Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kaddish and Rosh Hashana

I gave a lot of thought as to where I wanted to daven for Rosh Hashana. As I've mentioned, I belong to two Orthodox synagogues. For many years I prayed at the one which I can fairly characterize as more spiritual, with much communal singing to the melodies by the renown composer, Shlomo Carlebach. The problem for me is the length of the services, which on Rosh Hashana can easily stretch to five and a half hours. Outside of Yom Kippur, the Rosh Hashana service, with Shofar blowing and and a lengthy Musaf service, is the longest davening of the year.

I decided that, for this year, I needed to make saying kaddish the central facet of my davening. The kaddishes come toward the beginning and at the end of the service. Most people on Rosh Hashana come late to shul and so are not there for the entire service. They come for the Shofar blowing, for the Rabbi's sermon, for the beautiful Unetana Tokef prayer during Musaf and the other moving piutim (poems) that make up the special Rosh Hashana liturgy. That's not an option for me as I am committed to saying all the kaddishes. I need to be in shul on time.

I was not prepared to be in shul from 7:15 in the morning until 1:45 in the afternoon. So I decided to daven at the other shul I belong to where the services are less spirited but quite nice and, most important for me this year, shorter. However, I could not convince my son and wife to join me there. They wanted to daven where they felt most comfortable. So we decided to split up, me at one shul and they at the other. We all had our spiritual and emotional needs, and one shul could not satisfy all of them.

And so I was in shul from 7:45 a.m. till 12:30 p.m., a relatively manageable period of time. I was not carried away by the prayers as I've been in the past, but I was sufficiently moved to make the experience meaningful. I said my kaddishes. I was the only person in shul at the beginning saying kaddish. These were tearful kaddishes. The new year was here. I prayed with everyone else that it be a good year, a year of life and blessing. A year of life for myself and my loved ones. But--the first year of my life that begins without my mother.

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