Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Halfway there? Yes and no

I've been getting asked a lot lately: "aren't you close to finishing your kaddish?"  It's strange and difficult to explain.  I don't feel that I've been saying kaddish for that long.  I'm about halfway done (more on that below).  But, for some reason, to outsiders it seems that I've been saying kaddish for longer than I actually have.

So how far into my kaddish year am I actually?  Like most things Jewish, it's not a simple matter. This is what I've learned. Technically, one says kaddish for a parent for a year.  (Kaddish for a spouse, sibling or, God-forbid, child, is a month.) When does the year begin?  On the day of burial.  That was November 22nd, or the 25th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan.  Since the kaddish year is measured by the Jewish calendar, I would complete kaddish on the next 25th of Cheshvan.  But there's a rabbinic notion that the beginning of a day or a month can be considered as the whole.  Thus, the year of saying kaddish concludes on the first day of the 12th month, which would be the 26th of the month before Cheshvan, namely Tishrei.  However, the Yahrtzeit, or anniversary, is counted from the day of death, which was November 20th, but since it was in the evening, the new Hebrew day had already begun, thus the 24th of Cheshvan.  And so my last day of saying kaddish will be October 12th and the Yartzeit will be November 9th.

This means that I am more than halfway through my year of saying kaddish, the mid point having been 5 1/2 months after burial, or May 2nd.  The halfway point of my year of mourning will be on May 16th. 

Of course, this raises the question: what's so special about the first year?  In my conversations with  present or recent mourners, I heard things such as, "I'm almost done" or "just a few more days to go."  It's like the release from a heavy burden.  Or perhaps some sense of accomplishment.  In any event, will something magical happen after November 9?  Will I be healed?  True, the burden/obligation/honor of saying kaddish will have passed.  But will my life go back to normal?  I don't think so.

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