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Respecting the Dead

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It’s almost disturbing that after someone dies, many people seem to come out of the proverbial woodwork to mourn them. I suppose it’s natural that there’s a tinge of regret at not being able to express yourself to someone anymore, not being able to apologize for some real or even imagined transgression.

But there’s also a line. When did it become nouveau chic to get choked up at a funeral of an acquaintance? (I’m talking to you, crying emo kid. You didn’t even know him well enough to sob like your mom killed your dog.) Are you really crass enough to stand outside a funeral and hawk your barbecue to the mourners? Are you really that much of a terrible human being that you will wait your turn, to start your eulogy with “I never actually met him, but …” ?

“But, where’s your sensitivity?”, you cry, in some sort of mock outrage. We all are saddened by the death of a loved one, a friend, a colleague, even a celebrity whom we may have admired. Then again, there is a line … where does this change from grief to showboating? Is your grief bigger and better than mine? Can you be sadder than I?

The Jewish tradition of צדקה (pronounced tzedakah) holds that to give, one must give without the knowledge of the receiving party, else it would constitute a selfish act, committed for the gratification of the giver. This falls in the same category of action. Grief and pain are not to be bottled up and hidden, but also not to be paraded around like a set of Boy Scout merit badges. Get your humanity back, it’ll feel a lot better to think that when you die, your funeral will contain somewhat more reality than a Milli Vanilli album. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re a terrible person, live a terrible life, and the only way you’ll be remembered in a kind way is to have a bunch of faking sycophants lined up to give mock eulogies. Don’t worry — time will take care of that question for you.

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