Friday, June 29, 2012

"You're almost done with your kaddish, aren't you"?

It wasn’t that long ago that my mother died and I began showing up to shul every day to pray and say kaddish.  And yet those first days, when I raised my hand when the Gabbai asked, “is there anyone in Shloshim?,” seem like a distant memory.  In fact, I am now the “senior mourner” in shul.  Everyone else saying kaddish began their kaddish year after me.  Since they weren’t going to shul when I first began saying kaddish, they assume I am almost done with my kaddish year.  Just today, a gentleman whose mother died about two months ago, asked me, “your almost done with your kaddish, aren’t you?” 

Well, actually, no.  The official last day of kaddish is the 24th of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, 11 months after my mother was buried, or October 10, still more than three months away. 

Even though I’ve been asked quite often, “how much longer do you have to go,” I haven’t thought much about it.  Here, again, Wieseltier’s book Kaddish is instructive.  He was so engrossed in his pursuit for meaning that he didn’t accurately calculate his last day of saying kaddish.  (See Kaddish, pp. 460-461.)  He writes, “The psychology of my failure to establish the date properly is obvious, and boring. I prefer the poetry of it.  I prefer to think that my soul has been spinning out of time.  Chronological time is not the same as spiritual time.  The calendar establishes only the external stops and starts of religious life.  But the internal motions. . . . (p. 461.) 

I do feel that I’ve been saying kaddish for a while. I'm not focused on the end date, but on the internal processes that I 'm experiencing.  In the beginning of the latter stage of my kaddish year, kaddishes with tears are becoming less frequent.  Raw feelings are slowly being replaced by intellectual reflections, the pain of death with the search for its meaning.

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