Yarzheit [yar-tzhight] is the Jewish practice of remembering the death of a loved one. It is based on the Jewish calendar. In our secular society, this anniverary takes a back seat to the “real” annivesary of Simon’s death, January 24, 2005. Most people, have no idea that there is this other anniversary, the 15th day of Shvat.
I attended synagogue this morning to say mourner’s kaddish, a prayer to remember Simon. I was surrounded by guests of a bat mitzvah so the overall mood was joyous. They were there to celebrate the accomplishments of a young girl. I was there to remember a boy, my son, that will never reach the age of 13.
I couldn’t say the mourner’s kaddish. The words were out-muscled by the grief and tears. The best I could do was move my lips. I’ve been in a funk all day, which is remarkable considering that this is the “secondary” anniversary. However, today reminded me of the significance of yarzheit.
It is always great to receive well wishes from friends. When I receive emails and calls, or friends change their profile pictures on Facebook on January 24, my spirits soar. This support and recognition is so therapeutic. However, something magical happened today.
I stood in front of a joyful crowd to recite a prayer to remember my son. In the midst of their celebration, they paused to acknowledged my grief. They stood with me as I tried to speak. They surrounded and supported me. In a very spiritual and physical way, they lifted me up.
Community is very important. Lately, we are obsessed with virtual communities, and impressed by how easy it is to connect with people from around the world. However, on days like today, I am reminded of the value of “reality communities” and traditions that have endured for thousands of years. I am also reminded that new calendars and new ways to communicate aren’t always better than the old ones.