Monday, October 29, 2012

Mourning without kaddish

I've completed the 11 months of reciting kaddish. I am no longer a "chiuv," that is, I no longer have an obligation to say kaddish and am not chosen to lead prayers. When the Gabbai announces before services, "is there anyone observing a Yahrtzeit? . . . Shloshim? . . . A chiuv?", he no longer looks at me and I don't make eye contact with him.

On the other hand, I am still an "avel," that is, a person in the first year of mourning. I'm still obligated in the all laws of mourning: I'm not supposed to hear live music, attend joyful events, or wear new clothing. Thus, until the Yahrtzeit, I live in an ambiguous state: mourning without kaddish.

There is more to mourning than saying kaddish, but because mourning is so identified with kaddish, it's easy to feel as if my year of mourning is already over. Kaddish is what reminds you of your parent's death. Kaddish is what announces to others that your parent died recently. Without kaddish, the sense of loss is not as intense.

The ostensible reason that kaddish ends before the year of mourning relates to the supposed effect of kaddish on the deceased's soul. (see http://mykaddishyear.blogspot.com/2012/05/efficacy-of-kaddish.html) You stop saying kaddish before the full 12 months because the soul is sufficiently elevated by 11 months. To continue would imply that your parent was not worthy to be elevated within 11 months. (see http://www.jewish-funeral-guide.com/tradition/kaddish-duration.htm)

Perhaps there is another less profound way of looking at the early end to kaddish. It's a way of easing out of the state of mourning. Maybe it would be too abrupt to stop saying kaddish and stop being a mourner simultaneously. And so there is a month between the end of kaddish and the Yahrtzeit to think about what mourning means without the benefit of kaddish.

I am using this time to plan how I will commemorate the Yahrtzeit. I am thinking about how I will incorporate my mother's life into my life. I am thinking about how I will live out the rest of my life without her earthly presence. Her absence still astonishes me. It's easier to accept now than in the days and months just after she died. But it's still difficult. I'm sure it always will be.

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