This week marks the fifth anniversary of my father’s passing, z”l. I lit a candle and will say Kaddish commemorating his Yarhzeit. Around the same time dad died, another person, Debbie Friedman also passed away. She was indeed a special individual, an iconic figure in the Reform Movement, and her passing is marked by several public acknowledgements this week.
I recall returning to my studies at the seminary after Shiva and hearing the buzz about the ceremonies planned to mark Debbie’s passing and feeling the sense of loss that pervaded the institution. Her contribution to Judaism was great and many of us, including me, will miss her. I could not help but notice the disparity in the treatment of the two. Although my dad touched fewer lives, he did touch lives and many cared about him. And what’s more of course, he was my dad and the loss is profound for me.
As a Reform Jew I usually stand on behalf of those for whom there is no one left to say Kaddish as a respectful reminder of the victims of persecutions throughout our history. I also stand with those who mourn. This week I will also do it as a son remembering his father. It is acknowledging this personal loss that makes Kaddish Yatom, the orphan’s Kaddish.
Our losses whether personal or communal can be intimate, closely felt. Many people may figure prominently in our lives, deeply affecting us even if we never met them. My father and Debbie both died that week five years ago. The loss of one does not impact the loss of the other. Each person who touches us can be a blessing and an inspiration for us to remember, their best motivating us to live our lives better and more fully. Zichronam Livrachah, May their memories be a blessing.