Mira and I have been talking backstage about the themes in the daily Kaddish. Sometimes I ask her, “What should today’s Kaddish be about?” or a variation of that question, because there’s just nobody or nothing specific I have in mind. Sometimes she does have a suggestion for me, but other times, she blanks out, too. Often a glance at the headlines answers the question—as the Arab spring continues into an Arab summer of continuing bloodshed, it’s clear that our cup of blessings is not full: there are many, many people in mourning. But a few weeks ago we actually found ourselves googling “who died on this day in history?” and checking obituaries on the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times websites.
Which is ridiculous. That brought home to us that we’d lost our way a bit.
We started this project last November because Mira and I were both in mourning. We each had a list of several people and a dog who had died in the last year or so, and neither of us had been mourning them effectively. So we decided to do something about that. We designed a collaboration: among other things, I would play a Kaddish every day, and she would listen to it.
We sketched a plan, and we got started.
Before long, I’d started putting a suffix on the filename of the daily recording—nothing important, just a reminder of what was on my mind when I made the recording. The first one was “naturalHorn,” about a week into the project, when I decided to try playing “Kaddish” on my natural horn (hand horn). Then “mem,” indicating that it was my first memory attempt. Then “imprv” because I was improvising. And so on.
Mira commented that it was helpful when I marked them that way, so I kept doing it.
That’s how the filename suffix I’d appended a few times for my own reference evolved into a feature of the project: that each day’s kaddish was dedicated to some specific person or idea.
The other day when we were talking, though, we realized that it had gotten out of hand. Some of the time we do want to focus on a recent tragedy, or answer a request for a Kaddish from one of our readers or friends, but having a specific, new purpose for each day’s Kaddish isn’t necessary, and it wasn’t central to the project’s intention. Our project’s intention was that together we would adapt a centuries old ritual of bereavement to mourn our recent losses.
Which were specific.
So specific that the pain of the losses had gotten us stuck.
We are in mourning. We are carrying out a ritual for a year and a day to mark those specific losses.
So. Today marks the end of our sense of obligation to focus the daily kaddish on some specific theme, idea, person, or tragedy. We continue to welcome Kaddish requests from you, our virtual minyan, and we will continue to want and need to make Kaddishim in response to the sadnesses in our world. But we will not continue to hold ourselves to coming up with some new specific idea for each day’s Kaddish. The names listed in our page of yizkorim and in the page of yizkorim from our readers are specific enough.
Today’s kaddish is just another kaddish on another day in this year of our bereavement. Today’s kaddish is just another day that we conduct a practice, remember our loved ones, and feel grateful for the air that fills our lungs, one breath after another, and for the time that we still walk this earth, one day after another, because these names are specific enough: