Saturday, December 13, 2008
No time to mourn
Chabad has some traditions that has people scratching their heads. "Why do they insist on them," they ask. "Why can't they be like everybody else," they cry. One of them is the minhag not to make hespedim on a niftar, no matter who he or she may be. The fact that there were hespedim last week in Kfar Chabad notwithstanding. A typical levaya in Chabad in New York goes something like this: A sign goes up that the levaya of so-and-so will leave Shomrei HaDas chapels at 2:00 and will pass 770 at around 2:30. At Shomrei HaDas, Tehillim may be recited before the aron is loaded into the hearse. At 770 a crowd usually assembles in front of said building, and the aron arrives on or around the announced time. The car usually stops for a few minutes while the crowd gathers around. The women stay on the other side of the service road of 770 and watch. After a few minutes the hearse begins to move, and those who go to the feld usually get into their cars to follow the hearse to the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, where the Lubavitcher Chelkah is located. (Even in death they're separate, those Lubavitchers!")
On Monday - when I started writing this post - there was a Levaya for the mother of a Lubavitcher Chossid here in Monsey. No "tragedy" per se', the woman was 92 years old. An email went out at about 11am that the levaya would pass our shul at 2pm and that burial would be at Sons of Israel cemetery on Brick Ch--ch road, half a mile down the road. That cemetery requires a post of its own, with a 7 foot stone wall separating the Vizhnitzer Beis Olam - where the Skulener Rebbe and Ribnitzer Rebbe are buried, and the Olamishe one, where such Gutte Yidden as Rav Mordche Schwab and Reb Nesanel Quinn are interred. The hearse - a Toyota Sienna minivan like a thousand others in Monsey - arrived at around 2:40, parked in the parking lot, lifted the tailgate, and the levaya began. Walking down the road. Maybe 200 feet, and the van pulled away, not waiting for the others. The procession then headed to their respective cars and drove the half mile to the cemetery, where the aron and the driver were waiting patiently.
At the beis olam the ceremony was short and quick. The aron was removed from the van and placed on the metal "bed" and then carried down the walkway to the open grave. Yoshev B'seyser was said seven times, stopping at the appropriate time. The Chevra Kadisha man was a seasoned veteran of seemingly Satmar stock who expertly instructed the novice procession of when and where to stop each time. After arriving at the kever the aron was soon lowered into the grave, with the said man barking out instructions of when are where to drop first. After being told "nisht ibergebben," the assembled worked for about 10 minutes covering the aron with the dirt and the shovels supplied, and the deed was soon done. Kaddish was recited by her three sons. Two rows of people soon lined up and the Aveilim took of their shoes and we're comforted by the assembled, who were warned נישט נאכגיין! An old pump on the side of the path with an old "Kvort" was used for washing hands. You need to actually pump the water out of the ground. When I started the engine in my car the clock read 3:13. It took a maximum of 40 minutes from the beginning of the levaya till after S'timas HaGolel!
Where I come from, even a simple yid's levaya takes a minimum of 4 hours from beginning to end. There's going to the chapel and waiting. There's the hespedim, a minimum of three, at least one by his Rov, or Rebbe of the shtiebel where he davened, and family members, son, eydem, eynikel etc. Even in the death of an elderly man or woman there's usually lots of crying, and presumably some התעוררות too. Lots of time to mourn. The procession outside the chapel is usually for a couple of short blocks and the hearse waits for the cars that will follow to New Jersey of Long Island, an hour's distance. At the cemetery there's often another hesped. All in all you've been in the levaya mode for some hours now, and if you're an immediate family member you cried plenty too. Now compare that to the Lubavitcher levaya and see how much crying the Lubavitcher did for his immediate family member. I know that the minhag chabad is not be maspid, but it seems like the minhag is also not to mourn, or at least to minimize the mourning. At the aveilim house it's more nechomoh than aveilus, so that wouldn't make up for it. Just my thoughts, what say you?