June 24, 2008


One very visible Jewish mourning custom is the keriah, or rending of clothing. Before the funeral, we were given black buttons with ribbons attached. The rabbi and cantor led us in the prayer praising Dayan Ha'Emet, the true Judge, and then tore the ribbons.

Today, the third day of shiva, we were speculating on why my sister and I are wearing the keriah on our left side and Mom on her right. We learned that when mourning a parent, one wears the keriah on the left, over the heart. For all other relatives (spouse, sibling, child), it is worn on the right side.

My sister also learned that one may tear the keriah on clothing up to the third day of shiva. This is what I wanted to do at the funeral, but got caught up in the moment and didn't interrupt the ceremony that the rabbi had prepared. So just a moment ago I took a pair of scissors, recited the Dayan Ha'Emet prayer again, and tried to cut a tear in my jacket. It was hard -- I had to fight the cloth and it took all my energy to make a four inch long tear.

It felt as though I was ripping the fabric of my life.

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