Measuring Mount Carmel Cemetery this Sunday
Updated: Oct 4
When I started out researching these practices, I never planned to actually do them. That happened sort of by accident. But in the process of doing them and teaching others, I've learned that they serve a purpose that was otherwise missing from my own Jewish religious practice. Bekitser [in short], I think talking to the dead is healthy and we don't do it enough.
In the shtetlekh of Eastern Europe, cemeteries were not just places to remember the dead. They were portals, where people could go to be closer to the dead and even to communicate with them and ask for their help. In the month of Elul, which we are in now, the cemetery would get very busy as people flocked there to ask the ancestors for help on the coming day of judgement. As anthropologist S. Weissenberg found in his research on grave and cemetery measuring , during Elul feldmesterins would often be waiting in the cemetery with balls of thread to conduct the measurements for people wanting to make soul candles. This year I'm going to be playing feldmesterin along with two amazing and experience ritualists – Kohenet and educator Sarah Chandler of Shamir Collective and Rabbi Noam Lerman whose research on Yiddish tkhines you can read about here.
On Sunday September 11th, we will be gathering at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Brooklyn, where we will measure a section and a few graves of some of the great Yiddish writers whose work allows us to remain connected to the world of the shtetl. On Sunday October 2nd, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we will meet again in Prospect Park to make the candles. People are welcome to join us for one or both activities. Everything will be conducted in or translated into English, but there will also be a chance to sing, speak and pray in Yiddish for those who would like to. Come along to learn about the world of Jewish Eastern Europe, or to talk to the ancestors whose work helped to preserve that world for us, or both
Tickets are available at the following link. The price covers all materials, and participants will also receive a ritual guide which will later also appear on this blog. Comps are available, email me at email@example.com if you need one.
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/soul-candles-pre-yom-kippur-ritual-and-candlemaking-a-two-part-event-tickets-403649986977 The photos are of Sarah and I preparing in the cemetery last Friday. I came away a bit sunburned and bug bitten, so we recommend bringing sunscreen and wearing long pants (or trousers in my loshn.)