Join our WhatsApp Group for the latest updates and the best "throwbacks" of all things 18Forty

On Loss: A Parent

Listen_Apple_ButtonListen_Spotify_ButtonListen_Google_Button

SUMMARY

In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we talk to Dani Ritholtz – rabbi and author – about the loss of his father to further explore Tisha B’Av’s relationship to loss.

Dani Ritholtz lost his father to Pancreatic cancer in 2014. As part of his grieving process, he wrote a book exploring the development of his relationship to his loss throughout the ordeal. Here Dani talks about the book and its subject matter: how he dealt with the loss of his father.

  • How does it feel for a family member to battle a possibly fatal illness?
  • How did Dani and those around him cope with their loss?
  • What effects did it have on their mental health?
  • Why did Dani write his book?

Tune in to hear a conversation on grief and coping.

Musical Credit:
Eim Eshkachech by Itzhak Azulai

References:
As a Ram Yearns for the Brook by Dani Ritholtz
Time Travel: A History by James Gleick
Kol Dodi Dofek by Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

David Bashevkin:

Hello, and welcome to the 18Forty Podcast, where each month we explore a different topic balancing modern sensibilities with traditional sensitivities to give you new approaches to timeless Jewish ideas. I’m your host, David Bashevkin, and this month, we’re continuing to explore loss as we prepare ourselves for Tisha B’Av, the holiday of mourning, commemorating the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the temple in Jerusalem. This podcast is part of a larger exploration of Jewish ideas, so be sure to check out 18Forty.org, where you can also find videos, articles, and recommended readings.

There is an old story that is almost certainly a myth, but the story is that Napoleon, the great historical figure, was walking through the streets of Paris one day on Tisha B’Av, and as his entourage passed a synagogue, he heard wailing and crying coming from inside. He sent someone inside to inquire what on earth was going on. The person returned and told Napoleon that the Jews were in mourning over the loss of their temple. Napoleon was so curious. “How come I didn’t… Nobody told me? Well, who destroyed this? When did this happen? Which temple?” The aide responded, “They lost their temple in Jerusalem on this date 1,700 years ago.” Napoleon stood in silence and then said, “Certainly a people which has mourned the loss of their temple for so long will survive to see it rebuilt.”

Now, I’m not here to debunk whether or not this story is true. It likely is not true, more than likely is not true. It’s a fairly old story that my dear friend Shimon Steinmetz found, I think, the earliest edition of this story – it’s told a little bit differently – that dates back to 1891. Which really goes a way back, which may even indicate that in 1891, which it’s told as a given that people knew the story, that there was some incident of Napoleon on Tisha B’Av. I don’t know one way or the other, but I do know that the message of the story, that the fact that we continue to mourn, is some indication that we will one day see and experience a redemption. Mourning, if it is anything, is the preservation of a memory.

As my dear friend Joey Rosenfeld – who’s aptly described the experience of mournin – said, “It is not just the absence of a presence, but it is the presence of an absence.” It is a void. It is something that is missing that you can experience. It is the presence of something, and that presence is the absence itself. To realize and reflect what is missing in this picture. It’s what I think about anytime that you go to a synagogue or yeshiva and you see a chair left empty, when I studied in Ner Yisroel, the chair that belonged to the founding rosh yeshiva, Rav Ruderman, remains empty and in the beit midrash. I’ve always found that deeply moving, because it is not just the absence of Rav Ruderman, but it is a reminder of that presence of absence.

Something is missing in this room. It is that reminder that we often say at weddings when great grandparents or grandparents are not able to be present, and we remind ourselves, oftentimes you’ll have the officiator remind us who is not here to celebrate with us. They’re not trying to put a damper on the wedding itself; they’re trying to inject the presence of an absence. So the moment that we reflect on what is missing, that actually brings into our memory, into our collective experience that presence of what is absent. And I think that the Jewish people as a people have excelled in our ability to preserve memory and recognize what in fact is missing, to touch and make tangible that presence of absence in our lives. And that is why it is such a privilege to continue our journey in personal stories of loss with our conversation with Dani Ritholtz.

Dani Ritholtz is just 25 years old, and he lost his father seven years ago when he was 18. He did something that I found incredibly moving and quite remarkable, which is he wrote a memoir called As a Ram Yearns for the Brook: The Journey of a Father and Son, and in that memoir, what he’s really doing is he’s retailing the own very personal story of his own loss. It is, if you will, a personal kinna of sorts, a personal way that he’s able to reflect on loss itself. And I wanted to reach out and speak to him because I think the process of being able to write and preserve your own loss, your own experiences, is something that Jews in many ways have been doing for centuries. We find ways, whether it’s through poetry, or memoir, or prayer itself, we find ways of capturing feelings of collective and national loss, and preserving that memory of that loss for all future generations to be able to reach out and connect with.

I think in many ways, that exercise of writing a kinna, of writing your own lamentation of your own loss is what Dani is modeling over here. The book, which is far from a bestseller, I’m not here to push the book, I’m here to really take a moment and reflect on the very project that he did, which is preserving the memory and process of his own personal loss. And I think for all of us, listening to his story and what he accomplished is a telling example and reminder of the larger Jewish collective process of what we do on Tisha B’Av, of taking that national loss that we’ve had throughout the generations and finding ways to articulate it through memoir, poem, and prayer so all later generations can preserve the memory of that loss, and through that very act of preservation, through that very act of recognizing the presence of absence, we’re able to leave that space ultimately for a redemption.

A few years ago, I think it was probably two years ago, I got an email from someone who I knew through social media, someone who I probably had met before, but he reached out about a book that he was publishing after the loss of his father. His name is Dani Ritholtz, and he wrote a book called As a Ram Yearns for the Brook: The Journey of a Father and Son, which is really a moving recollection, a memoir of sorts where Dani tells the story of the passing of his father and what happened afterwards, and it’s a moving testimony of somebody grappling with loss, somebody grappling with, not just the absence of somebody’s presence, but the presence of an absence, what that space feels like.

So it’s really a privilege and a pleasure to be able to continue our exploration in loss to speak with, I feel comfortable calling a friend, Dani Ritholtz.

Dani Ritholtz:

Thank you so much for having me.

David Bashevkin:

I wanted to begin, so people understand how raw your… Again, I’m going to call it a memoir, it’s structured in a really interesting way, but how raw it in fact is. I wanted to begin by reading, I’d like you to read, if you’re comfortable with it, the phone call that you have, verbatim, of when you found out that your father had passed.

Dani Ritholtz:

Sure. So page 97 of the book, beginning of the third part, mourning.

David Bashevkin:

This you write, you have dates for everything. This was September 28th, 2014, daled Tishrei, taf shin ayin hey. This is taking place right before Yom Kippur.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, this was actually that year Tzom Gedalia. It was a three-day yom tov.

David Bashevkin:

It was on a fast day.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, it was on a fast day. “Me: I look at my phone. It’s 6:06 AM. Someone is calling me. “Mom? Oh, no. It’s… Mom?” Mom: “Dan-Dan, are you up?” Me: “Yeah, I’m up. What’s going on?” Mom: “No, Dani, I need to make sure you are up. Are you up?” Me: I sit up more in my bed and rub my eyes. “Yes, I’m up.” Mom: “Dani, my sweet, sweet boy, I have terrible news.” Me: “What happened?” Mom: “Well, daddy, we found him and we needed to take him to the hospital the first day of Rosh Hashanah. It was an infection and he was unconscious the whole time.” Me: “Did he pass away?” Mom: “I’m so sorry, my sweet boy, yes.” Me: I shoot up from my bed and start appeasing. “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.” Mom: “I know this is so hard to hear on the phone. I’ll stay on as long as you need, but you need to know how much he loved you.” Me: “I know. When did it happen?” Mom: “Just a few hours ago, Rabbi Adler was here. He didn’t seem to be in so much pain.” Me: “Okay. Okay. Okay. Where is the funeral going to be? Baruch dayan ha’emet.” Tears start to flow. ”

David Bashevkin:

So allow me to jump in here. This a very raw, real moment, where you found out your father, after a struggle with pancreatic cancer, had passed, and you were in Israel at the time, correct? You were studying in Yeshivat Ha-Kotel.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yes.

David Bashevkin:

So, I first want to ask, what was the impulse, or when did you first have the impulse to share this story, and why did you share this story?

Dani Ritholtz:

So, it’s funny because I would say that the first time I actually shared was that day, that day of being an onein, which was –

David Bashevkin:

And just explain what –

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, so an onein being, before the burial, the period of mourning where you’re not supposed to do mitzvot, commandments that you’re usually doing. So I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t saying blessings.

David Bashevkin:

It’s a strange period that if you, especially as somebody who grew up observant and careful, it’s that one time in your life where you’re bereft, in both an emotional sense but actually in a ritualistic sense, you don’t really do any Jewish rituals. And I’ve always found it the most fascinating Halakhic category, where the bereftness, the emptiness of life spills into your religious observance.

Dani Ritholtz:

100%. For me it was much longer than most people because my dad passed away in New Jersey and he was being buried in Israel, so I had a day and a half of being an onein, in that limbo state. So during the first day, right after the hours after I found out, I had friends who came to my room just constantly throughout the day, and I was just spewing the story – basically, everything that happened earlier on in the book, basically starting to… People weren’t asking me questions. I just started talking about it. I didn’t know if that was the correct thing to do. I didn’t know if this was a coping mechanism. It probably was. Even for myself, trying to organize what just happened, and trying to come to grips with the reality that he was gone. So that’s really where, a lot of the book was spoken on that day.

David Bashevkin:

Meaning, just so people understand, the book is really structured in a fascinating way, and it’s always stuck with me. I mean, you called me about structuring this probably two years ago, right? Or just about –

Dani Ritholtz:

A year ago.

David Bashevkin:

A year ago, one year ago.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah. It was right at the beginning of the pandemic.

David Bashevkin:

It’s an exchange of letters between you and your father, but a lot of them are imagined letters. You didn’t actually write these letters. It’s what you imagined he would be writing you. The initial impulse, I’m not surprised, and there’s one thing that I’ve learned about approaching people who’ve just suffered a loss, is never to judge what their impulses are. But the impulse to share about his life, did that continue? Is that something that stayed throughout, or were parts where you wanted to withdraw?

Dani Ritholtz:

For the most part it continued. I would try to have a siyum almost every year finishing a masechta of Talmud, and I would try to speak about my father every year on the Yahrzeit, on the anniversary of his passing. There were more difficult times where I want to withdraw from the story from sharing, but I aways found comfort in it for some reason, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m here today, that it’s something I… It could be coping. It could be just something I’m more comfortable with, or it’s something where I feel like I’m able to continue on his memory in a certain way, that I feel just comfortable doing it.

David Bashevkin:

So allow me to ask you: when you’re processing a loss, I was really fascinated by your initial reaction, and I’m curious how verbatim this was. I guess something was seared in your mind in a dialogue that you put down, and no one was there with a tape recorder to know that’s how you reacted, but your first reaction was, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. What do you think you were grappling with then? Again, this is your recollection, and memory is so tricky. You only really began, it seems, to cry after you said “baruch dayan ha’emes”. What happened in those five seconds when you were repeating, “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay,” and then you begin to cry after telling your mother “baruch dayan ha’emes,” which again, for those listeners who don’t know, “baruch dayan ha’emes” is the blessing that we typically say, meaning “blessed,” “baruch dayan ha’emes,” the true judge, that we say after suffering a loss.

Dani Ritholtz:

I think it was just a visceral shock. That’s what it was. I don’t think I’ve ever seen, even in a movie or a book or anything like that, that’s how someone would react to news like that. I think it was a way of coping to that unbelievable shock, because I talked to him before Rosh Hashanah. There was no idea that he was going to pass away. Even though he was sick for a year and a half, it was a surprise that this happened. So that visceral shock of this thing that I really never conceived of that could happen, I think it was just a way for me to not crumble, to not… I don’t think there was thought, really. It was almost like survival mode in a certain way, where it was just… I don’t even get what’s processing, and definitely that delay in crying and saying “baruch dayan ha’emet,” there was this feeling of, okay, I get the reality of this now. It’s not just trying to find out exactly what happened, it was also, oh, this actually happened, and this has consequences that will be, that I won’t ever see him again, that this is actually a terrible thing that just happened.

David Bashevkin:

There is a really incredible book about time travel where he talks about memory as the ultimate machine, the ability to go back into different moments in time and access the past, access your own past. And I’m curious, when you reflect on your father in loss, what are the moments that you most often travel back to?

Dani Ritholtz:

Great question. There are a few. I think it’s a mix of good moments and bad moments. The first moments that I usually think of summer before my bar mitzvah, which I actually talk about in the book, but the summer before my bar mitzvah, I was at home and I was golfing with my dad a lot, and we were also learning Mishnah Berurah, the halakhot of nesiat kapayim, of priestly –

David Bashevkin:

Because you’re a kohen.

Dani Ritholtz:

Because I’m a kohen.

David Bashevkin:

Which, fun fact, again, not to insert fun facts in the middle of time travel, but I was once asked, I was a guest once on the Meaningful People Podcast, and they asked me, “What’s your favorite mitzvah?” I am not a kohen, but for reasons I explained then, I said birkat kohanim, blessings of the kohen. There’s something deep, I find deeply. I’ve written about it in Hebrew and English, and there’s just something deeply moving about it, about a commandment, it’s not just to bless others, but it’s a commandment on the people receiving the blessing to feel blessed. So please continue. You were golfing with your dad.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, so I was the only one home, both my sisters were in camp, and it was just, we were spending the most time probably we’ve ever spent together, where – mornings we’d daven. We would learn then the halakhot, the rules of the priestly blessing, and then we’d golf and just hang out the rest of the day. He was working at home a little bit, he was a commodities trainer, but it was really this really happy and meaningful time, because besides just the fun of playing golf and being able to hang out together, but also him in part, he was the one who suggested that we should about the halakhot of nesiat kapayim because it was something… duchening, or nesiat kapayim, was something that he loved. It was probably his favorite mitzva, and he really wanted to impart that onto me before I was going to start. In our family, not everyone has this custom, but that you could only… It’s only when you’re 13, that’s when you could start.

David Bashevkin:

Gotcha, and you were still a kid.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah.

David Bashevkin:

I want to stick with this analogy, this idea, and I pulled up the book, it’s by James Gleick, and it’s Time Travel: A History. It’s a wonderful book. I’ve shared it on social media in the past. I really found it a fascinating way. So, in this idea of memory as time travel, which I think is a deeply Jewish idea. I think this is what we do on Tisha B’Av. We step into that world, that time machine, and we go back to all past tragedies, all past difficulties, everything that we’ve grappled with. I think sometimes in Jewish life, we actually use the time machine, so to speak, to travel to the future. I just wrote about this for Yom Kippur. I think that’s time traveling to the future and Tisha B’Av is time travel into the past.

So when you think about memory and where you go, I’m curious what role the difficult times play. Meaning, the difficult times, and I mean that in two ways. Number one, before your father was sick, fights that you may have had. Every child has memories where they’re not getting along with somebody, and a lot of times, loss, what it can do to you is the pain, the deepest pain is the guilt of things unsaid, unresolved. And I know for myself, thank God I never experienced the loss of a parent, but the first loss I ever had was my bubbie, and I remember, and I was a little… I was teeny tiny. I was in fourth grade. And I remember the reaction and the loss and the tears. A lot of it was because she wasn’t favored. We didn’t have that, I was closer with my grandmother, and I felt like that sense of guilt of a relationship unresolved, which every relationship ultimately is. And on the flip side, and I mean, where you go, the memory, not just the difficult times of interpersonal stuff, but also, he was sick at the end of his life. Where does that play? Where do those moments play when you go into your time machine? Is that like, you only go to moments of joy and sweetness, or do you ever travel to maybe darker periods?

Dani Ritholtz:

I definitely travel to darker periods. That might just be myself, because I’m trying to think about all parts of the relationship. And I put that in the book, actually, a few fights that we had, and I think that I had a really very special relationship with my dad. But I knew that there’s something disingenuous if you’re just putting the positive things. I had someone who really helped me so much with the book, Rav J. J. Schacter, who is –

David Bashevkin:

A former guest on 18Forty who we love a great deal.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yes, of course. We talked about that, because I was wondering, even though I do it myself, because maybe trying to understand all facets of the relationship and trying to find meaning in even those dark times, I was saying, “Is this for public consumption? Is it almost lashon hora about them, about my dad?” Rav Schacter told me, no, you’re trying to show a real person here. You’re trying to show a real relationship. And if it’s all flowers and meadows and everything like that then there’s no meaning there. So I do that also I think for myself. So I really like that idea and I think that’s really what I try to do even when I think about some of the fights we had, some of the unresolved issues, because it’s a way to see that this wasn’t just a… it’s a genuine relationship that has the positives and the negatives. So that’s something that I really do go back to.

David Bashevkin:

Again, I can only assume that you saw him at physically very difficult times. I grew up in a home, my father as I think I’ve mentioned in the past is an oncologist. So that world, that darkness, the way it… the vitality of life, what the disease does to somebody, the images can be frightening. I’m curious, for you, where does that play? Where do those moments play, visiting at the end of his life? I think a lot of times after a loss, people focus so much on those last years when the person was sick, and I’m curious for you, where does that play in your long term memory?

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, 100%. I’ve been recently think about this actually, because for the first, I’d say, three or four year after he passed away, anytime I’d see a picture from before he was sick, I’d be like, “Is my dad that fat?” He wasn’t. He wasn’t. He was in shape. He was a really healthy guy and worked out a lot, but because my memory was so infused with how he looked, especially towards the end where he was really, really thin, it looks very strange. It looked like he was overweight even though he wasn’t because I just thought in my mind that, oh, my dad is this thin, or my dad is looking like this. And I don’t know. It’s probably three to four years. I don’t know what happened, but it started to change, where maybe my long-term memory, or trying to not think about how he looked in those last few years took over.

Now it’s the opposite. Now, if I see pictures of him, I have the last picture we ever took together right before I left to Israel, and he is very thin. And it used to not surprise me when I saw that picture, because I’ve remembered it so well, but after the… Now being close to seven years, now it’s definitely surprising when… it’s like, “Oh, wow. He was that thin.”

David Bashevkin:

It’s so interesting how the memory can have this corrective where the trauma leaves a certain image in your head, a certain loss of a person, and then as time extends out, that period ends up not disappearing, but it’s more equally weighted as it goes out. It gives you a little bit more space. Part of what made, I think, the recollection so moving was the way your father dealt with the illness, and the way he dealt with his struggle knowing that he had a sickness. He had pancreatic cancer, which I think you mentioned directly in the book. So I was wondering, there was one thing I found very moving. You could set it up, but this is really the words of your father. This is actual words.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, I took this chapter, if you call it chapters. I still haven’t figured out exactly how I call it, letters, chapters, whatever, but this was an email that he sent to us right after. Basically what happened was, when his diagnosis came out, three of his very, very close friends decided to try to make a siyum hashas for his refuah.

David Bashevkin:

To complete all of Talmud.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, to complete all of Talmud, so that would be a way for God to try and heal my dad. And it happened a few months later, that siyum, and it was really well intended. I think we completed one and a half times shas, all of Talmud Bavli, and at the siyum, a few people spoke, and my dad was the headliner, if you want to say, and he spoke… I’ve seen actually just notes. It wasn’t written out like this. Afterwards, he wrote it out, because he wanted to send it to certain cousins that weren’t there that couldn’t make it to New York at the time, and also to correct one thing that he actually forgot to mention, us, my two sisters and myself, in the speech. So he wanted to send it to everyone to say, “I didn’t… ”

David Bashevkin:

Were you there? Were you present in the –

Dani Ritholtz:

Oh, yeah, I was in the second row.

David Bashevkin:

Did you notice that he didn’t mention you?

Dani Ritholtz:

I think at the time, no, like right afterwards, I think was like, “Oh,” like he didn’t mention – it was such a surreal moment, it was a passing thought. It was like, oh, yeah, he didn’t mention it. I was like, okay.

David Bashevkin:

It was just a slip of the memory or was he –

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, he was in the middle of chemo treatment still at that point. So, yeah, it was definitely something like memory, but he felt really bad about it after.

David Bashevkin:

At this point, again, we’re going to read this, but what was the outlook of the family? There was optimism that this is –

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah.

David Bashevkin:

This was a high point, where this is going to be able to beat this.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, as we’ll read, we were optimistic until the end. Even when things started to turn for the worst, we were always optimistic. My dad was always optimistic. We knew how serious pancreatic cancer was, and any cancer in general, but there was this feeling one that we caught it early, earlier than most people catch pancreatic cancer, and just especially with what was happening, it just felt like, oh, so much good is coming out of this disease, the community coming together and everything like that. It must be that this is the reason and not that it will ultimately end in his passing. So I think that’s where our minds were as a family.

David Bashevkin:

So read for me the very end, because I really found it quite moving and beautiful.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah. After one of our meetings, I asked Rabbi Mince a question had me absolutely perplexed. How could it be, how was it possible that I have pancreatic cancer but that I truly feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth? I told Rabbi Mince that my intention was to ask the question at the siyum, and that I’m guessing that at least 50% of the people will not believe me. That I truly am a happy person. That I feel so lucky to have lived the life I’ve lived, and with God’s help, look forward to continuing living this life. The answer hit me, and it was so obvious. The reason I feel so happy and so lucky is because of, point into the audience, you and you and you and you and you and you and you. It hit me that each and every one of you were acting the way God wants Jews to act, with love and kindness, generosity, visiting the sick, learning his Torah, learning His ways. You were acting with godliness. I was seeing God in you. This realization was so powerful. It absolutely transformed me. You transformed me, and as I thank God, I thank each of you.

David Bashevkin:

So let me jump in, and I really find this so moving because it’s a way of processing, I think, the absence of God that people often feel when they’re going through tragedy, and being able to look at the community surrounding him and feel some sense of embodiment, that there is support and direction and that I’m being cared for through people by God I think is so moving. And what it made me wonder with you following your loss is, is that something you were able to maintain? Or again, it’s, he was going through something. He felt that direct, and you obviously had friends. How did the feeling of losing a father at such a young age, how did that loss affect your relationship with God?

Dani Ritholtz:

So, I discussed that in the book, but also earlier in the speech, he talks about how he had a few days that were very difficult. Right after the diagnosis, my dad was talking with another rabbi, and the rabbi said, “You might get a little depressed, and might have a little anger towards God and stuff like that,” and my dad was very happy, and he’s like, “You’re crazy. I’m fine. Whatever.” A few days later he says in the speech, he was putting on tefillin, and he felt like God had lost interest in him, and that if God had lost interest in him, then he will lose interest in God. So, something that I’ve felt in the tragedy after him passing away, I’ve definitely felt, and it’s instead of feeling an absence of God even though it is an absence of God. It’s more like a distance, I’d call it. It’s like he’s still there. That’s a constant, but farther away, feeling like he’s not as integral into your life.

So that I really felt a lot more. During the first 11 months of avelut, of the year of mourning, I didn’t feel that distance as much from God. There were so many little things that happened that I found, “Oh, that has to be Hashem tapping on my shoulder.” So I didn’t feel that way so much until after really towards the end of avelut, until at the end of the year of mourning, and then afterwards, that’s when I felt more of that distance.

David Bashevkin:

Meaning, you write about this in the book, your struggles with depression following the loss. It’s interesting that it was manifest most after the period of mourning. Why do you think? Do you think it’s because, so long as you’re in mourning, you’re still tethered ultimately to your father? The memory itself is what was preserving you?

Dani Ritholtz:

I think so. I think I found… and not everyone does, but I found a lot of comfort in the process of mourning that the rabbis made for us, and I felt like it made a lot of sense, how it’s gradually getting a little less intense over time.

David Bashevkin:

We have this seven-day period called the shiva. Then we have this 30-day period called shloshim. Most mourning usually ends then, unless you’re mourning for a parent, which actually extends for 11 months.

Dani Ritholtz:

Well the full mourning is 12 months. You say Kaddish just for 11 months.

David Bashevkin:

Yes, yes.

Dani Ritholtz:

I’m the only son for my dad, so I was saying kaddish. My grandfather was also saying Kaddish at the same, the full 11 months also. He said “just in case I miss,” but I think that also definitely made me feel tethered with him. And the day that I finished saying kaddish was actually the day my grandmother passed away. I finished saying kaddish mincha in yeshiva. It was the beginning of my shana bet, and a few hours later I found out my grandmother passed away. This was my mom’s mom. And so I’m not 100% sure if I would’ve been completely fine without that tragedy happening right then.

David Bashevkin:

Not that it makes a big difference, I’m just curious. That was your father’s mother?

Dani Ritholtz:

No, it’s my mother’s-

David Bashevkin:

Mother’s mother.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah.

David Bashevkin:

But then you had a loss right after you finished processing this.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, and she also passed away from pancreatic cancer also. So it was a lot –

David Bashevkin:

That’s a lot to withstand in a year. And you felt like that was just… What happened after that?

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, so that was the first time I had a real big difficulty. That’s when – I had feelings of depression. It’s a long story, hence the book, but first time I ever had depression was when my dad was I guess we call re-diagnosed with cancer. We thought that he’d seem like he was on his way to recovery, and then it came back. That was very difficult for me. And then a year later, right after my grandmother passed away, that’s when it happened again. That’s where I really felt this distance from God. And can you remind the question? I’m sorry.

David Bashevkin:

Of what you’re speaking about now?

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah.

David Bashevkin:

Zero words. No, I’m talking about how your relationship, how your religious, emotional sense changed following the loss. And what I found so fascinating was that it was most acute following the period of mourning, because it had that ability to tether you.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, I think also there was this huge difference of what happened when – my grandmother is actually buried a few yards from my dad in Israel. So I was able to see a mirror image of what it’s like when you’re mourning for a parent versus a grandparent, where there’s really nothing. You’re not tearing kriah, you’re not tearing your shirt. You’re not saying any of the brachot.

David Bashevkin:

So you didn’t have those rituals.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, and I think that was also… I didn’t have those rituals, and being a kohen, I wasn’t able to go into the cemetery like I was with my father. So I think there was a huge contrast, and I saw the comfort of those rituals were not there for my grandmother, and I think there was this realization that that comfort is not going to be there in a month from now. Even though I have some of the… I’m not saying Kaddish anymore, but in a month from now, once we go through the Yahrzeit, once we have the first anniversary, that’s it. I’ll have a yahrzeit every single year, but then there’s no more mourning.

I took it upon myself I wasn’t going to dance that whole year. There were thoughts like that. I was like, “Okay, and things are going to be back to normal,” and that was something that was very difficult for me, which I think was… It was like an exclamation point, that I didn’t have those rituals for my grandmother. So I was like, “Oh, that’s what this is going to be like,” and I think that was very difficult for me to deal with.

David Bashevkin:

So I want to return back to the analogy about memory as a time machine and focus less on where you traveled to with your memory and more when you travel. When are the moments now? I mean, this happened seven years ago, and obviously the emotional intensity of it dissipates. When are the moments that you feel most drawn to step back and reflect on your loss?

Dani Ritholtz:

Really great question. I never thought about that actually. I would say there are two times. There’s one where there was a major life accomplish or major life event that happens. My sister is actually expecting soon her first child, my older sister. So right when we found that out, that was definitely a thought, where I was like, oh, if my dad could be here. And then that’s where the memories come in of how he reacted when nieces and nephews said that there was going to be a pregnancy in the family. So I think about that, in those life events, but also it could be as small as, I talk to my grandfather, who bli ayin hara is still alive. That’s my –

David Bashevkin:

Father’s father?

Dani Ritholtz:

Father’s father, and we talk about this a bunch, about these triggers.

David Bashevkin:

Yeah, that’s what I’m asking.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, and you don’t expect them. It just happens. Someone says something. I sometimes find that I have similar mannerisms to my dad, and I’m not doing it consciously, but I’ll say something, I can’t even think of an example right now, but it’ll happen where I’ll say something, I’m like, “Oh, that sounded exactly like my dad,” and then that will start memories coming. It depends on the type of day I’m having. Sometimes it’s a beautiful thing. Sometimes I’m really happy that they’re coming and that this little trigger happened. But other times it’s sometimes overwhelming. Those times it could be maybe for the more difficult memories of, maybe you see someone who’s very sick, and it will be a flashbulb memory of, I remember exactly, standing in the foyer with my dad and how thin he looked, and stuff like that.

David Bashevkin:

Allow me to ask you, because I have two things on my mind, and then we can really conclude. What are the ways – meaning, you talk about triggers, which, they’re not planned. Are there rituals that you have in your life? Again, you literally wrote a book about imagined letters to your father with some of course real letters. So that’s a major ritual to go through. But what are the ways, what are the times that you formally remember your father, preserve that memory, and how do you do it? I assume on his yahrzeit, the day of his death. I’m curious, what other ways? Are there any creative ways? Again, you clearly have this aptitude for capturing somebody’s life in a very personal way. So I want to know, what are the ways that you’ve learned to preserve a memory in your life through your own invented rituals? Again, I think your book is the greatest example, because to me, I looked at it, and that’s why I wanted to talk about it specifically now. It’s a personal kinna. It’s your own poetic lamentation of an individual, a person’s life. So I’m curious. What are the ways that you formally preserve his memory, and how do you do it?

Dani Ritholtz:

I think a lot of the times it has to do with mitzvot, with certain commandments, like tefillin is a perfect example, that there’ll be times where maybe I’ll come a little late to davening, which I didn’t inherit that from my dad, but –

David Bashevkin:

He was punctual.

Dani Ritholtz:

He was very punctual. I’m a little less punctual. That’s actually in the book. He would tell me a lot, oh, would you be late to a business meeting? I might be, but it’s something that I know that I definitely have to work on, but he was very good. And my grandfather’s still very, very good with it. He comes 5, 10 minutes early. So if I’m rushing, and I’m starting to put on tefillin, and running through the bracha, there will be times where that’s one of those triggers, where I’ll think, oh, I remember going on such a special trip with my dad to Israel when I put on tefillin for the first time by the Kotel and the old city of Jerusalem, and I remember how he said, “Tefillin, this is the most important object that you own. You can’t lose this.”

He made sure, he said that he never missed a day of tefillin, and that should be very important for you, that even on your toughest days you’re going to put on tefillin. And I think stopping and remembering that impact that he had on me – and that’s usually what it is. It’s usually the times where I’m doing things that he instilled with me this passion for. So tefillin’s one. He davened Shacharis a lot. That was on Shabbos. That was his –

David Bashevkin:

Now you do that.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, and I’ve had multiple people come up to me, and it’s like, “Oh, wow. You sounded exactly like your dad.” Because in my head, I never really learned how to do it, I just remember exactly how he did it. He had a little bit of a different way, and he was very specific on nusach, on how you pronounce certain words and the actual tunes.

David Bashevkin:

Your father would’ve been so disappointed in me. I’m not good in any of those things.

Dani Ritholtz:

He might.

David Bashevkin:

Punctuality –

Dani Ritholtz:

There might’ve been a rolling of eyes, we’ve had that sometimes, where someone would say the wrong tune for kaddish and we’d just go like –

David Bashevkin:

Yeah.

Dani Ritholtz:

What are you going to do?

David Bashevkin:

Allow me to ask you, and it could be fairly simple and typical. What do you do on his Yahrzeit?

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, so for the past few years, what I’ve tried to do is I’ve tried to, as I’ve said before, make a siyum, try to complete either, the first year was all of Shas mishnayot, but other years a masechta, and try to learn that during the summer and try to make a siyum and do it in his memory. This was actually the first year that I didn’t do that. This year I actually published the book, so I thought that was “enough,” but I make sure to daven. I make sure to lead the prayers, every single prayer in a day. It’s a little confusing because it’s aseret yemei teshuva, so it’s also, there’s slichos – When I was in YU, I used to do slichot, because there weren’t any other older people, married people, and stuff like that. So I felt like I could do it. Now I don’t usually do that just because I don’t think I really how to do it so well. But there’s definitely –

David Bashevkin:

And your family gets together? What do you do? Are you guys usually together or not together?

Dani Ritholtz:

It depends on the year. It depends also because most years with my dad’s family we’re together Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. So we’re already there, and sometimes, if it’s a three-day yom tov, then it goes right into the yahrzeit. So it feels almost redundant to get together. But my immediate family, we do. We usually have a dinner together. If my sister and brother-in-law are in the city we sometimes come to them. I talk to my uncle about this sometimes. It’s underratedly a little bit of a stressful day because –

David Bashevkin:

The yahrzeit?

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah.

David Bashevkin:

Tell me why.

Dani Ritholtz:

Because there’s this feeling of obligation, of saying, I need to make sure I’m at minyan, that I –

David Bashevkin:

Because you say kaddish.

Dani Ritholtz:

I have to say kaddish, and during the year of avelut, I don’t think it’s talked about so much, but there is a lot of stress about saying kaddish and trying to make sure you’re at every minyan and on time for every minyan. And so I’ve talked to my uncle about this a lot, and how the yahrzeit, it brings back all those memories of the year of –

David Bashevkin:

It’s a logistical –

Dani Ritholtz:

Yes.

David Bashevkin:

And you feel like that expectation and obligation to preserve the memory, I can’t imagine. I mean –

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, and I think –

David Bashevkin:

People don’t talk about that. That’s very interesting. Trying to get equipped for three times a day, make sure it’s there, you know?

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, for sure, and it’s not talked about that much, but I don’t know if it’s Jewish guilt or something like that.

David Bashevkin:

But that stress comes back on the yahrzeit.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, it definitely does.

David Bashevkin:

I’m going to make the worst analogy in the whole world, no, but it’s for this reason that I actually hate birthdays. I hate celebrations. Forget my own. I legitimately hate my own, always have. I even hate my kids’ birthdays, now because I feel like there is this pressure to make something special. And it’s important when you have the pressure to make something special, it’s important to commemorate and set aside time to step into a time machine, or at least create a memory that the child or yourself can later return to, and I find that stressful. I find the expectations of creating memory, it takes you out of that organic, let it just happen. I’m happy that it happens, but it does that have that set of expectations. When you’re on a yahrzeit, there is that all of the memory and all of what your father represented and the actual logistical questions of saying kaddish.

Dani Ritholtz:

So it’s funny. The logistical parts are more stressful to me than the actually making memory parts. For me, and I’m guessing for other people, for their loved ones, for their time of year when it’s their loved one’s yahrzeit, it’s so defined. That time is so defined. So for me, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, that’s when all this happened, when my dad passed away and when shiva and all these intense emotions came in. So for me personally, it’s part of the ebb and flow of the Jewish year almost, that I’m able to… Like I know, well, Rosh Hashanah, that means right afterwards, that’s where all those memories are going to be coming in, and it’s almost hard to run away from.

David Bashevkin:

The emotional experience has been subsumed into the rhythms of the Jewish calendar.

Dani Ritholtz:

Exactly.

David Bashevkin:

It’s almost built in.

Dani Ritholtz:

I can’t think about Rosh Hashanah without thinking about my dad.

David Bashevkin:

That’s where you go immediately?

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, for sure.

David Bashevkin:

Do you like that? Is that healthy for you? Is that something you appreciate? Or is it sometimes, again, I’m ruining this over and over again, my apologies, but there are people who are upset that – we can literally edit this if it really bothers you, and our listeners can turn off or fast forward – that their birthday falls out on Chanukah.

Dani Ritholtz:

My birthdays falls out on Hanukkah.

David Bashevkin:

And the birthday Chanukah crowd is frustrated, and rightfully so, we don’t talk about this enough in the Jewish community, because I want my birthday and I want a separate birthday present. I don’t want it to be subsumed in Chanukah. And I’m curious, again, this is the inverse. This isn’t talking about a celebration. This is talking about memory. Is it something that you like because it’s built in and it’s fixed and you just know exactly where it is and you can, it makes it almost more tangible, that it’s a part of that time, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, that everyone has that calendric awareness. How do you relate to where it’s situated?

Dani Ritholtz:

I guess working backwards, I never had that issue on my birthday being on Chanukah.

David Bashevkin:

You were not part of the anti-birthday on Chanukah lobby?

Dani Ritholtz:

I think I rationalized in my head. It’s like, “Oh, I got double presents.”

David Bashevkin:

But did you get a separate birthday present?

Dani Ritholtz:

I did not. I think I rationalized it.

David Bashevkin:

You’re old. That’s what you might have to claim.

Dani Ritholtz:

I wasn’t so into my birthday either, so that might be why. It’s like, “Oh, okay. Now, it’s distracted by Chanukah.” Actually, it gives Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur… My grandfather, my mom’s father passed away on Yom Kippur. So I already had that in the ebb and flow of the Jewish calender, it was already baked in, and it makes it feel a little more personal for myself, that Rosh Hashanah isn’t just the time where you’re praying for parnassa, life, and all these things. I remember being in yeshiva, being just a few football fields away from the kodesh kadashim, and crying intensely for my dad’s refuah. Those memories made Rosh Hashanah even more meaningful because I know what mistakes could be and are on those days.

David Bashevkin:

And you almost have your own personal Rosh Hashanah –

Dani Ritholtz:

Exactly.

David Bashevkin:

– that you take with you, that you step into. I think everyone… The way you articulate it is so beautiful, but everybody, if you think about it, has their own day. And the reason why I’m asking this is because, again, the reason why I wanted to reflect on this, I wanted to reflect on the notion of loss on Tisha B’Av, and Tisha B’Av has this idea of subsuming all loss and all tragedy inside of it. And I think it’s a really fascinating way of thinking about that idea, of other elements of sadness being subsumed in other calendric markers. I’m curious. On Tisha B’Av, you returned to mourning in a way, collective mourning. Are there places in, whether it’s Eicha, or the Kinnos, that you reflect on your personal loss?

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, for sure, and on Tisha B’Av in general, because… and I think everyone has a little bit of a difficulty connecting to that date, because it’s abstract for us, sadly. Even though, yes, we don’t have a Beit HaMikdash, but we don’t know what it was like to have one. So I think there’s this disconnect there. So what I try to do personally is I try to tap into how I felt during mourning. Almost feeling like, what should I be feeling? What is the feeling – because I know the emotions, and I know what actual mourning is, and now trying to relate it into this national mourning that we’re supposed to be doing on Tisha B’Av. So I definitely do try to do that, even at the beginning, right before you start Maariv, right before Eicha, I try to remember how I felt during those times to get me in the right mindset.

David Bashevkin:

Are there any specific lines, or a sentence that jumps out when you –

Dani Ritholtz:

Specifically in Kinnot, the kinna about vitzeiti miMitzrayim vitzeiti miYerushalayim.

David Bashevkin:

It’s that kinna that constrasts the Exodus from Egypt and also the exile from Jerusalem. It has these contrasting tones.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, so there are many reasons why I think about it. First and foremost, I think my earliest memory of Tisha B’Av, we used to go up to the Catskills, and I remember very vividly my dad singing this kinna. So I don’t really remember all the other Kinnot, but I remember that one specifically because I remember my dad singing it, I could hear him singing it, and usually how you sing it, you sing it really loudly for the triumph of leaving Mitzrayim, and then softly and dejected for what happened in the exile and from Jerusalem.

So I definitely go back to that, like I know exactly what my dad was saying, and then I have a personal feeling for that, when I found out in the old city of Jerusalem that my dad passed away. And I remember vividly walking out of the walls of Yerushalayim with a few of my friends and a rabbi from Yeshivat HaKotel, and I don’t know how I was thinking about this at the time, but I just remembered, I was like, “This must be like 1/100th of what people were feeling like at the churban,” leaving Yerushalayim, this feeling of shock and rejection, almost.

David Bashevkin:

I don’t even think you need to append the comparative fractional comparison, but I think that that’s the ability to take the memories of the past that we have preserved in Kinnos and integrate them into your own life and your own images of where you felt that loss. I think that’s the ultimate expression of what Kinnos are. Rather than… Again, and I’m not here to knock any Tisha B’Av programming, but we have a lot of history, a lot of this, and the real sense of mourning, the real sense of loss, is when you’re able to take those images that we have preserved about that national and collective loss and superimpose them on those very personal intimate moments that we have in our life.

Allow me to conclude. I always end my interview with more rapid fire questions. I’m not doing that for our Tisha B’Av episodes for hosts of reasons, and I hope you understand them.

I was asking everybody who’s experienced a loss to tell our listeners if there are any books, articles, or even tips about how to access and process loss. What did you use in order to, what another person who I was speaking to called the language of loss. What books did you use? What articles if any, or people?

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, I’m trying to think. The biggest tip, and you probably heard this before, but therapy. That’s the biggest I’d say. That having someone to talk to with absolutely no judgment and no expectations, just to be able to process everything, and also to learn some of the language. I’m still in therapy. I’m a very big advocate. Part of the book was to talk about mental health issues, and something that’s not talked about a lot in our communities, and therapy for sure is something I think is just great for everyone, first of all, but it’s something where you can learn… because it’s a professional who knows about the stages of grief and loss and stuff like that, you can learn about that language.

I think that’s, more than any other book, that definitely helped me in just learning a language, learning what are the symptoms of grief. How are you supposed to look at grief even long term? That’s something that recently I’ve been talking with after publishing this book with my therapist, about how do you… Grief doesn’t just go away. There was this expectation for me that I thought, publish the book and okay, now I’m done. And I was just like, “Oh no. It’s not. This is something that stays with you forever.” So I definitely think that therapy was the biggest thing to get that language of loss and to understand the complexities that come with it, because everyone deals with it differently. Both my sisters and my mom deal with it very, very differently than I do, and I think to get that individualized… I’d almost call it an individual language of loss. I think therapy is the best thing you can do.

David Bashevkin:

I just want to dig a little bit more on this, because I am so both moved and fascinated by your experience with this. Tell me more about, again, they have their own story, your mother and your siblings. What do you think makes your individual language of loss distinct?

Dani Ritholtz:

So I think it’s twofold. One being the only son to my dad. So we were the only men in the immediate family. So I think that has a lot of different… I don’t know. It’s not really expectations, but Kaddish is another one. My sisters didn’t say Kaddish. I did. So there’s certain –

David Bashevkin:

Do you feel like there’s a gendered aspect to the expectations of preservation of memory?

Dani Ritholtz:

Maybe. It’s funny. I haven’t thought about like that, but it could be, and I guess that’s the expectations that the community put on them.

David Bashevkin:

Yeah, and you also, meaning you probably remind people more of your father, because you look like him more as a male, and you guys were of the same gender. It’d be the same with a mother and a daughter, but you look like him more. I could see that there’s this… I mean, my father’s still alive, and my siblings mistake me all the time. I have all the same mannerisms as my father, and I realize that, that sense of perpetuation when you’re able to embody somebody can be really, really difficult.

Dani Ritholtz:

For sure, for sure. And on the book, I specifically put in “… ben Baruch Lev HaKohen”. I put that in because that’s something that is just –

David Bashevkin:

That’s your father’s name.

Dani Ritholtz:

That’s my father’s name, that I’m the son of Baruch Lev HaKohen, and it’s something that is entrenched with me. I get my sisters won’t be called up to the Torah. I’m called up. Especially being a Kohen, I’m called up quite a lot, and I’m saying –

David Bashevkin:

With his name, it’s marked with your –

Dani Ritholtz:

Exactly.

David Bashevkin:

With that name in your community.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, so I guess that’s… going back to triggers, that’s definitely another one.

David Bashevkin:

When you’re called up to the Torah.

Dani Ritholtz:

But that’s almost 95% positive, I keep that name with me.

David Bashevkin:

Part of you.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, that this is something that my dad did thousands of times, and I’m going to do Be’ezras Hashem for many years for thousands of times also. But yeah. So that personal language for myself, and I think just how, the events that we went through, I was away from home for most of Avelut. I was in Yeshivat HaKotel in Israel, and my sisters were at home, and I think how they dealt with it, and I can’t really speak for them, obviously, but I think it was probably much different because they were in the home. They felt the emptiness more of the house than I did until I came back after my year in Israel. So, yeah, I think there’s definitely an individualized… that it’s just being the only male and then also about that just what events happen to us individually.

David Bashevkin:

If we could conclude with an educational point, and people who have not experienced loss and are trying to understand it better and are trying to figure out a way to access it. Because whether or not someone has, God forbid, lost an actual loved one, everybody, part of being alive is the experience of loss. What have you learned that you could transmit to somebody else about what the experience of loss is like?

Dani Ritholtz:

Well, I think the first… You asked for one thing, or two things, because I guess the first thing is an amendment on the second. I think many times we think… I’ve had the experience, especially when I was saying Kaddish, people would come up to me, and being an 18, 19-year-old saying Kaddish, they would say, “Oh, I lost my father when I was x years old,” and stuff like that. And I was never insulted by that, but I always had in my head, and even recently I’ve talked to a few people who’ve lost parents when they were in Yeshiva. I’ve talked to them. I’ve been connected with them through various Rabbis just to talk about our experiences. I almost always open up when I talk to them. I said, “People think, oh, I can understand what you’re going through.” The answer is I don’t know what you’re going through. Maybe we’re in the same ballpark, but everyone’s experience is so different and so individualized.

So I think that’s, just to start off with, that I think that everyone’s loss is so different because everyone’s relationship’s different. Everyone’s makeup is different. So I think very specifically, I think there’s a lot that you can’t access, because I think with my sisters even, I think we all experienced very different things, and obviously we had the same loss, the same person that we lost, but I think our loss languages and our loss was very different. So I think that first thing that everyone has a different experience is really big.

With all that being said, I think the most important… I don’t know about most important, but I think something that I didn’t understand until I lost someone, and I think it’s something that I think we can take for national tragedies also, would be… not that there’s no explanation for these things, that humans I think are trying to find rationales and reasons why this happened, and I remember, one of my friends who lost someone, on the first day when I was in onein came to me and said, “Dani, the first thing I have to tell you is, it is not your fault. Never start thinking that it’s because I did x y and z, that’s why this tragedy happened.”

At the time, I was like, “That’s so ridiculous, why would anyone think that?” But as I went on, I saw my… Trying to figure out, well what, maybe I did, maybe something he did, or our family did, or something like that… Which, it’s this rationalization that I don’t think… it’s just a really bad road to go down. I think there’s no explanations for these tragedies. I like to think of Rav Hirsch. Rav Hirsch has an idea on Parshat Chukat talking about the red heifer, the parah adumah, and he says, “Why is the quintessential chok, a mitzvah that has no explanation, why is it the parah adumah?” He answers in short, he answers that, “It’s about a time of loss when there’s absolutely no explanation of what happened. And that’s when you’re going to use the parah adumah. Because when you have –

David Bashevkin:

It cleanses you from the impurity of death.

Dani Ritholtz:

Exactly. So once you’re being confronted with that, and usually you’ll… That’s usually when there’s a close friend, a family member. That’s when you become impure with death. That’s the time when you have to look at the quintessential chok, when you look at the mitzvah that makes –

David Bashevkin:

The irrationality. The ultimate irrationality is death itself, is loss itself.

Dani Ritholtz:

Exactly.

David Bashevkin:

It’s a mystery that lies beyond us.

Dani Ritholtz:

Yeah, and I take also a Rav Soloveichik approach in Kol Dodi Dofek, that we’re not supposed to have explanations, that’s Hashem’s department. We can’t access that. I think it’s a very healthy way of looking at it, because it’s a little bit like throwing up your hands because you just can’t access the infinite, which is Hashem that makes these decisions, but also that you’re trying to… that you’re able to then say to yourself that, for you, it’s a tragedy. It’s still a tragedy. It’s still a terrible thing that happened. Because I think if you rationalize it and say, “Oh, it happened because now this good thing can happen, or because of a punishment for this bad thing,” it takes away from the tragedy. It takes from how awful it really was.

David Bashevkin:

It’s just a distraction from the void of what that really was.

Dani Ritholtz:

Exactly, and I think that’s something that… In some ways it’s comforting, because you could say, “Okay, it’s not my fault,” but I think it’s also hard to do when you’re in, to look at that void and say, “There’s no explanation. It was terrible.”

David Bashevkin:

It preserves the emptiness, in a way. It preserves that void. Dani, I am so appreciative, both for your work, which I think educates so many, not just of a very beautiful relationship between a father and a son, but really what it means to grapple with loss, to process loss. Again, your book, As a Ram Yearns for the Brook: The Journey of a Father and Son, an extremely moving read, and I’m so appreciative of you joining me today.

Dani Ritholtz:

Thank you so much.

David Bashevkin:

So thinking back to the first time that Dani reached out to me, and it was really for very logistical book advice, and I remember looking back, and I actually discouraged him from publishing it in some massive way, and I think he actually veered courses. But at the heart of the exercise, which is memorializing, capturing a period of loss in your life, aside from being cathartic, aside from being a coping mechanism, it stands as something tangible that later generations are able to access and are able to connect with. And I would ask our listeners and leave our listeners with that idea of, what is that period in your life that, if you had enough focus and discipline, you would want to be able to capture it and preserve it, that story of loss, in order that future generations, family members, friends, or people who may not have even known you would be able to connect and understand what that period of loss was like?

My feeling is that loss is something that is manifest in a thousand different ways, in very personal and intimate ways, but there is a centralizing feeling that is manifest in all of these stories. And to take a moment, and even if you never go ahead and do it and reflect on what your loss is that you could capture and preserve for future generations, it’s something that I think is not just a religious exercise, it’s not just a personal exercise, but it is really part of that larger story of what Jews have been doing throughout the generations.

So thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode or any episode, please subscribe, rate, review. Tell your friends about it. It really helps us reach new listeners and continue putting out great content. If you’d like to learn more about this topic or any topic that we’ve covered, be sure to check out 18Forty.org. That’s the number 1-8 followed by the word “forty,” F-O-R-T-Y.org, 18Forty.org, where you’ll find videos, articles, and recommend readings. Thank you so much for listening and stay curious, my friends.