Saturday, September 29, 2007

Haredi Death Posters

In the ultra-orthodox communities of Israel, the announcement of a death is an opportunity for a dramatic "wall literature", one which has mostly disappeared from the non-haredi community. These posters are filled with arcane and euphemistic descriptions of life and death, Torah references, and statements on the decedent's role in the community:
There is much "oy veying" using quotes from the Bible and rabbinical literature in the wall notices. Here are a few examples I jotted down this past month from three posters: "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof," "Woe unto the ship that has lost its captain," "Zion shall weep bitterly and Jerusalem lift its voice," "Tears shall flow from our eyes and from our eyelashes water shall run," "Let every eye weep and every heart groan," "Broken and shattered, afflicted and demolished by the fire of God's burning," "How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

The article in Haaretz is an interesting exploration of the symbolism and expression of a seemingly cloistered community of scholars and ascetics, whose black-and-white appearance and religious fervor hide their flair for bold statements:
I asked a yeshiva student who was reading death notices, which often draw many passersby on the street, why the grief imagery is so dramatic. He replied to my question with a question: "So what do you think, death is not dramatic?"


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