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kaddish in two-part harmony

I’ve been challenged to a kaddish a day — for an entire year. That year starts today, right now in fact. On this very line. I’m not sure this is a healthy thing to do, but maybe it’s exactly the right way to work it through.

Bibbo tells me of the baths his babalawo prescribes. He’s prescribed them to me as well, and I’ve written them down. Each on a scrap of paper I never find again. Magic! I’ve been writing on scraps of paper since I was a kid. Thinking I could hold on to an idea, thought or even person, if I’ve just committed them to written form. That they will be preserved. In such a way, at eight years old I invented the Genizah all by myself. Sacred words preserved, even if I can’t ever find them again.

The idea of the baths is to wash ‘it’ all away — whatever ‘it’ happens to be. There are also the oils. And they do the opposite: they bring things to you. You let them soak right into your pores. I’m not sure if our kaddish in two-part harmony is more like the Ife baths washing the pain away, or more like the oils, letting them really soak in. Maybe, like a wave, it will be both, flowing in two directions.

Flowing between you and me. Through our fingertips. A responsive reading of sorts. Call and response. Though I’m not sure who’s calling and who’s responding. Did I call and you responded? No matter. This is all your fault.

And I’m going to accept the challenge on two conditions.

The first, is that we do not meet. Not face to face and not directly by phone. I don’t mind a kaddish left on my answering machine. The voice of a horn. But not the voice of a voice.

The second condition is that this not become a tyranny, as in, oh shit, I have to write a kaddish meditation today, what a bummer. So the question is, can I write a kaddish (I’m calling it a kaddish meditation) coming from a place of love (yes, I just said that) or even anger — but not from a place of obligation.

Hers will be a daily kaddish on horn. Mine, right here, for the most part, in writing. But it won’t always be right here. We’re off to New Orleans shortly, for example. Some of these daily kaddish meditations likely will be transmitted by other means.

The whole enterprise is daunting. An integral transformative practice I was not expecting. But I do know how to do this. And I know how powerful it can be. Or it can be crap.

There’s a third condition. And that, through kaddish, I do not fall in love with you. Not sure if there’s anything you can do about that. Not sure if it’s already too late. But I’m going to reaffirm right here, right now, that this is not about you or me. It’s about the material at hand.

Let the kaddish begin.

By mira

Mira Z. Amiras is Professor of Comparative Religious Studies and founder of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. She is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and has served on the Executive Council of the American Anthropological Association. She is co-founder, with Ovid Jacob, of Beit Malkhut, a study group in Jewish sacred text. She's most attached to the creatures of her body and her household — first and foremost, her kids, of course: Michael and Rayna — and then the other folks large and small of various species, including Roshi and Vlad, a whole lot of hummingbirds, the old parrot who lives next door, and a beautiful garden that does what it will.

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