Sunday, July 1, 2012

The moment before kaddish

Having gone to shul on a regular basis for a while, I know when the kaddishes are coming.  In the Mincha (afternoon) and Ma'ariv (evening) services, the Mourner's Kaddish is recited at the very end, immediately after the Aleynu prayer.  In Shacharit (the morning service), the Kaddish D'rabanan (Rabbi's Kaddish) and Mourner's Kaddish are recited toward the beginning of the service and two more Mourner's Kaddishes at the end, one after Aleynu and the other after the Psalm of the Day.  On the Sabbath eve, there is a Mourner's Kaddish and Kaddish D'Rabbanan in the middle of the service, after the Kabbalat Shabbat service and before Borchu.

Usually, I'm quite aware that my turn to say kaddish is approaching.  I'm finishing my silent Aleynu. The Shaliach T'zibur (prayer leader) will recite the last verse of that prayer.  Then the attention of the congregation will turn to the mourners saying kaddish.  As that moment nears, I begin to get self-conscious. Whether I feel like it or not, in a few seconds I will again declare my status as a mourner. Often, after I finish kaddish, I feel the need to take in a deep breath.

Other times, though, I'm not expecting the approach of the kaddish.  I get surprised and need to remind myself, "oh, that's right, I have to say kaddish soon."  I experience a sense of disbelief that, indeed, my mother is dead, that I will never see her or speak to her again (except in dreams).

For years I heard others say kaddish and didn't think too much about it.  You never think that your turn will come, though after my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I began to wrap my mind around the idea that, as unbelievable as it seemed, I would be the one saying kaddish. Despite the hundreds of services I've attended and thousands of kaddishes I've recited since she died, I still find it difficult to believe the reason I keep going to shul and saying kaddish.

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