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Monday, October 4, 2010

Skype connects the world...............

My grandfather is rolling over in his grave! An orthodox Jew, he wouldn’t even pick up a coin on the Sabbath much less use electricity. On Yom Kippur he prayed and prayed and made sure all 9 children did as well in the synagogue and at home. But our situation is different. Our situation requires creativity, forgiveness and acceptance. You are in Iraq and I am not. You are in a trailer and I’m in our home in Great Falls, Virginia and from those two distant points we try to come together to share and to find meaning that bridges the miles.
Welcome to Skype! With Skype I can see your face, hear your voice, feel connected to you. We discuss the minutiae of our lives on Skype. I take off my eyeglasses, fix my hair (as if it COULD be fixed) for Skype. I kiss the air near the computer screen, right on the projected image of your lips, my husband’s lips, my best friend’s lips when we are Skyping.
On Yom Kippur you and I have had our tradition of lighting the yahrzeit candles to honor our dead parents. My father and mother did it this exact same way, lighting candles not on the anniversary of their parents’ death, but on Yom Kippur. We’ve carried this forward into our generation and wherever we have been in the world, we’ve lit the candles and said what we needed to say about the year that passed and the year ahead.
Up until this year, for me the most memorable lighting took place in 1992, the year we went to Tibet with Ben, Gabe and a whole group from the U.S. Embassy. While in Llasa, the capital, we visited the holiest of holies for Tibetan Buddhists, the Jokund temple. In that sacred place within the temple, we were given permission to light our candles and place them on the altar there with hundreds of prayer scarves left by visitors and the statues and candles representing Tibetan Buddhism. At the time, we only needed two candles, one for my father and one for yours, both gone the same year, 1989. Lighting the candles at that time I remember our commenting how much our fathers would have “gotten a kick” out of this as they were both very adventurous and accepting. Indeed, leaving the lights for our fathers in the Jokund meant that in the farthest reaches of the world, we remembered them, and honored them, and showed our sons the importance of the tradition. I remember feeling that my heart was so full it might burst as the tears rolled down my face.
Fast forward. 2010. No! 5777 on the Jewish calendar! You are gone, but we haven’t lost communication. I got the yahrzeit candles ready – now numbering 4, including one for my mother and one for Noelle. And then you were on Skype and I saw you, felt your presence even though you were really countless of thousands of miles away. We talked for awhile, me sitting at my desk in the office, and we waited until the sun went down and the earth turned. I don’t remember who came up with the idea to bring the computer to the great room where the candles waited. I don’t remember who said to aim the camera so that you could see and share the moment of lighting. I put the computer on the coffee table and moved the lamps into your view. And then I lit them and you saw each flame come to life, saw them on the little screen! Then it was time for sharing thoughts. You asked for my forgiveness for going to Iraq; said that if it hurt me, you were sorry, and you loved me very much. Then it was my turn. I told you that I knew your leaving was not a reflection of how you felt about me, but rather your sense of duty that drove you to accept the assignment. See, sweetie, I DO understand. It isn’t a question of forgiveness; it is a question of acceptance. In that moment, we were together, watching the lights, feeling love and the sadness of being apart, but also the hopefulness that next year, not in Jerusalem, but in Great Falls, Virginia, we would be together again, lighting the yahrzeit lamps. God bless technology!

***Thanks to Lee-Alison Blum Sibley author of "Jordan's Jewish Drama Queen" ********

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