Why I Love Going to Funerals
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Why I Love Going to Funerals

Why I Love Going to Funerals

It’s not morbid. Nothing connects me to the power of life more than a funeral.

by

Last night I went to a stunning wedding and witnessed a young couple embark on a life together built upon Jewish values and tradition. I was moved and it was beautiful. But this morning I went to a funeral and it transformed me, leaving me with a burning desire to improve and develop myself.

Nothing makes me want to grow, change and improve more than a funeral.

And I’m in good company.  King Solomon, considered to be the “wisest of all men,” also loved funerals. He wrote: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2)

When I hear children eulogize their parents I inevitably ask myself:

  • What will my children say about me at my funeral?
  • Am I living my life with total commitment to the value and ideals that I hold dear?
  • Am I the type of role model for my children that I yearn to be?

These feelings stir a healthy discontent within, creating a greater resolve and clarity to live with commitment to the principles and ideals that I want my children to remember me by.

The funeral I attended today was no different. My Uncle Burt was a prince of a man. His children and grandchildren recounted his life and inspired a raptured gathering with vignettes telling of commitment, hard-work, dedication to principles and values, love, and respect.

Again, I overheard myself asking myself, “Do I display this level of commitment to my values? Do I conduct myself with the same degree of professionalism and integrity as Burt did? Do I demonstrate the same level of love and respect as my dear uncle did?”

How will I be remembered?

Will my eulogizers have the luxury of choosing from an endless supply of anecdotes that illustrate my sterling character, like my cousins did yesterday when they lauded their father? Will they have a reservoir of examples of my spiritual and moral accomplishments to pick from? Or will they have to vie for the first speaking slot to insure that other’s don’t usurp their one or two classic stories about me?

Walking out of that cemetery this morning, I felt connected to the realization that life is short and fragile, and there is so much work to do. I need to live each day of my life as the person who I long to be remembered as.

I have never felt that at a wedding. King Solomon, I get it.

And how many times have you been to a funeral when you left kicking yourself for not having made a greater effort to get to know a person who could have taught you so much? And now, it’s too late.

We have so many gems in our midst. We squander too many opportunities to really become intimate with people who can impact us and help us to grow in so many ways.

I left the cemetery this morning with so many thoughts racing through my mind. One of them was: Who can I reach out to in my own extended family who will enrich my life and help me grow as a father, a husband, a man of integrity?

May we only have simchas, celebrations of true joy and happiness. But when the occasion arises, I love going to funerals.

Published: May 10, 2014


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Visitor Comments: 12

(7) Fayvel, May 15, 2014 12:01 AM

Truism

Rabbi, your essay is lovely but states the obvious. As my mother-in-law used to say (in Yiddish) if you dance at weddings, you also cry at funerals.

(6) Lisa, May 14, 2014 2:14 PM

Shadenfreud?

I don't know about this one. Seems to me you can compare your life to others while they're alive. I'm having a hard time separating the ideas in this article from the concept of using another's misfortune, in this case death, to help yourself feel better. I've also found comparing ones life to another to be counter productive. We all know how we should behave and conduct our lives… should it take death to point this out? Not for me.

Anonymous, May 14, 2014 3:17 PM

Not indicated in article

The author does not indicate a joy in attending funerals, but rather attaches a deep soul-searching opportunity to the event. We did not get the impression that the author enjoys the misfortune of others (G-d forbid!) as the term Schadenfreude suggests.
We do not need to compare our lives to another's but we can try to learn by another's example.

(5) Sheila Silver Halet, May 12, 2014 5:01 PM

Graveside Private

I only want those who truly loved me to attend my funeral. I do not want the phony bologna people who left me out in life or pushed me away when I tried to be their friend to come and laud me after I am gone. Do it in life not death is my philosophy. After spending more then 45 years teaching Hebrew I tried to be a role model and good example to my students and their parents - as well. Ihave enough nice letters to read so I don't need all the stuff said when I am dead.

(4) Lynne, May 12, 2014 12:23 PM

My personal tour guide

Like my yetzer ra is my personal trainer, Rabbi David is, indeed, my personal tour guide to the Wonderful World of Torah. If you don't live in the Chicago or Milwaukee areas, find him online at www.lchaimcenter.org.

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