Friday, October 3, 2008


It's hard to go about one's business (the dish-doing, the laundry and shopping, the dropping off and picking up at school and lessons) during the High Holy Days and not feel the weight of them--which is, I suppose, appropriate. It's the holiest time of year in the Jewish calendar, and the time when God is closest to us. If these days are a time for t'shuvah (repentance, or literally, turning), and self-awareness, and self-examination, they're also a time for remembering those who have gone before us, those who are no longer with us, the ancestors who are present only in odd and sometimes only half-remembered anecdotes and photos from the earliest days of photography, and the more recent losses which still hurt very much--this unbroken line that connects me to my family and my family's family and back as far as memory can go--

The Holy Days culminate in the Yiskor service on Yom Kippur, when we gather in synagogue to say prayers together especially for the lost ones, to formally and collectively remember--and it's a hard service to sit through--the children are sent outside to play, where they are almost but not quite oblivious to the tears and pain inside--I remember being shepherded back inside when Yiskor was done, seeing the tears on my grandparents' cheeks, and knowing in an inchoate way what those tears meant. And knowing that I would join them on the benches inside one day, and in the far future that I would sit there without them too.

So I think today is my day to remember names: Paisach, Manya, Moses, Benjamin, Katie, Libby, Tillie, Honey, Harold, Eva and Mac, Sidney, Oscar and Marion, Sam, Abby, Alexander, Michel, Ray...

The Lock Gate by Paul Celan

Above all this mourning
of yours: no
second heaven.

To a mouth
for which it was one of a thousand
I lost--
I lost a word
that had remained with me:

To the worship of many gods
I lost a word that was looking for me:

the lock gate I had to go
to save the word back
to the salt waters and
out and across:


Jan said...

Dear Leah,
Thank you for such an eloquent reminder of the intent of the holy days. Your photographs bring many memories of similar ones at my parents' home. I love those photographs of the people that brought me to here, those that I never met and those I knew very dearly. It is good to remember them even with the tears. Thank you.
Jan (from DishRagTag)

Suzanne said...

Hello my dear. What a beautiful, beautiful post. I know the holidays are difficult, but it's good to reflect, feel and know that you are part of this amazing thing called life and that those who come after you will remember and morn you as well. That your life mattered. There are so many aspects of the Jewish faith I love, and this holiday is one of them.

The photos are amazing. Thanks for sharing them. You have a remarkable family (I know because of previous posts!).

Love you dear friend. XO

P.S. Hang in there honey!

(Not-So) Cynical Gal said...

As always, a meaningful and thoughtful post. Thank you for being here.

Megan said...

Thanks for this post. It made me think. And go look at my pictures. And wonder about those whose names I know but who lived before photography was even imagined...