai" is enemies, or those who trouble me.
anointed my head with oil;
Aaron's anointing was lost after the rock incident. He had to go to Mount Hor, be stripped of his garments, and look back to "Kadesh," where he failed to sanctify the Rock...and his "sister" Miriam as holy. The sister is the parable of the Holy Spirit of Wisdom (Pr 7:4).
Kiddush cup is drunk to celebrate the arrival of Shabbat rest, and
Kaddish is a prayer to comfort the mourner, sanctify the Name in the death, and provide comfort to the deceased on the journey. Miriam died at
goodness and lovingkindness
will follow me all the days of my life,
Aaron was known for
chesed (lovingkindness), but he did not demonstrate it to his sister Miriam following her death. If a person is extended lovingkindess in life, but not death, what is the reward? (Lk 14:12) Miriam's death became a symbol of Yeshua's resurrection. Goodness or "Tov" is the description of the gold in the Garden of Eden, Good Gold. She will dwell in the House of the Lord forever, for she will ascend to the Garden from Abraham's bosom at Yeshua's resurrection. By not sanctifying Miriam's death, Yeshua's death was not sanctified.
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Ps 23:1-6).
Miriam's Spring today in the Wilderness of Tzin, on the anniversary of her death in the month of Nissan 5778, First Fruits 2018.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Ps 116:15)
"Precious" in Hebrew is
yakar, which also means costly, expensive. For this reason, two women poured precious, costly perfume on Yeshua's feet to prepare him for his burial, and they are still remembered for it. Miriam returned to anoint Yeshua's corpse with expensive perfumes and walked in on a resurrection in the Garden. We remember her because she remembered Him and sanctified His Name as holy. The disciples did not understand. Perhaps Moses and Aaron did not understand. But we do. Now.
Yes, it is good, loving, kind, honorable, and holy to bury the dead in honor, pray to the Father in their honor, and to remember the deceased. It is good to weep or to keep silent, however the mourner chooses to grieve. As Yeshua said, why do good to those who can return the favor? Extend kindness and honor to the dead, who cannot return the favor, and you will have the heart of Yeshua, the Good Shepherd, on the matter.
You might someday walk in on a resurrection. It's the Good News of death.