2014 was one of the most challenging years of my life. Several tragedies occurred. A lot of beautiful things happened too. But as it is with many of us, the darkness eclipses the light. My brother-in-law, Dave, died. He was family. He treated me like a sister. He was a wonderful person. Easy to laugh, quick to comfort, and he understood what was important: love and togetherness and laughter. His death stole something from me for a while. I felt a distance from joy and comfort like I had not before. I felt separate from words which is not like me. Even in the most confusing and stressful of times I have something to say. This was different. I had no words to give and the words given to me were dust. Useless. Sometimes painful even when they were well-intended. Many people asked if being a religious person brought me comfort in my grief. I don’t think so. The usual platitude “he’s in a better place” didn’t apply. My thoughts about the afterlife are contorted at best but better place? I suppose, but there is no place like that in Judaism for me to rely on. As with things in the Torah there are many thoughts. Sheol is the place of nothingness one goes to at death. (Thoughts on Sheol.) But it is not a place where one can praise God so to me that is no life at all. The only thing that bordered on comfort was reciting Kaddish with the congregation on Shabbat. I sobbed each time. And each time a congregant would put his or her arm around me without a word. Just knowing. Comfort came when I told people that he had died and they looked at me with pained expression and lack of words. This grief was beyond language for many weeks. It was a place of nothingness. I have moved past that place a little bit now. I can talk about it with greater ease and am incorporating it into my life instead of living next to it like I was. Dave was a teacher. He taught about love and joy which I will always need lessons in. So was I comforted by my faith in this dark time? I was because I believe God weeps too. The God in my life is one of creation not destruction. God does not take my loved ones or cause tragedies. God stands beside me when these things are happening and understands without trying to change my feelings. And that is support – an arm around the shoulder without words that pretend to know.