Tonight at sundown, the Jewish New Years Day started–Rosh Hashanah. We are now in the year 5777 on the Hebrew calendar. The next two days (until sundown on Tuesday evening) is a celebration of the New Year to come, as well as a reflection on the year just past. We believe that God spends this time reviewing our past year and decides whether or not to inscribe us into the Book of Life for a sweet New Year.
One week after the conclusion of Rosh Hashanah, we find ourselves at the highest of all of the holy days of the year: Yom Kippur–the Day of Atonement. For 24 hours, we fast and look back at our misdeeds, our misjudgments, how we wronged others around us, and ask God for His forgiveness.
When we sit down at sundown next Wednesday evening to break the fast, there will only be three seated at our table. When we say the Mourner’s Kaddish throughout the week, we will remember Micah, and say special prayers for our son. I will say special prayers for my mother and father as well, who are taking care of Micah and spending the time with him now that their early passing denied them as he grew up. I know they’ve been holding some special hugs and kisses for him ever since they watched him from above at his Bar Mitzvah.
Micah was many things during his lifetime. He was an intelligent, outspoken child. He was a superb hockey goalie–both on ice and on inline skates. He was a tenor with incredible vocal range. He was a son, a brother, a best friend, a classmate, a teammate, a kid never afraid to speak his mind, even when biting his tongue would have been prudent. On top and beyond all these other things, he was a fiercely proud Jew.
I used to joke with Jeff Frankel, a friend I met during hockey, that his son Ike and Micah were the smallest of minorities in the Arizona youth hockey world: they were undoubtedly the only black Jews on the ice. As Micah came to discover social media, he would represent himself online with names like “TheNewBlackJew.” He was never an overly religious kid, but culturally, he knew who he was and had no problem telling anyone that asked–or looked like they might consider asking. Whether it was getting into an argument and nearly fight in first grade after telling a friend he grew up with that he KNEW Santa was not real, or telling his choir teachers that if he was going to perform “Jesus songs” in the winter concerts, he wanted to perform Jewish songs too. It took a while to get him to understand that most classical vocal music came from a time when the only music made came from churches and often Christian biblical scripture. Funny thing about Micah–he learned quickly that music transcended religion. One of Micah’s favorite albums to listen to last Fall and into Winter? Pentatonix’s Christmas album. He loved listening and singing along with music that–only a year earlier–he swore off as “Jesus music.”
Micah was not perfect. He, like all human beings (especially around 15-years old), had his flaws. But his heart was pure. He was generous. He would give his time and whatever he had to help his friends. He would seriously stay up until 2:30 in the morning counseling a female friend, 2,500 miles away, on her recent breakup. He had never met her. He had only chatted and Skyped her–but I’m proud to say that like his father, he could not help but try to help souls he saw in need.
Now we enter our first Jewish New Year without Micah. A couple weeks after Hanukkah 5777, we will hold his memorial service and place his headstone at his grave. A headstone the grave of my 15-year old son that never got to drive a car, graduate from high school, get engaged or married, have kids of his own, go to college, get his first job…
It is a time of remembering back–something I have been doing nonstop for eight and a half months. It’s the only thing I can really do…