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I Did My Best. Did I Mess Up?

Sunday, 30 May, 2021 - 9:47 pm

 Question of the Week

I am not Jewish, but have many Jewish work colleagues. I attended my first Jewish funeral for an old boss this week. I tried to be respectful and follow protocol, but I think I may have messed up. As I was leaving, someone said to me, "I've sim cards."  I was a little taken aback.  Why would people be selling phone plans at a funeral?  Then another person said the same thing to me, which I thought was strange. I thanked them and explained that I am locked into a 24 month contract. When a third person also told me "I've sim cards" I started to think maybe I was misunderstanding something. Is it customary to buy a new sim card after a Jewish funeral?

Answer

You did very well, and you did not mess up at all. Your confusion is completely understandable. What you were hearing had nothing to do with phone contracts. It was a Yiddish blessing. They were saying, "Oif Simchas."

The meaning of the blessing is, "We should meet at happy occasions." It is customary to say this after meeting in sad circumstances. We wish each other that next time we cross paths, it should be for a joyous celebration rather than a time of sorrow. 

This little expression contains some very profound wisdom. We are not just saying "Let's meet at happy times." We are saying, "Let's behave in happy times the way we behave at difficult times."

Funerals often bring out our better side. Death brings people together. The community unites to support the bereaved. Friends who have been out of touch reach out to offer comfort. Even estranged family members who were not on speaking terms may end up sitting together and making peace. United in pain, petty arguments fall away, and silly things that divide us don't matter any more. In the face of mortality, we appreciate life and the people we live with. 

It is a sad quirk of human nature that we are quicker to come together when something bad happens. But we are not stuck in our nature. We can transcend it. If we can unite when we experience loss, then we can unite any time. It's a choice: hold on to our pettiness, or let go and live a fuller life. 

So when we leave a funeral we say, "Oif Simchas." Let's not wait for another loss to come together. Let's unite at happy times just as we do for the not-so-happy times. Let's appreciate what we have while we still have it. Rather than just cry together, let's celebrate together. 

Life is short. Even lock-in contracts come to an end eventually. In the meantime, make sure your connections are strong.

Oif Simchas!
Rabbi Moss

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