It oftentimes happens that seemingly disparate things conjoin and together make a good memory better. As the editors of Our Tapestry, a Brooklyn-based print magazine devoted to Jewish bereavement, observed in the editorial introduction to their nineteenth issue: "The simplest words, the tiniest creatures, the smallest gestures, can forge the most powerful impressions."
My focus for this brief essay is appropriately enough the "little but not insignificant stuff" we retain in memory, in the memories of our days and years past.
Yesterday I received my complimentary copy of Our Tapestry. Around three months ago, an editor called me with the good news that the editorial board had chosen to publish one of my favorite pieces Looking Out The Rear Window-a metaphorical reflection that I wrote in 2010 in commemoration of what was then Ben’s tenth yahrzeit.
Mourning, unlike grief with which it is often confused, is a finite period of time in Jewish tradition and varies in length from one to eleven months, depending upon the relationship of the deceased to the mourner. The Mourner's Kaddish is recited in the synagogue in the presence of a minyan, an adult quorum of ten males."
I mourned our loss of Ben for one month in accordance with the Jewish laws of mourning. I have grieved for him, however, every single one of the three thousand, six hundred and sixty-five days since his death.
"Parental bereavement receives no vacation days.”
I was nearby the old neighborhood when I decided to revisit the place where some of my best childhood memories happened, in the house at 5828 N. St. Louis Ave. in Chicago. Once upon a time, it was home to my Aunt Hynda (my dad’s sister), Uncle Sam, cousins Bob and Robyn. Warmth and welcome oozed through its walls-a place wherein you felt yourself at home because you were.
Just around the corner from 5828 N. St. Louis Ave, there still stands the old synagogue Shaare Tikvah-Gates of Hope-at the corner of Thorndale and Kimball.
When Ben was yet a young boy, I took him to Shaare Tikvah on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.The memorial service was very moving and ended with the lighting of six “gigantic” white candles. You can do the symbolic arithmetic on your own.
It was not uncommon in those days to see biblical quotations cut into the exterior walls of synagogues; an architectural ornamentation that left no doubt as to the sort of building it was. On the exterior east wall of Shaare Tikvah, one can’t help but see ...
“ ... What doth the LORD require of thee, only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. (Micah 6: 8)
We can only hope that of the unknown millions of passers-by through the years that there were many who paused long enough to read it, ponder it and apply it in their tiny corner of the world, making it a better fraction of the whole for everybody.