For the week ending 31 October 2009 / 12 Heshvan 5770

Moving the Mourner

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: When I pay a condolence call to a secular co-worker who suffered a tragic bereavement, I see it as an opportunity to inspire him to become more observant. I am concerned, however, that my effort may be misinterpreted as blaming his tragedy on his sinful behavior. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: Your intention is admirable but caution is indeed required. Under no circumstances can you link the suffering of the mourner to his own guilt. This is termed "hurting with words" by the Talmud (Bava Metzia 58b), for it is like rubbing salt on a wound.

What you should try to do is point out that the mourner can do a big favor for the soul of the deceased by seeing that kaddish is recited for him and by giving charity in his memory. By thus inspiring him to take these first small steps on behalf of his loved one you may succeed in seeing him continue to grow in his observance, especially if you continue to encourage him in the future.

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