The Music of Halacha: Kinah 25: Crying II
“Would that my head were water and my eye a fount of flowing tears.” (Based on Jeremiah 8:23) [See Kinah 25 – Was It All Worth It? & The Music of Halacha: Kinah 25: Crying I] Rabbi Yehudah Ayash (Died 1760) was head of the court of Algiers from 1728 – 1756, after which he retired to Israel. His Responsa are collected in Bet Yehuda.
In a Responsum on mourning (Yoreh Deah, #26) Rav Atyash takes issue with Rav Shmuel Hagiz, author of Halachot Ketanot, on the question of rending the garments when a near relative dies: According to Rav Hagiz, tearing the clothes is enjoined in order to provide the mourners with psychological relief. By giving this expression to their emotions, the mourners are prevented from stifiling their grief and thus having the dreadful thought of loss constantly on their mind.
Rav Ayash disagrees. On the contrary, the purpose of the rite is to awaken the dormant feelings of grief in order to render them more acute.
Rav Ayash proves his case from the narrative of the death of Aaron’s sons. Aaron and his two remaining sons were ordered not to mourn for the departed and not to rend their garments. (Leviticus 10:5)
According to Rav Hagiz, they should have been told to tear their clothes. This clearly demonstrates that the purpose of tearing is not to soften the blow but to increase the feelings of grief.
Rav Ayash consludes that this is the aim of all the rules governing mourning.