Friday, January 10, 2020

Silence: the Reward for Attending a House of Mourning - #DafYomi Ber. 6a-b

Some thoughts on today's Daf Yomi, Berakhot 6a-b. (Daf Yomi means "Daily Page," referring to a page from the Talmud. It's a practice of reading through/studying the entire Talmud, one page each day, from beginning to end. It takes about 7 and a half years, and a cycle just ended last week. I decided to start doing it this time around, with no promise that I'll finish it).
One topic is the reward one gains for doing various deeds, beginning with running to hear a rabbinic lecture. The one that struck me is the reward for going to a house of mourning: "אמר רב פפא: אגרא דבי טמיא - שתיקותא" - Rav Pappa said: the reward for attending a house of mourning is silence."
What does this mean? One commentator explains it from another passage: "Those offering consolation are not permitted to speak until the mourner opens his mouth" (Moed Katan 28b).
So sitting with the mourner without speaking, with the person whom grief has silenced, until they are able to speak, to leave that condition of stillness and reenter the world of other people that is created through speech. Not to intrude onto silence with one's chattering words and self-concerns. But can the mourner escape from his or her silent world without a hand being extended by the would-be consoler? Must all the work be done by the mourner to restart the conversation? How to center speech in the silence of the mourner and reach into that person's grief without causing further pain.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Holiday photos 2019

One of the fun things I did before Christmas was to help a friend of mine trim her tree. I'm Jewish and don't have a Christmas tree, but I really like putting up pretty decorations on a tree. Here are some examples. The big teardrop shaped ornament in the middle is from the Poland (my friend's ancestors are from Poland). Notice also the little glass tea set on the right.

Some more elaborate ornaments. 

And here are some more ornaments, including a tiny ceramic tote bag, a peanut (I think that's what it is), and another tiny glass teapot.

And this is my Hanukkah menorah, with the eighth candles for the eighth day of Hanukkah. The shammash is in the other menorah to the right (I couldn't fit it in between the other candles).

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year from Ithaca - 2020 from the Ithaca College towers

Every year at the end of the year the windows in the two Ithaca College towers are arranged to spell out the last two digits of the old year. At midnight they are quickly changed to the last two digits of the New Year. I didn't see the change this year, but I drove within view of the towers soon after midnight. The windows are left this way for several days.