“Don’t Try Suicide”

This past week, two different friends in two different cities posted on Facebook about going to see the band Queen perform.  Of all the memorable Queen songs that could pop into my head upon reading this news – Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, Somebody to Love, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, etc. – I kept coming back to one song that never got much play time because of some racy lyrics: Don’t Try Suicide.

In his own inimitable way, Freddie Mercury challenged his listeners to remember that life is a good thing and to seek out the attention and affection they need.  If only it were so simple.

Suicide keeps coming back for more.  This past week, Chester Bennington, lead singer of the band Linkin Park, committed suicide on what would have been Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday.  Cornell, lead singer of the band Soundgarden, committed suicide two months ago.  Just yesterday, medical examiners issued a report that the death of Sheila Abdus-Salaam – the first African-American woman to sit on the New York State Supreme Court – was a suicide.  Combined with stories of suicide by some less famous people, it’s been a rough time.

It was with all of this swimming around in my brain that I turned to this week’s Torah portion and read the words of Moses, who was reflecting on his long career as the leader of the Israelite people.  In thinking about his time as leader, he said, “I cannot lift you up myself (Deut. 1:9).”  Think about it: the person whom Judaism reveres as the ideal leader admitted that he couldn’t do it all himself.  He needed help.

It should be obvious that everyone needs help in life and yet we celebrate the ability to make it on one’s own.  We admire independence.  We would do well to remember Moses’ words.

We don’t tell people to just get over a heart attack.  We don’t blame people for getting cancer.  We make sure our loved ones get the care that they need.  We get angry at the disease.  However, when it comes to mental illness and depression, we expect people to just get over it and we blame them when they don’t.

We all have to remember that our loved ones cannot lift themselves up by themselves.  Instead of blaming or castigating, let’s all resolve to give them the help that they need.  Not sure what to look for or what to do?  Click here.  Not everyone can state their needs as clearly as Moses did all those years ago.

Shalom,
RAF.

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About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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