Sunday, June 17, 2012

Communication between male and female mourners

I usually daven at a different shul on Sunday mornings than the one I daven at weekday mornings.  The davening at the former shul tends to be slower, less formal and more female friendly.  Today I was asked to lead the prayers, being the only male mourner present.  When I got to the first kaddish (the Rabbi's Kaddish), I sprinted ahead at what's become my normal pace, namely quick but not so fast as to render the words incomprehensible.  After I got a few words into it, I felt a friendly tap on the shoulder from the Gabbai.  He told me to slow down.  It was only then that I realized there were two women also saying kaddish, and at a much slower pace than I.  So I took a deep breath and slowed the pace down by about a factor of two.  For the remainder of the four kaddishes, the three of us went at more or less the same pace.  I had to listen for their voices to cue me as to how fast I should go to stay in sync with them.

After davening, I spoke to one of the women saying kaddish.  Her father had just died, and she had begun coming to morning minyan.  She also came to the early Shabbat minyan I attend even though I believe she otherwise would have attended a Women's Tephila (prayer) group that day; even among these orthodox women, it is a norm that d'var b'kedusha (matters of holiness) require a quorum of ten men, and so kaddish would not be recited at a Women's Prayer group.  (If any reader of this blog knows otherwise, please let me know.)  She told me she appreciated that I had slowed down and was listening to my words to guide her own pacing.  I told her I had been trying to hear her own pacing.  The good thing was that we were listening to and communicating with each other.  Too often women kaddish-sayers occupy a completely different universe than males kaddish sayers to the detriment of the larger community.

This leaves a final question: why do women kaddish sayers tend to go slower than men?  It may be that men have spent more time in shul.  Even before I began reciting kaddish, I'd heard it thousands of times during prayers.  Since men more often attend shul daily, the service has become more routinized for men which in turn leads to greater speed in davening in general. Perhaps women tend to take kaddish more seriously and concentrate more on what they are saying than men tend to do.

Once again I learned a lesson in the communal nature of the kaddish.  The tendency to internalize it, to make it only about one's personal loss, must be balanced against the needs of others.  My kaddish year is not exclusively my own; it is bound up with other mourners with whom I share this state of sorrow as well as with the general community of shul goers.

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