Kriah: A Tangible and Obligatory Expression of Grief

Kriah, or tearing of a piece of clothing, helps mourners confront the reality of death.

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Indeed, the use of the ribbon may be part of the larger phenomenon in Ameri­can culture of denying the finality of death and covering up its real­ity. Along with cosmetic tampering of the body and abandonment of the open grave before burial, these all avoid facing tragedy. But the healing process cannot begin until one has confronted the fact that loss has occurred. By acknowledging what has befallen through the ripping of clothing and God's ultimate power over life and death through the berakhah [blessing] of Dayan Ha-emet, we begin this process as we address our deepest psychological needs as a mourner.


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Joseph Ozarowski

Rabbi Joseph S. Ozarowski is Rabbi of the Elmont Jewish Center, Elmont, NY.