Sunday, September 2, 2012

Asserting my "rights"

I came to shul yesterday morning ready to lead prayers. I had convinced my children to attend morning services, something that hasn't been easy to do given their teenage sleep schedules. I wanted them to share in my experience of mourning through prayer and to witness me as a prayer leader. This is especially the case for my daughter, who has been rather disaffected from synagogue life and therefore hasn't seen me saying kaddish for her grandmother very often.

When I got to shul, I noticed a sign indicating there was a bris milah (circumcision). I learned that one of the family members of the event wanted to daven. I saw him speaking to the Gabbai. I approached him and indicated that I wanted to daven this morning as my children were present. Then I said the magic word: "chiyuv." He responded, "oh, then by all means, go ahead." As the only mourner present, I had the "right" to lead services. Not wanting to shut him out entirely, I  allowed him to lead the services up until "Yishtabach," (i.e., the preliminary service), after which I took over.

I prayed with more intensity and purpose than usual. For the first time in a while, I felt my mother's presence during my prayers. I felt her pride in me, in my assertiveness in demanding to lead prayers and in modeling for my children.

As I was completing prayers, the mohel (the person who performs the circumcision) began setting up his equipment on the bima. I moved over to the right with my prayer book as he placed the knife and bandages to my left. I recognized him from other brises and introduced myself to him. Here I was, standing at the Amud (prayer stand) and leading prayers because my mother died. Here he was, standing at the Amud because a couple had brought life into the world. Contemplating the moment, with my children, my sense of my mother, and the newborn boy soon to be ushered into the covenent, I felt tears as I recited the last Mourner's Kaddish.

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