The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 50

Papa's first yahrzeit fell out on the Shabbat before last. So... what did marking this date change for me? * * * Some things are inevitable. Even before learning anything meaningful or interesting about the orphan's kaddish, I knew that I would attend minyan every day to recite it for Papa. I also knew that this… Continue reading The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 50

The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 30

Last week, I laminated a copy of my parents' wedding invitation, which I found in my Babushka's apartment (my mother's mother) after she passed away in late September. She was gathered unto her ancestors less than three months after my Papa (Blog #8). A day or so later, it happened that my aunt gave me my Dedushka's (my mother's father)… Continue reading The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 30

The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 29

No small number of the memories evoked for me by my father's death are those of his most oft used expressions, but his voice is fading from my recollections. I am struggling to hear the sound of him; but his turns of phrase, textured with his rhythm and inflections, are looped and shuffled. Nearly all of… Continue reading The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 29

The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 23

Dear Dad, Happy birthday. You would have turned 71 years old today but likely wouldn't have celebrated your birthday - it wasn't something that you thought important. When Eli was very little, Mom told me that she wished we had celebrated more special family occasions together during my childhood, including your birthdays and hers. From… Continue reading The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 23

The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 11

We must discuss the purpose of kaddish. What is it, exactly, that I'm doing this year? (Depends on whom you ask.) This is a major, running theme of Leon Wieseltier's book Kaddish. He writes (pp. 40-41): A story about Rabbi Akiva introduces the mourner's kaddish and announces that its function is the redemption of the dead. The… Continue reading The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 11

The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 9

The traditional kaddish journey is deliberately connectional. It pulls mourners into their communities, for they cannot recite kaddish without a minyan. Having surrendered myself to this tradition, I've come to draw upon the wisdom of people that I've reconnected with (those I prayed with before giving up on shul some 3 years ago), as well as others… Continue reading The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 9

The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 7

Last Shabbat was Shabbat Shuva, which is the Shabbat between Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and a member of the community shared a brief drasha (words of Torah) with the kehila (congregation) on Friday evening. To my mind, her question was classic and critical: Which is the holier day—Yom Kippur or Shabbat? Shabbat is mentioned… Continue reading The skeptic’s kaddish for the atheist, 7