The Psychological Benefits of the Traditional Jewish Mourning Rituals: Have the Changes Instituted by the Progressive Movement Enhanced or Diminished Them?

By Wahlhaus, Erlene | European Judaism, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

The Psychological Benefits of the Traditional Jewish Mourning Rituals: Have the Changes Instituted by the Progressive Movement Enhanced or Diminished Them?


Wahlhaus, Erlene, European Judaism


Introduction

This paper describes the traditional Jewish laws and customs of mourning, translates and evaluates their psychological benefit and contribution to recovery from bereavement. It further investigates the influence of Progressive Judaism where its approach differs to that of traditional practice: does this enhance or diminish the psychological value of Jewish mourning rituals?

The distinction between law and custom is often blurred, particularly in relation to death, a subject steeped in superstition and fear. Although the Jewish relationship with death is intrinsically realistic, superstition, and sometimes intuitive wisdom, rather than rational thought, appear to be the motive for certain practices. Suffice it to say that whatever facilitates the mourning process, moving it from suffering and consuming to that which is bearable, is relevant, be it law or custom, rational or superstitious, individual or community based.

I do not source, evaluate, rationalise or interpret any of the Jewish mourning rituals. I relate them to the equivalent sequence of mourning and grief response, and establish their psychological qualities. (1) Bereavement is a transition period during which it is necessary to experience loss in practical terms, express it in emotional terms, integrate it and adapt to it in order to recover sufficiently to continue with hope and a sense of future. 'Grief is a process not a state'. (2)

Orientation of the Essay

This essay provides a brief outline of the stages of mourning described by psychologists, namely, numbness; pining; disorganisation and despair; and recovery.

These stages will be equated to the traditional Jewish mourning rituals of aninut; avelut; shiv'ah; shloshim; and the remainder of the mourning year. There is obviously overlap between the stages, but they do, in essence, reflect the different periods of ritual. While the discussion will focus on the traditional rituals, comments will be made on the particular manner in which the philosophy of the Progressive Movement contributes to each stage.

In conclusion, the essay will attempt to address the question which considers if the changes instituted by the Progressive Movement have enhanced or diminished the psychological benefits of the traditional Jewish mourning rituals.

The Mourning Process: A Psychological Analysis

In his paper, 'Mourning and Melancholia' (1917) Freud referred to 'grief work'. This describes the process of integrating the changes brought about by bereavement, a process that requires physical and emotional energy. A major change such as bereavement cannot be fully realised at once, and a mourning period is required. This period comprises a process of realisation during which the bereaved moves from denial towards acceptance of the true situation.

Although different writers delineate various psychological stages associated with loss and mourning, the ones selected for discussion are 'numbness', the first stage, which is the natural reaction to stress. It is followed by 'pining', then 'disorganisation and despair' and finally 'recovery'. Each stage has its own characteristics, and each individual has his or her own pattern.

Feelings of guilt, self-reproach, anger, sadness, ambivalence, relief, fear and anxiety come and go and will continue to do so with differing intensity for many months to come. These feeling are natural symptoms of grief-work.

According to Parkes, the most characteristic feature of grief is not prolonged depression but 'acute and episodic pangs of severe anxiety and psychological pain'. (3) Problems arise when the bereaved gets fixated in one of the phases of grief-work. It is psychologically and emotionally healthy to move through each phase into integration, adaptation and recovery. Recovery does not equal cure; rather recovery is the integration of and adaptation to the changes caused by the bereavement, (for example, change in status, from "wife' to 'widow', 'we' to 'I').

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Psychological Benefits of the Traditional Jewish Mourning Rituals: Have the Changes Instituted by the Progressive Movement Enhanced or Diminished Them?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.