In addition to being our Man of the Year, Bob also presented the introduction to the Kaddish, the memorial prayer. This is the introduction that Bob shared:
Two days ago, on January 21, I observed the yahrzeit of my grandmother. I have only dim real memories of her, yet 60 years later, her love shines within me. My father’s three-year yahrzeit is in a few weeks. Obviously, the memories are larger, and while the grief is gone, the yahrzeit is a special time which allows me to mourn yet once again, and reflect upon his passing.
What I sense is more than remembering who they were or what they did, but more so what they meant to me, and yet more still by how my life has been, and continues to be, reshaped by their presence in my own life. I ask myself sometimes which of the choices I have made have been influenced by them, and have I lived up to my best self as a result? They, among others, have served as my role models, from whom I learned valuable lessons about seeing the world and acting in it. Reb Zalman Shachter-Shalomi, of blessed memory, taught me that what seem to be extremely complex ideas can be expressed very simply. Other teachers, relatives, friends, and even people I’ve met only briefly, have shown me a piece of themselves, which is now a part of me: their joy, their compassion, their humor, their handling the rough edges.
Celebrating a life. Observing a yahrzeit. A time of mourning. Seems contradictory, yet not. The mourner’s Kaddish is a joyful, positive, prayer, whose driving energy demands a full celebration: of the lives of those loved, those whose shoulders I stand upon today, in all generations, reaching toward the heavens. When I remember others who have none left to mourn for them, I stand also on their shoulders, in my universal participation of human spirit. So, when I read the prayer in English, it helps mitigate the tears.