A Jewish Mourning Ritual For Starting Over

A Jewish Mourning Ritual For Starting Over June 27, 2016


I started losing Instagram followers. Where before I was earning 100 new Instagram followers every day, now I was losing about 50 per day. The turning point had been the announcement that @overthemoonmag would be closing for the summer, and that when it returned it would be completely different then what it was before. It would be all new. We would be starting over.

As much as I was excited for this change, to create an account that was more aligned with me and my own passions and interests, it hurt knowing that my passions and interests aren’t as interesting to the people who followed me before. Who felt aligned with the quotes I posted and the articles I featured. But none of that was me. I had developed an entire platform around what I thought the people needed. Until I realized it wasn’t what I needed.

I wanted something more in-depth. Something that went beyond basic “spirituality” and delved into the depths of “Catholicism.” I knew this would turn away many followers, spirituality is much more popular than religion (for all the obvious reasons). But that’s exactly why I wanted to change that. Because when people hear the word “catholicism” they think of old-school traditions and out-of-date “rules and regulations.” They don’t see the beauty in it the way I do.

So I decided to change the focus of my Instagram account from “spiritual inspiration” to “catholic inspiration” and feature the side of the religion I love. But that would mean starting ALL OVER. And possibly losing all that I had built before. So I watched as my followers left me, and I questioned whether I was doing the right thing, whether people would even want what I have to offer.

But then I read a story about an ancient Jewish custom, and it changed the way I thought about it.

Certain sects of ancient Judaism used to shave their heads in association with mourning. After the loss of a spouse, a husband or wife would shave his or her head bald in representation of new beginnings, a fresh start. After all, hair takes years to grow, especially to the length common of the ancient Israelites, but after a death, it was all wiped clean, making way for new hair to grow in this place.

I love this ritual because I too always feel like a new person after a haircut. Trimming off the dead ends often feels like a chance to trim away the dead ends of my life as well. I have a new start. I have a new haircut. But shaving the whole head must be a whole new experience.  It means letting go of years of growth. It means letting go of how you once looked. It means letting go of how you once were. It means letting go of the person you are mourning.

So you lose it all. You go bald. And now you have to start ALL OVER. You have to grow new hair, and that takes time. Five or more years until it is back where it was. Often ten if you’re hair was all the way down your back. So though my example is trivial, though I am not losing a spouse, but merely Instagram followers, I can see that sometimes we have to cut our losses and start all over. Sometimes we have to let go of what we once had, what we once built, and we need to start all over again.

Just as the prophet Jeremiah once had to rewrite an entire scroll he had written after the king through it into the fire, so too do we have to move forward into a new life, a new existence, only by letting go of what we had before. It will never be the same. No doubt Jeremiah’s second scroll was completely different from the first. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. That we can be better. That we can change and evolve and start all over again.

Because we can. And often the new growth, is better than before.

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