Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ki avi v'imi azavuni . . .

Every year, from Rosh Chodesh Elul (the beginning of the month of Elul on the Jewish calendar) until Hoshanah Rabbah (or until Shemini Atzeret, depending on your minhag/custom), we recite the so-called Penitential Psalm, Psalm 27, L'David, HaShem ori v'yish'i. For many years, that psalm has meant something special to me, but not in a good way.

I'm talking about this post of mine from 2005, which I wrote based on this comment that I'd posted elsewhere:

“It was difficult enough when my parents made aliyah and left us to raise a child with disabilities without help and without grandparents.But I knew I was truly alone, and could never "go home" again, the day, some years later, that I asked my mother for some cooking advice and she told me to look it up in a cookbook.

Ever since then, I've considered myself a pseudo-orphan. My parents are both still alive, baruch ha-shem, but I no longer consider them a real part of my life. I grew up real fast that day.

But I still remember a day a few years ago when I was sitting in the shul choirbox learning an Israeli lullaby. It's probably a mental block, but I can't remember the name of the song ["Hitragut," with lyrics by Y. Karni and a gorgeous choral arrangement by P. Ben-Chayim], or very many of the lyrics. What I do remember is that the song spoke of a grandmother with her grandchild. I was choking back tears, knowing that my son had never had that kind of experience with either of his grandmothers, and never would.”

[ ¶ ]

The sad truth is that it was difficult for me to mourn for my mother when she'd already been largely absent from my life for over two decades. And my father, with no memory left, is, from my own perspective, as good as gone already, as awful as that may sound. I'm actually having trouble trying to figure out what to say when the time comes for me to sit shiva for him--he's been in decline for so long that we haven't been able to have a decent conversation for several years.

[ ¶ ]

So a psalm that says that "my father and my mother have deserted me" strikes a little too close to home.


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