Monday, September 10, 2012

Garments of Praise, Ashes of Mourning

…Garments of Praise, Ashes of Mourning…

“Garments of Praise” by Robin Mark
Put on the garments of praise

For the spirit of heaviness

Let the oil of gladness flow down

From Your throne

Put on the garments of praise

For the spirit of heaviness

Your joy is my strength alone

My strength alone

Make these broken weary bones

Rise to dance again

Wet this dry and thirsty land

With a river

Lord our eyes are fixed on You

We are waiting

For Your garland of grace

As we praise Your name


Sing Hallelujah

We give all honor and praise

To Your name


Sing hallelujah

We trade our sorrows

For garments of praise

(Isa 61:1-3 ISV)

"The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed and

to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners;

to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

to provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a mantle of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

 "Then people will call them "Oaks of Righteousness", "The Planting of the LORD", in order to display his splendor.

A good man was taken from us on September 7th; he was taken from those he loved, and them who loved him. I won’t pretend to say I knew him as well as I should have; he took care of my sister for 39 years – that is what mattered. Allan, you are missed. Rest in peace.

It is in times of great sorrow or loss that we wonder where G-d is. I know I’ve looked to the heavens and wondered why He didn’t answer my prayers, why didn’t He take away my pain and dry my tears. I’ve stood in open fields and shook my fist at Him, crying out in all my anguish till there was nothing left but the quiet sob of a broken heart, and asked once again, “Where were You?”. I wish I could answer that question, I wish I could say that there is an answer, but the truth is, I don’t have one. So why talk about it then? If there seems to be no answer, why go through the heart ache? It is because our hearts ache that we must look at the questions, for it is in the looking, the searching for a seemingly absent G-d that all the answers are found, and the one greatest response to our questions is that He was always there.

If there is pain, hurt, fear, frustration, remorse, or any other feeling you can name, He is there. You may ask “Well if He was there, why didn’t He let me know?” There are just some things that are resolved only when we go through them, and I’m sorry to say this, because it isn’t the most comforting answer I know. None of us want to go through these painful experiences, yet the Scriptures promise us that this is what life is. Yeshua Ha”Machiach (Jesus the Messiah) said:

“… In the world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33 ISV) and yet, He also said “… but be courageous—I have overcome the world!"

            Now, these words almost seem hollow to one whose world has been ripped apart by loss for courage isn’t what we want or need; only comfort can fill the void.  We want answers, we want explanations. We want G-d to justify His actions or inactions. Rabbi Aron Moss answered this question once; may I share his answer with you?

“…Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is this world so unfair? Please don't tell me "We can't understand G‑d's ways." I am sick of hearing that. I want an explanation.
Are you sure you want an explanation? Do you really want to know why the innocent suffer? I think not. You are far better off with the question than with an answer.
You are bothered by the fact that people suffer undeservedly. As you should be. Any person with an ounce of moral sensitivity is outraged by the injustices of our world. Abraham, the first Jew, asked G-d, "Should the Judge of the whole world not act fairly?" Moses asked, "Why have You treated this people badly?" And today we still ask, "Why G‑d, why?"
But what if we found the answer? What if someone came along and gave us a satisfying explanation? What if the mystery were finally solved? What if we asked why, and actually got an answer?
If this ultimate question were answered, then we would be able to make peace with the suffering of innocents. And that is unthinkable. Worse than innocent people suffering is others watching their suffering unmoved. And that's exactly what would happen if we were to understand why innocents suffer. We would no longer be bothered by their cry, we would no longer feel their pain, because we would understand why it is happening.
Imagine you are in a hospital and you hear a woman screaming with pain. Outside her room, her family is standing around chatting, all smiling and happy. You scream at them, "What's wrong with you? Can't you hear how much pain she is in?" They answer, "This is the delivery ward. She is having a baby. Of course we are happy."
When you have an explanation, pain doesn't seem so bad anymore. We can tolerate suffering when we know why it is happening.
And so, if we could make sense of innocent people suffering, if we could rationalize tragedy, then we could live with it. We would be able to hear the cry of sweet children in pain and not be horrified. We would tolerate seeing broken hearts and shattered lives, for we would be able to neatly explain them away. Our question would be answered, and we could move on.
But as long as the pain of innocents remains a burning question, we are bothered by its existence. And as long as we can't explain pain, we must alleviate it. If innocent people suffering does not fit into our worldview, we must eradicate it. Rather than justifying their pain, we need to get rid of it.
So keep asking the question, why do bad things happen to good people. But stop looking for answers. Start formulating a response. Take your righteous anger and turn it into a force for doing good. Redirect your frustration with injustice and unfairness and channel it into a drive to fight injustice and unfairness. Let your outrage propel you into action. When you see innocent people suffering, help them. Combat the pain in the world with goodness. Alleviate suffering wherever you can.
We don't want answers, we don't want explanations, and we don't want closure. We want an end to suffering. And we dare not leave it up to G-d to alleviate suffering. He is waiting for us to do it. That's what we are here for…” [1]

The ones we lose are in pain no more; their suffering has ended. As we go on, as we struggle to find meaning in it all sometimes overwhelms us and causes us to miss the greater picture; G-d is reaching out to us, to help us fill the void with His presence. In that presence is a call to action, a call to be more empathetic, to use our sorrow to reach out to others who are hurting also. Yes we want comfort, someone to reach out to us, but who is better suited to help another, one who has not experienced lose, or someone who knows the pain, and can reach out with all the care and love that comes with it?

I’m not trying to minimize our hurt; I’m not trying to say do not grieve. Only time can heal the ache, though it will never take it away; nor should it. Loss is real and time only makes it bitter-sweet. David wrote of pain in Psa 38:8-10:

“…I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee. My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me…”

Yet it is here in the disquietness of our heart that we can find our answer; we trade the spirit of heaviness with the garments of praise. When it feels like the last thing you want to do, the feeble hands and the weak knees need to praise. “Oh how can I praise G-d? Didn’t He not hear me, is not my sorrow enough for Him? Why should I praise Him for my loss?” O beloved, I have asked these same questions! O beloved how my heart seemed to be tore from my chest, the spirit of heaviness and lonliness threatening to drag me down deep into the abyss… Despair and depression overtook me, crushing what spirit I had left; o beloved my soul cried out from the depths as David did:

(Psa 42:1-8 LBP)

AS the hart pants after the water brook so pants my soul after thee, O LORD. My soul thirsts after thee, O living God; when shall I come to see thy face?

My tears have been my bread day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is your God?

When I remember these things, my soul is agitated; therefore I will enter thy mighty citadel, even to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with the many people who rejoice.

Why are you troubled, O my soul? and why are you bewildered?

Trust in God; for I shall yet praise him, the Saviour of my honour and my God.

My soul is troubled within me;

therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, from the mount of Hermon and from the hill. Deep calls to deep at the sound of thy waterfalls: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.

Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer to the living God.

 And my answer was just the same as his, as my soul cried out in its pain, my lips had to speak of praise, as the tears fell, the praise rose. And slowly, yes, slowly, the presence of G-d moved in, and comfort was once again my friend. We trade the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  

For now, the ashes of mourning are enough. There is time to embrace G-d, but right now we need Him to embrace us. Even so, what I am saying is endued in the Hebrew psyche, in the form of the mourners kaddish. This prayer, though not originally used as a prayer for mourners, is most often associated with the grieving process. It’s purpose is to show that despite the loss, G-d can still be praised…

(In Hebrew)

 Yit-gadal v'yit-kadash sh'may raba b'alma dee-v'ra che-ru-tay, ve'yam-lich mal-chutay b'chai-yay-chon uv'yo-may-chon uv-cha-yay d'chol beit Yisrael, ba-agala u'vitze-man ka-riv, ve'imru amen.

Y'hay sh'may raba me'varach le-alam uleh-almay alma-ya.

Yit-barach v'yish-tabach, v'yit-pa-ar v'yit-romam v'yit-nasay, v'yit-hadar v'yit-aleh v'yit-halal sh'may d'koo-d'shah, b'rich hoo. layla (ool-ayla)*[2] meen kol beer-chata v'she-rata, toosh-b'chata v'nay-ch'mata, da-a meran b'alma, ve'imru amen.

Y'hay sh'lama raba meen sh'maya v'cha-yim aleynu v'al kol Yisrael, ve'imru amen.

O'seh shalom beem-romav, hoo ya'ah-seh shalom aleynu v'al kol Yisrael, ve'imru amen.

(In English)

Magnified and sanctified be G-d's great name in the world which He created according to His will. May he establish His kingdom during our lifetime and during the lifetime of Israel. Let us say, Amen.

May G-d's great name be blessed forever and ever.

Blessed, glorified, honored and extolled, adored and acclaimed be the name of the Holy One, though G-d is beyond all praises and songs of adoration which can be uttered. Let us say, Amen.

May there be peace and life for all of us and for all Israel. Let us say, Amen.

Let He who makes peace in the heavens, grant peace to all of us and to all Israel. Let us say, Amen.

            In the darkness of the night, there is hope. Our beloved is gone, but if we trust in the One who saves, we will see them again. This life is full of trivial things; things that are temporal, not eternal. The economy, the political games, the left, the right; all these serve as distractions from what truly matters. The preacher said it best in Ecclesiastes:

(Ecc 12:1-14 LBP)

REMEMBER now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw nigh when you shall say, I have no pleasure in them; Before life ebbs, beauty fades, fortune fails, and poverty returns after prosperity; In the day when the legs tremble and the arms weaken, and the teeth chew no more because they are few, and the eyes are dimmed, And the ears shall be so dulled that the sound of women grinding at the mill is low, and a man shall rise up at the song of birds; and the sound of women singing shall be low; He shall be afraid of that which is high, and shall tremble in his ways, and sleeplessness shall come upon him; the almond tree shall blossom, and the locust shall be multiplied, and fragrance shall scatter, and trouble shall cease; because man goes to the house of his reward and the mourners walk about the streets. Remember him before the silver cord is cut off and the golden bowl is broken and the pitcher is broken at the fountain or the wheel is broken at the cistern, Then the dust shall return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, all is vanity.

 And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed and sought out and composed many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find agreeable words; and he wrote uprightly the words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails deeply fastened, which are arranged by workmen and given from one master builder. Furthermore, my son, take heed; of writing many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear the LORD and keep his commandments;

this is given by one Master to every man. For the LORD shall bring every work into judgment, concerning everything which is hidden and known, whether it be good or whether it be evil.

Fear Him who gave us life in the first place, and at His pleasure can demand it of us. For if we neglect so great a G-d, what will be our end? Beloved, death has no sting for those who believe, yet it’s sting is felt for all eternity by those who choose not to believe. Allan, I regret not knowing you as I should have on this earth, yet I have hope and confidence of the world to come, the Olam Ha-Ba, that we will meet again. To my beloved sister and her sons: the ashes of mourning and the spirit of heaviness are but for a time. Trade them in for the garments of praise and let the hope of the eternal be your guide, and may the shalom of G-d be upon you in due time.

May the Father richly bless you all, my beloved


[1] From the article “Why do bad things happen to good people?” by Rabbi Aron Moss, · A Division of the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center In everlasting memory of's founder, Rabbi Yosef Y. Kazen © 2001-2012 Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center
[2] * Added on Shabbat

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