Friday, August 3, 2012

A different kind of kaddish

I davened at the six o'clock minyan (prayer service) this past Tuesday. My son and I then flew to Israel nonstop. On the plane groups of men were forming minyans (prayer quorums) to pray Mincha (the afternoon service) and Ma'ariv (the evening service). I was able to join a group in the front of the plane for Ma'ariv. No one said kaddish, so when I announced I needed to, they said to go ahead.

I landed in Israel at four in the morning the next day. By 6 a.m. I was at a Bet Knesset (synagogue) in a town called Re'ut where one of my cousins lives. Because of the time difference between New York and Israel, I attended two 6 a.m. minyans within a span of 17 hours.

As with most prayer services in the United States, the services I attend in New York use Nusach Ashkenaz. Nusach Ashkenaz refers to the form of prayer used by most Jews from Eastern Europe. But there are two other major nusachim (forms of prayer). One is called Nusach Sfard, which is similar to Nusach Ashkenaz but with slight changes to the liturgy. The other is called Nusach Adot Ha'mizrach. This nusach is used by Jews from Arab countries.

The services I attended in Re'ut used Nusach Adot Ha'mizrach. It is not like Nusach Ashkenaz at all. The order of the prayers are somewhat changed, especially in the morning service. The prayer leader recited the entire service out loud. There are extra prayers, especially at the end. And there are substantial differences in the wording of the kaddish.

The combination of my jet lag, sense of dislocation and change of nusach rendered me completely at sea during the service. I couldn't even figure out who the prayer leader was for a while. I spent considerable energy just trying to figure out when the kaddishes were coming and trying to adjust to the new wording. No one paid notice of me or tried to help me out. My sense of comfort in shul, acquired from nearly nine months davening in the same kind of prayer service, was utterly upended.

There is much to gain from experiencing new ways of doing things and going outside one's comfort zone. But that intellectual knowledge didn't help me much that morning.

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