I find that looking at how other faiths treat certain life moments helps me reflect on my own faith as well as expands and makes my religious practice more dynamic. In this case, Lauren Winner ended up doing the same as she converted from Orthodox Judaism to Protestant Christianity. In “Mudhouse Sabbath,” she reflects on how certain life events as peaches by Jews could enrich the practice of Christians. I found this idea intriguing and while I appreciated the over-arching approach she took in the book I was actually wanting more. Luckily there’s a list of books in the back that relate to the topic which I’m going to have to start making my way through.
On of the first topics Winner discussed was Sabbath. A lot of people are familiar with the Jewish idea of Sabbath, sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. However, there are some Christian denominations that do as well. I’m a Seventh-day Adventist and we keep the Sabbath from sundown to sundown and go to church on Saturday. I related to a lot of what Winner talked about in this section because without this 24hr period with no work and focus on God and family I wouldn’t be able to handle all that life throws at me. Even if you go to church on Sunday, I would highly recommend that you make more time to get away from all the distractions of life for more than just the time church takes. There’s something to be said for taking one day away from the hustle and bustle.
The section that really touched me the most was on grieving. Winner flat out states that Jews have a better grieving than Christians. Which isn’t to say that Christians grieve “worse” than Jews, it’s just that the Jewish tradition for grieving has a deeper connections to those suffering a loss than the Christian practice. This spoke to me as I’ve always felt that Christians tend to rush the grieving process because, “yes it hurts but Jesus is coming and He’ll explain it all then, so don’t spend too much time crying.” I think this leaves a lot of Christians feeling a lone and almost ashamed to be grieving after the funeral. The Jewish practice expects its adherents to be grieving for awhile after a loss which, to me, seems more healthy. Winner explains that the Jewish community doesn’t step in until after the funeral because the funeral is the beginning of the grief process; pre-funeral the family is still “dying”. For seven days after the funeral the family stays home and the community steps in to provide meals and comfort. Towards the end of the seven days, the family is escorted on walks with their fellow believers as a symbol of coming back into the community. From there the family is slowly encouraged to return to their place in the community. This is after sitting in a new place in the synagogue for one week, not fellowshipping with friends after the service for another week, then finally integrating back into their place figuratively and literally. Then there’s the practice of saying Kaddish, a prayer praising God in a time of grief. Those who are grieving a loved one are expected to say the Kaddish in the morning and the evening for certain time and at a specific time in the Sabbath service. The amount of time between the Kaddish prayers grows, slowly easing the griever out of the grief process. Frankly, I find comfort in structure. Such a grief process sounds constraining to some, but in a time when all seems to hurt and there’s a certain feeling of chaos, having these practices to rely on would bring a certain since of peace as I would know what others were expecting of me and what I expected of them. I like that there’s a communal aspect where members of the community are expected to be involved in their fellow believers’ grief process.
If you’re looking for someways to spice up your religious practice, I would recommend reading this book. It’s a quick read, but may spark some ideas for you to explore later. If it’s not your cup of tea, it won’t take long to get through and it will at least inform you of some practices from another faith tradition.