“A Kaddish for Aaron Bushnell (1998-2024)” by Micah Ackerman Hirsch

Micah Ackerman Hirsch


after Father Daniel Berrigan

Praise beyond all conception of praise the things we cannot understand,
this thing that doesn’t want to be praised, this tragedy laid over tragedy to stir the watching,
misunderstanding crowd from their pulpits. From their bedsides. From their phones.
Praise my shaking hands in the California light, praise the shaking light that soars to Washington,
praise I can’t comprehend, what I can’t comprehend, what we cannot comprehend, praise
the hands of Gaza’s fathers and its mothers’ sweat. Praise beyond capacity for praising
things that cannot be, that will not be, that stand before what is and cry peace to the heaven all
around us, made from the praising of our hands around one another, around the sidewalk and the
gate, around the world you would speak into being. I am tired of understanding praise in this
house of heaven built on shining shores, built on shining hills, built by shining states—must we
again praise the shining city and its shining bombs? Must my children? Must yours? Praise the
hands that must be God’s in the darkness, that must be light, that must see you on every street
corner wearing the face of the peace come down to where it cannot understand. Praise beyond all
conception, or mourn, or scream, or swear. Gaza’s children, praise them too, you who praise the
voice of thin silence. Praise the driven that cannot understand, praise the way you cannot
understand them, praise the way you can. Praise understanding renewed, the speaking out against
this multiplied a thousand-fold, praise only understanding what is left to do in city halls in city
streets in conversations in protest signs in graffitied signs in holy signs upon the remaining days
that repeat themselves how we can never hold down. And I praise. I cannot understand. I praise.

from Poets Respond
March 3, 2024


Micah Ackerman Hirsch: “As a Jew opposed to the ongoing genocide being committed in Gaza, I struggled with how to commemorate Aaron Bushnell. Judaism has very little to say about concepts like martyrdom, theologically valuing existence and struggle in this world over seeking the next. So much do we focus on this Earthly life over Heaven that our prayer for the dead, the Kaddish Yatom, says nothing about death at all. Instead, it asks the mourners to praise God beyond all humanly conceptions of what it means to praise something, and expresses our longing for the day when the peace embodied by divinity exists permanently in our world. And so, following Father Daniel Berrigan’s poetry of protest and the long Jewish tradition of rewriting prayers to meet our contemporary trials, I wrote this Kaddish, a mourning prayer, a poem, for Aaron.”

Rattle Logo