OU Press Publishes Guide to Understanding Mourning

July 1, 2010


Dr. Joel B. Wolowelsky skillfully uncovers the ways in which Jewish mourning rituals are effective in his new book, The Mind of the Mourner: Individual and Community in Jewish Mourning, recently published by OU Press. Jewish mourning rituals are especially helpful in recovering from devastating loss, and mourners go through a process of consolation and healing that is remarkably effective. Numerous manuals, in an ever-expanding halachic literature, explain these laws of mourning. This abundance of resources comes at a risk, though, the danger of getting lost in the details.

Dr. Joel B. Wolowelsky, Dean of the Faculty at the Yeshivah of Flatbush, takes a step back from all the legal details and looks at the mosaic of Jewish life. He sees not just the rules but also the impact they have on those who observe the laws. Basing himself on the teachings and writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Dr. Wolowelsky explores the philosophical underpinnings of the halachot of mourning and the psychological impact those laws have on the mourners.

Why do we do what we do? What do the rules mean, when taken together as an entity rather than individual requirements? Making his way from the beginning of the mourning process through the end, Dr. Wolowelsky digs below the surface of ritual to reveal the psychological profundity of our traditions. He shows that the myriad details comprise a unified framework that fosters communal support for the mourner and addresses the emotional and psychological needs of the mourner with sensitivity and compassion. This new book brings comfort and understanding to people struggling with the most natural and tragic aspect of life.

Publication of The Mind of the Mourner was made possible by the kind support of the Goldstein family of Parkside Memorial Chapels in Brooklyn and Queens, N.Y., in loving memory of their daughter and sister, Jamie Fischer. Having recently suffered a bereavement of their own, the Goldstein family supported The Mind of the Mourner in the hope that it would bring comfort and solace to others.

This book is the latest offering from OU Press, the publishing house of the Orthodox Union that recently published the Koren Kinot Mesorat HaRav, a complete guide and service to Tisha b’Av with a moving commentary on the kinot based on the teachings of Rabbi Soloveitchik. Future publications include a new Siddur with a profound commentary based on the teachings of Rabbi Soloveitchik, accompanied by the eloquent translation of the prayers by Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and the popular Koren layout.

All of these important books from OU Press are available in local bookstores. Copies of The Mind of the Mourner: Individual and Community in Jewish Mourning, which cost $9.95 each for softcover and $15.95 each for hardcover, are also available through www.OUPress.org. Those who wish to place a bulk order (at a discounted price) can contact OU Press at OUPress@ou.org.