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Sunday, 16 August 2015

Funerals are better than weddings

Daf Yomi Nedarim 83


Shaindy was elated.  Her fifth child had just gotten engaged to a lovely young man.  But then she started to feel bad.  How could she tell her best friend, Rina?  Rina’s kids were all in their twenties and none of them were married.  How would she feel?  Sure she would wish her mazaltov, but it must be so painful for her.  It might even affect their friendship.

Filled with trepidation, she called her up to share the news. 
“MAZALTOV, SHEINDY!” she exclaimed, “I am so, so happy; you have made my day!  When’s the wedding?  I’m booking my ticket right now!  I wouldn’t miss it for anything.   You know how much I love you and your children!”

King Solomon declares in Ecclesiastes, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of feasting, for that is the end of all men, and the living should take that to heart.”
Rabbi Meir taught: What is the meaning of “and the living should take it to heart?”  If you eulogize others, others will eulogize you; if you mourn for others, others will mourn for you; if you bury others, others will bury you.

Why should going to a house of mourning cause reciprocity more than attending a house of feasting?  If going to a funeral will cause others to attend your funeral, going to a simcha should similarly cause others to attend your simcha!  And truly, it does; when you go to your friend’s wedding, you can expect that they’ll come to your wedding!

As we know, attending to burial needs is called chesed shel emes – kindness of truth.  Why?  Because there’s no expectation of anything in return.  They’re gone from this world; they can’t repay the favour.   But Rabbi Meir teaches that when you bury others, you will be paid back – you in turn will be buried upon your death! 

What he means is that of course you are always recompensed for your actions, but that’s not why you should be generous to others.  If your motivation in serving others is to get them to serve you back, you’re only serving yourself.  Burial is the only service that, no matter how many times you provide the service for others, they can only provide you with the service on one single occasion.  You only die once.

When it comes to weddings, you might ask yourself, ‘I went to three of my sister’s children’s weddings, how many of my children’s simchas has she attended?’  But when you have a keep-score attitude, you’re only serving yourself.   You’re not going to their weddings for them; you’re going so that they will come to your simchas!  But with funerals, no matter how many deceased you attend to, you will only ever be repaid once. 

In other words, burial and mourning provide an example of how to serve others in simcha.  If you truly wish to serve them, as opposed to serving yourself, you won’t keep score.  You will be there for them without any expectation in return.  You will revel in their simcha, because they are experiencing a simcha, not because you like the food or the music.  You are there purely for them.  It doesn’t matter how many of your simchas they have attended.  You are there because you love them unconditionally.


You were placed on this earth to serve others.  Find the right people in your life to love and then serve them without any expectations.  May you merit unconditional relationships, surrounded by people who truly love you!