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    Joy & sorrow

    In the Diaspora, Sh’mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are separate occasions; in Israel they are combined.

    Whichever way we observe them we face the same problem – a festival day when our spirits are light which also contains the Yizkor memorial prayers.

    Can normal human beings suddenly put on a sad face and push the festival joy aside in order to say memorial prayers? Isn’t it a bizarre combination?

    In one sense yes, and the explanation in that case is that this is a mirror of life. Sadness comes in the midst of joy – generally highly unwelcome and always hard to take. A smile breaks through in the midst of sadness – generally unplanned and unexpected, but hard to repress.

    How many times have members of a bereaved family said to me in the house of mourning, “Tell us the funny things you remember about our father (or mother, or whoever)”, and even from the family’s shivah chairs has come a spontaneous roar of laughter.

    Anyhow, let’s go back to our question – how can we mix joy and sorrow on the same day?

    I have an opinion which you are welcome to accept or reject as you wish. That opinion is that when a person remembers a departed dear one it’s not necessarily a sad moment at all.

    Looking back at a life that has come to an end is the best possible motivation for joy – thankfulness to God for the blessing of their life, happiness at the thought of what they meant in our upbringing, and, yes – a smile, even a laugh at their funny ways and the humorous things they said.

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