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Who Are “The Mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”?

Who Are “The Mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”?

''Kinos'' by Chassidic artist Hendel Liberman
"Kinos" by Chassidic artist Hendel Liberman


I was wondering about the traditional words of consolation said to mourners: “May the Almighty comfort you amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” What exactly is the consolation in those words? How is comparing the loss of a loved one to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans two thousand years ago supposed to make me feel any better?


There are several parallels between the fall of Jerusalem and the passing of a soul. By contemplating these, the mourners can find a profound message of hope.

You’re not alone. Although the destruction of Jerusalem would have directly affected those who lived there the most, nevertheless it was a national tragedy. All Jews, including those who lived far from Jerusalem, were deeply pained at the loss of their holy city. It gave strength and courage to the Jerusalemites to know that the entire people was feeling their pain. So too, although it is the family that is mourning for their loss, the entire Jewish people share in their sorrow at the passing of one of our own. There is comfort in knowing that your sorrow is being shared by your people.

It isn’t forever. After two millennia we still mourn for the loss of Jerusalem, but the Jewish people have never lost hope that Jerusalem will one day be rebuilt. In a similar way, we mourn the loss of our loved ones, but we have faith that we will one day be reunited with them, for our prophets have promised that the dead will come back to life in the messianic era. There is comfort in knowing that the separation, as painful as it is, is only temporary.

They’re still with us. While the Romans were able to destroy the buildings of Jerusalem, its spirit and inner holiness were beyond their reach. No enemy can destroy the soul of Jerusalem, and even today it remains the Holy City. So too, death can only take away the physical persona, but the soul lives on. Even after their passing, our loved ones are with us in spirit. They strengthen us when we face challenges, and they smile with us when we celebrate. While we can no longer see them, we can sense their presence. There is comfort in knowing that we are never really apart.

None of this denies the pain and sorrow of death. But it may take the edge off that pain to know that, like Jerusalem, the soul has eternal powers that even death can’t conquer. Your grandma was the pillar and backbone of your family. She will always be there when you need her.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
Drawing by Chassidic artist Hendel Lieberman.
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Susan Levitsky April 24, 2017

When my father died, people kept saying this to me. It made me fly into a rage. God did not comfort me and no amount of analogies between Jerusalem and my father made me feel better. When my mother died, I guess people remembered my feelings and didn't say this rote sentence as if it has any meaning. Instead, they conveyed their heartfelt condolences which were more meaningful than something repeated without thought. I have found that a lot of Jewish death rituals are a crushing burden rather than being comforting. Reply

Michael Attias April 26, 2017
in response to Susan Levitsky:

These words are empty only if the recipient is not the donor. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL August 7, 2014

Difference in mourning! It is hard to understand the analogy between a building made out of stones and a human soul. While a building, no matter how holly it is, can be rebuilt anytime, I don’t believe a departed human being made out of blood and flesh can be revived anytime. Although we can mourn both for different reasons, one for destroying the foundation of our spiritual place built on the land given to us by our Creator, the other one for the ones we will never see again until time comes but probably not in our lifetime. Reply

Anonymous August 4, 2014

Hopefully peace will be for all Jews in Israel and things will settle down so everyone Jews and Palestinians can get back to their normal lives without living in fear Reply

Sarah Thomas Waretown NJ August 3, 2014

I as a Child of Noah, I pray for the new temple and also mourn of loss. G-d bless Israel. Bless Hashem. Reply

Tanya Brito S Domingo January 8, 2013

Wow! Awesome! One of the best articles I've ever read. Reply

Sheila Weinstein W. Hempstead, NY September 16, 2010

Mourners of Zion Very good, Rabbi Hammer. Before my father passed, I truly meant the words of comfort I expressed to the mourners whom I dearly wanted to console. But now a short time after the passing of my tatala (dear father), I will feel those words of comfort for others. Reply

Simcha Baker Modi''in, ISRAEL January 24, 2010

Who are the Mourners... Yasher koach!!! Beautifully stated with clarity beyond belief. I deeply appreciate your input into this event we all face until Moshiach arrives. Reply

Rabbi Yaakov M Hammer January 22, 2010

Mourners of Zion When my Mother died, I discovered a void that previously I could not have imagined.. No matter how sincerely I had expressed my condolences to other people in the past, I suddenly realized that until that moment I could not have appreciated what they were experiencing.

Words, no matter how much they are meant to console, mean very little when your dead are before you. We express the wish that one bereaved find comfort among the mourners of Zion precisely because only those who themselves feel the sharp pain of their loss can offer true comfort to fellow mourners. Reply

Isabella Albuquerque, NM USA January 22, 2010

On this day of the first Yahrtzeit of my dear husband, I know that this is true!
I sense him with me always. And it gives me great comfort. Reply