/ Notes for the Field

Notes for the Field

One Month After the Massacre: A Ritual for Mourning

Dr. Masua Sagiv is Scholar in Residence of the Shalom Hartman Institute based in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Koret Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish and Israel Studies at the Helen Diller Institute, U.C. Berkeley. Masua’s scholarly work focuses on the development of contemporary Judaism in Israel, as a culture, religion, nationality, and as part of Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state. Her research explores the role of law, state actors

Shloshim, the period of mourning that follows shiva, marks 30 days after the burial of a loved one. In Israel, it’s common for families to gather at the gravesite to remember the person they have lost. This practice is not typical among North American Jews for shloshim, and when we first saw the materials our Israeli colleagues had compiled for a tekes, a ceremony, to mark the passage of 30 days since the massacre of October 7, we weren’t sure they would resonate here. 

Yet, when a small group of us joined our Bay Area scholar-in-residence Masua Sagiv, who is living far away from her extended family in Israel, to talk about what a ceremony for shloshim might look like in a North American context, we began to see the power this unfamiliar ritual might have. 

Masua took the lead in preparing the text you see below, drawing upon materials from the SHI tekes and others composed in Israel. She secured permission to share the poem, the eulogy, and the letter that appear in part as readings, and she translated all of these from Hebrew. We invited the SHI NA staff to meet on Zoom for 30 minutes on November 6, and we assigned the readings to different volunteers. 

Ultimately, the act of reading, singing, and listening together for that half hour was, for me, one of the most powerful expressions of grief and solidarity that I have found since October 7. It was louder than a candlelit vigil and quieter than a rally; it drew us, each of us with our own grief, sadness, and other emotions, into a powerfully comforting collective.  

Although by now more than 30 days since October 7 have passed, I believe that this ceremony remains relevant. The unfathomable cruelty of the massacre has made it difficult to identify many of those who were murdered, and we are still learning the names of victims. Many days also bring news of IDF soldiers killed in battle. As a result, our mourning is continually renewed; it is as though we are in an extended shloshim period. Gathering together in ritual acknowledges this reality and helps us to see how we will live with and beyond our grief. In recognition of the role shloshim plays as a transition between death and life, the ceremony below starts with deep mourning and giving tribute to the memory of those we lost, continues with prayers for the return of hostages and the wellbeing of IDF soldiers, and ends with a wish and will to rise from our collective tragedy and seek life and love. 

I invite you to consider holding a tekes in your community for an additional reason. Masua reminded me recently of the words of 12th century poet and philosopher Yehuda Halevi, my heart is in the east and I am at the edge of the west. Many of us North American Jews are feeling that distance more powerfully now than we have in a long time. This ritual offers a way of expressing the tension that comes with being physically in North America and emotionally in Israel at this difficult moment. It can connect us as a people in pain across distance.  

—Claire E. Sufrin, Editor, Notes for the Field

Read and download a PDF of this ceremony here.

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