Passings — 5 Comments

  1. Nice. I like your eclecticism. Many Christians would have a hard time with that. I think some of them would have a hard time offering incense at a Japanese person’s funeral, while it seems to me the only “christian” thing to do. I knew you did candles (menorah?)for the 8 (7?) days of Hanukkah, but I didn’t realize you would think of yahrzeit (that’d be Jahrzeit in German I think) or standing for the Kaddish (?sp) on the yahrzeit of people close to you.

    When I was in college we had to take two semesters of “philosophy” a little bow to the Methodist background of the college. First semester I took ethics. I never understood a word the professor said (and I consider myself at least decently literate). I decided to find something more interesting (and, I hoped, coherent) for the rest of the requirement.

    The catalog listed a course in Judaism. The teacher was the Rabbi of the local Reformed congregation (our town also had a Conservative congregation). Anyway, it was fascinating. The Rabbi was probably the most learned cleric I’ve ever had the opportunity to listen to.

    Our learning consisted both of traditional stuff and modern practices. We were required to attend one service at his synagog. I attended several at both, and actually ran into some of my father’s business associates who were very friendly and welcoming. The refreshments after (oneg shabat?) were nice, too.

    Anyway, it was one of the most interesting AND most challenging classes I took in college. I worked my @@@ off and got either a B- or C, but I learned a lot.

    Most of the other students in that class were aiming for the Methodist ministry and planned on seminary after college. Thanks to my offshoot Lutheran (Evangaelische Kirche von Nord Amerika) background with two years of Saturday “confirmation” class I knew more about the Bible (both ends) than most of the other students, but the Rabbi knew more about all of it (including the Christian part) than all of us put together. This confirmation stuff was about when we were 12-13 and we had a special recognition (like a bar/bat Mitzvah only different). We didn’t have to read Hebrew, but we were quizzed on what we’d learned over the past two years. Then we became members of the church.

    Anyway, the college class (and even the confirmation class) were valuable experiences, and I’ve always been glad for them. Naturally, along the way, I picked up a few terms, but I’ve probably messed some of them up. Your use of “yahrzeit” sort of took me back to all those memories. And may your father and Hao rest in peace.

  2. Thanks for your note. The yahrzeit candle is the tradition to mark anniversaries of family passing in Judaism. I didn’t realize it was also used elsewhere. Interesting.

    And the 23rd Psalm (all the psalms in fact) is also Jewish, but I think many versions of the new testament appropriate it from the old testament and include it as well.

  3. Oh, Christians don’t do the yahrzeit candle or make any other special official observance. We’re more likely to remember birthdays, say, aww, today would be Ma’s birthday (my mother’s 100th passed some time ago) than to remark on the day of their death. At least I am.

    I didn’t even know about the candle until your post, but when I attended Shule all those years ago the Rabbi always asked for those who had loved ones whose yahrzeits occurred at this time to please stand while the whole congregation read the Kaddish. (mostly in romaji)

    As for the 23rd Psalm, of course it is Jewish as is the whole “Old Testament” of the Christian Bible, (not to mention most of the Christian ritual, although rather drastically adapted). It may be printed along with some issues of the New Testament because it is probably the most beloved Psalm, but it isn’t part of the “New Testament”. Very popular for funerals and trying times. Set to music by hosts of composers. A modern setting of the words is the theme song for The Vicar of Dilbey
    I’m not sure how much of the Christian “Old Testament” is Torah and how much is other, but we start with the 5 books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus [often cited by Christian gay bashers], Numbers, Deuteronomy) move off into some historical stuff and writings about/by prohpets: I & II Kings, etc. I had always assumed that most of the “Old Testament” was also . . . what? the Jewish Bible doesn’t sound quite right, but at least Jewish scripture. I sometimes think Jewish people might be surprised at how much Christians use the “Old” Testament. Today’s sermon, for example was based largely on the story of Elijah and Elisha and how Elisha assumed Elijah’s mantel (both the garment and the position) when Elijah departed via fiery chariot for the next stage of existence (or non existence depending on what you believe or don’t).

    Anyway, it’s all very interesting to me. As for what I really believe, see me offline, email, whatever.

  4. I myself am not a believer at all. But I uphold a few basic rituals, just for tradition.

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