Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Second Yizkor

Today, the second day of Shavuot, was my second Yizkor.  Yizkor is the memorial service for the departed, recited four times a year: on the holidays of Passover, Shavuot and Shmini Atzeret and on Yom Kippur.   This time I decided to say Yizkor at the more informal and smaller 7:00 a.m. minyan I usually attend on Sabbath.  (See Posts "Where to say Yizkor" and "First  Yizkor" for my thoughts and reflections on my first Yizkor.)

I walked to shul alone in the early morning.   My thoughts were on the upcoming Yizkor.  I hadn't thought too much about it in the previous days.  But as my steps brought my closer to shul, I felt in a different sort of mood than usual.  I knew that, unlike most services, there would be space for me to be at one with my mourning.  If I felt like crying, I could.  (Not that crying is not allowed on other occasions, but it seldom happens.)  Mourners may not be crying as they go to shul on days when Yizkor is recited, but they know that they carry tears waiting to be shed.

The prayers today were festive, too festive for my mood.  The prayer leader sang the full Hallel with soulful, uplifting melodies.  I'd rather he hadn't.  They didn't lift my spirits or console me.  It verged on mockery of my feelings.  It's true that Judaism has periods of abrupt transitions from sorrow to joy (think Yom HaZikaron to Yom Ha'atzmaut), but I never was that flexible emotionally.  A passage I read today from Wieseltier's book Kaddish (page 414--only 100 more pages to go!) expressed my thoughts (as he often does): "to be consoled is to repent, that is, to change one's mind, to have one's attention diverted to another sorrow, to admit another object, another motive, another desire, into one's consciousness.  For sorrow wants nothing but sorrow.  (my emphasis.)  It is the perfect example of single-mindedness." Today I just needed to focused on my sorrow.

Unlike the first Yizkor, when I stood next to my father, I didn't cry as much today.  At the first Yizkor, the tears flowed, the wound felt raw, but it closed up quickly.  Today I wished the Yizkor service was longer.  The prayer for one's parent is only six lines.   I repeated it, feeling unfinished after the first reading.  I didn't want to move on. But I had to.  I said the prayers for Holocaust victims and fallen Israeli soldiers.  I wished to, but didn't feel my mother's presence.  The feeling that once I had a mother who fed me, advised me (whether or not solicited), scolded me, misunderstood me but always loved me, stayed with me until the final kaddish of the service.  Then, following services, as food was served and schmoozing (informal conversing) began, that feeling too dissipated. 

The next Yizkor is just over four months away.  I still have my prayers and my kaddishes and my thoughts about my prayers and my kaddishes.

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