Jos Claerbout
Memorial Service

August 23, 1999

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[Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neuman]

[Hebrew; Psalm 24:1-6]

The earth is God's and all its fullness.
The world is God's and all its inhabitants.
God founded the world upon the seas
And set it firm upon the flowing waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the eternal?
Who may stand in God's holy place?
One who has clean hands and a pure heart
Who takes not God's name in vain.
One will receive a blessing from the eternal
A just reward from the God of deliverance.
Such is the generation of those who seek the Eternal One
Who, like Jacob, long for God's presence.

Fear not, for I am with you.
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you.
I will sustain you from my power, says God.

The way Jos died was unspeakably tragic. It was premature by decades, before the rich, full promise that he exhibited could be fully realized. And it was such an ineffably sudden death. Here one minute was an energetic young man, pulsating with life and aspirations and laughter. And here an instant later he journeyed from this reality.

How can we fathom such a premature and inexplicable transition? The Talmud tells us that the boundary between being and non-being, between life and death, is as thin as a hair's breath.

"We are born," says Samuel Beckett, "astride a grave. The light gleams an instant, then it is night once more."

Jos's death reminds us how frail are the foundations of our existence and therefore how much we must strive to cherish and protect it. As a moralist once said:

One broken dream is not the end of dreaming.
One shattered hope is not the end of hoping.
Beyond the storm and the tempest, stars are gleaming.
Still build your castles though your castles fall.
Though many dreams come tumbling down in disaster,
And pain and heartache move you down in years,
Still keep you faith and dare your hopes to master.
And never cry that you have ceased to dream.

jos with mom In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
We will remember him.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We will remember him.

In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We will remember him.

In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
We will remember him.

When we are weary and in need of strength,
We will remember him.

When we are lost and sick at heart,
We will remember him.

When we have joys we yearn to share,
We will remember him.

So long as we live, he, too, shall live.
For he is now a part of us,
As we remember him.



A poem by Shukmis Yellin:

I will say "yes" to life
and meet him in the market place,
between the stalls where all can see us
Tasting avidly
from all the baskets and the many sacks
Of condiments and breadstuffs and rich
late summer's fare.

I will say "Yes," and join with him
the dancers in the public square and tap out their rhythms,
gay and joyously articulate of now.

With such a partner and in such a place, 'mid so much fullness,

My gnawed-off heels will know new balance and support,

My hips will lightly bear the burden of my heart,
And shoulders entertain the sway and flow of fingers
From my outstretched hands.

Let the tambourines ripple out their music,
Let the market women point, and loosely flap their red-lipped tongues.
I have learned a rhyme to blind their evil eye.
And if it works? What bounty!
And if it fails? There has still been the journey to the fair!

[Hebrew; Psalm 23]
God is my shepherd, I shall not want.
God makes me lie down in green pastures,
Leads me beside still waters, and restores my soul.

You lead me in right paths for the sake of Your Name.
Even when I walk in the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil, for You are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You have set a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You have anointed my head with oil. My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of God forever.


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