Tuesday, January 10, 2006

According to the Hebrew calendar today is the tenth of the month Tevet, religious Jews fast from sunrise till sunset. On this day in history Nebukadnezzar started his siege of Jerusalem, which ended with the destruction of the first temple. The Chief Rabbinate in Israel also decided that on this day Kaddish ( the traditional 'prayer for the dead' in which G'd is praised; in this context the mourner's kaddish is meant ) is said for the victims of the Holocaust whose 'day of departure from this world' is unknown, i.e. we do not know exactly on which day they were murdered ( for example, the grandfather of my wife ). Normally Kaddish is said on every yahrzeit, the day - in the Hebrew calendar - on which a person passed away, but obviously we do not know the exact date for many of those who were murdered during the Shoah. My father-in-law, who started to go to synagogue every morning after his mother passed away - and after he more or less went into retirement -, said it this morning, I am sure. The tenth of Tevet is not only about mourning and fasting. It was also the birthday of ( on of ) the most important poet(s) of Modern Hebrew, Haim Nahman Bialik ( 1873 - 1934 ). Already for more than a week our 3-year old son, who learns about such things in his playgrup/kindergarten, reminds us of that by telling us "Lehyalik yesh o'me'at yom holedet" ( Hyalik is having his birthday soon ). When the other day my wife took him to a local Toys 'R' Us store he insisted on getting a shooping trolley himself, so that he could choose a birthday present for Hyalik ( my wife let him take the trolley but managed to talk him out of buying a present for the dead poet. Today he was almost as excited as he was on his own birthday. I thought it would be cruel, unnecessary and simply too early to tell him about the less festive aspects of this date.

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