Yahrzeit – One Year Since the Danforth Shooting

We are approaching the one year anniversary of last July’s shooting on the Danforth.  There are several events that will bring community together to mourn and remember, to touch back into shared support of the families whose loved ones were killed and to support everyone who has been shaken by this terrible tragedy.  This has been a year in which violence has hit close to home for us over and over – for us on the Danforth and for us as a Jewish community.  It has been a year of violence pointed toward people in religious communities, gathered together in prayer, particularly targeting Jews and Muslims.  I remember so vividly sitting in the upper balcony in the Madina Masjid following the Ring of Peace we and other communities formed around the mosque in protection and allyship.  I remember being invited into the mosque, sitting in the balcony and looking down at the men in prayer – kneeling, sitting with their hands over their hearts, bowing in humility and surrender. I was struck by the devotion and peacefulness of these gestures and so pained by the desire of those who seek to cause harm and destruction precisely when people are practicing vulnerability and disarmed openness. With my eyes closed, my hands on my heart, I offered my own prayer alongside theirs.

On a Yahrzeit, the anniversary of a death, Judaism gives us practices to both connect with loss and to be resilient in response to grief.  We light a 24 hour candle at night, the start of a Jewish day, once it is dark outside.  The yahrzeit candle is not bright.  It is less an illumination than a way of being with the night.  It’s flame represents the soul.  The light accompanies us from the nighttime into daylight and through the journey of remembering, marking the passage of time and touching the wound of loss.

Kaddish Yatom, mourner’s kaddish, is a prayer that makes no mention of death.  Instead it puts praise and glory in our mouths, rooted in God’s Eternal flow of Life and peace.  In the face of what is finite and fragile, it sets us in a wide embrace of Time and Being that hold us and stretch out beyond us.  Particularly when the death we are mourning is tragic and senseless, I find this grounding keeps us tied to the strength of aliveness and resilient being that no amount of violence can extinguish.

It is also a practice to engage in Jewish learning, dedicated to the memory of the person who died, and to give tzedakah/justice-oriented giving in their honour.  These are two commitments in the realm of life that deepen our wisdom and extend our capacity to build a world of generosity and care.  They are specific opportunities to practice building peace and kindness in our own hearts and minds, treasuring life and actively making the lives of others better.

Please consider ways you might want to engage with any of these practices.  As a community, we will continue to deepen our commitments and our activism building partnerships and allyships, standing up against hate and growing practices of chesed/lovingkindess.

Oseh shalom bimromav – May the One who creates peace and wholeness above, extend peace on us, on the whole Jewish people and on all who dwell on earth.  Amen