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Wednesday, September 4

Yahrtzeit

Yahrtzeit

The anniversary of a loved ones death.

We of my faith, commemorate this anniversary by lighting a simple white candle. You know the ones. You’ve seen them in the super-market aisle. They’re a glass jar filled with white wax. Sometimes they have Hebrew lettering on them.

In my hood they are most often used for low budget roof parties. They blend well with the Jesus candles you find in the corner bodega. I’ve always liked the white melting Star of David candle burning alongside the red Jesus candles. Nice touch for a tar beach soirée’.

Yahrtzeit candles seem to burn forever. I always light them as the sun sets and they’re still burning the next morning. They’re stoic little things. Only cost 69¢ too.

I’ve been lighting Yahrtzeit candles in September since 1993, the year after my mother died. September has become a smorgasbord of emotions for me. Not only does it house Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the only times of year I go to the synagogue as a "High Holiday Jew" but when you throw in mom’s Yahrtzeit, it becomes a one way ticket to "mishegash" land!

This year, September mourning meets the anniversary of “911.”

The first Yahrtzeit of the day America lost its virginity.

No amount of white candles in glass jars will ever burn long enough or bright enough to blot out the pain of this terrible day. Just as no amount of tears can ever bring a loved one back.

But we try.

I’ll try.

I will go to “Shul” on the bookends that surround September 11th. Open myself up to my own blend of spirituality on Rosh Hashanah, find my own way to deal with it all on the morning of September 11th and try to snap myself shut, seam up my exposed inner self on Yom Kippur.

One can’t really function in New York City, with one’s inner self exposed. It’s a bit like walking around naked…during rush hour…in Times Square….a lot.

I’m still tossing about the “what the fuck do I do that day?” anniversary rap. Most of my pals are too. Some plan to leave town, some plan to watch TV and cry, some plan to go to a comedy and attempt to laugh.

I don’t plan on laughing that day.

I will say, however, that thinking of 911 as a Yahrtzeit has made everything click properly in my head. The word anniversary seemed to have a happy tone to it. Memorial is just well shit…we’ve had so many.

But Yahrtzeit feels right. It is the one year remembrance of a terrible loss. It is a day to light white candles and pray to whatever you believe in or whatever you don’t and it’s a valley nestled between two holidays that for me have always been symbolic of healing, mourning and reflecting.

This is not the Jewish column and I’m no preacher of this or any other religion. I don’t really know what happens to any of us after we die. I’ve never died. But I do feel, that when I light the Yahrtzeit candle this year and I shut out all the lights and watch this simple little glass jar burn endlessly through the night and I ask out loud that this terrible loss not be in vain, that someone will listen.

I believe that someone will listen.

It’s the answering back part I’m not so sure about.

La Shana Tovah


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By the way…regardless of what religious calling you have…atheist, wicca, Catholic..
jewsweek (in case this link doesn't work just go to www.jewsweek.com) has an amazing September 11th special issue up now and they’ve also published my story of my time at ground zero one year ago during Rosh Hashanah. My piece is called “Days of Awe” you’ll have to scroll down a touch to find it.


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