June 16, 2014

6th Yahrzeit

Today is the sixth yahrzeit (annual memorial) for my father, may his memory be for a blessing. Last night I lit the 24-hour yahrzeit memorial candle, which is still burning as I type now.

Rik woke me at 6 AM this morning so that I could get to morning minyan (service) on time. I arrived by 7:10 and my friend D was already there. We had a minyan of 10 people by 7:45 or so. As the only Kohen present, I was offered the first aliyah. I'm sure my dad would have been proud, since he's the one who taught me how to do it. I remember my first summer at Camp Tel Yehudah. I had been offered an aliyah and I had to call home "collect" to get my correct Hebrew name from my parents. (You have to be old enough to remember what "calling collect" means.)

D ended up saving the minyan. No one had prepared the Torah reading, and when the man leading the services asked if anyone could sight read the portion, D said yes, if she could use a chumash (a printed book of the Torah). She did a marvelous job, leyning (singing) the trope (cantillation) in the lovely melody she learned from a friend. Imagine sight-singing a new piece of music, in front of other people, when the words are in another language, and you'll understand the feat D pulled off today.

In our congregation, at daily minyan, those observing a yahrzeit have the opportunity to hold the Torah scroll while reciting the prayer El Maleh Rachamim (God full of compassion). I held the Torah, sang El Maleh for my dad, and then told a short story about him:

When we were on a family trip to California in the mid-70s, we drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles. ALong the way we stopped at San Simeon for a night and stayed at a motel on the beach. We drove up and father said, "Take off your shows." We looked at hime like he was crazy. "Take off your shoes!" OK, we took off our shoes. Then, before checking in to the reception desk, he walked my mom, my sister and I to the edge of the beach, and told us to dip our toes into the Pacific ocean. That, he said, made us cross-country travelers. (As New Yorkers, we had of course been in the Atlantic ocean many times.)

It's especially sad to remember my father this year, when Father's Day and his yahrzeit coincided. Zichrono l'vracha, may his memory be for a blessing to all who knew him.

Shimon Shir ben Zalman haKohen uMiryam, 1985

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