Opening Ritual

The Rev. Virginia Ann McDaniel
Christ Church United in Lowell, MA


(adapted from a mourning ritual in Mourning and Mitzvah, by Anne Bremer, Woodstock, Vt. : Jewish Lights Pub., 1993.)
Let us begin as Job began.
When Job received word of the calamities that had befallen him, he tore his robe. He cut off his hair and threw himself on the ground. He said, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return there. God has given and God has taken away. Blessed be God's name."
Upon hearing of the death of a loved one, Jews traditionally tore their garments "to expose the heart." This practice began, in the biblical story, with Jacob, who tore his cloak and began to mourn when the bloodied coat of his son, Joseph, was brought to him. Tearing a garment smbolizes the severing of a relationship. It permanently mutilates something valuable that cannot be mended. By "exposing the heart," we also expose our own vulnerability.
"God has given and God has taken away."
We do not believe that God has taken the lives of the countless thousands who were killed today. Human beings took away those lives. But we do believe that those who died are in God's arms, and that God is with all those who mourn them.
So let us begin as Job began,
as remember the four jets which went down...
Then, slowly and loudly, I tore four strips off a large piece of purple cloth, and laid the strips across the worship table, which was also set with a simple vase of white flowers, a white candle (which we lit at the end of the service with prayers for the dead), and an incense burner.