Sunday, October 14, 2012

Protocal of the last day of kaddish

My last kaddish was two days ago.  I'd informed the Gabbai who announced to the congregation that it was my last day of saying kaddish. The Gabbai choose me to daven Ma'ariv, the evening prayer. The next morning the Gabbai instructed me to daven all of Shacharit (the morning service). That was unusual as in the past month there have been three mourners davening different parts of the service. As I began the service, I felt a nervousness I haven't felt since the days I first acted as prayer leader. Then I felt a hand on my back (I think it was the Rabbi's but I'm not sure) and a hand motion to slow down. I took a deep breath and tried to relax. I was as focused as I've ever been leading prayers, as much to appreciate the sentiments behind them as to anchor my feelings in something concrete. I was then called up for an Aliyah to the Torah, the first time that's happened on a weekday since I've been saying kaddish.

In the afternoon, I led the prayers for Mincha. I stood at the Amud (prayer stand), the place that I'd stood as prayer leader so many times during this last year. Nobody could see me as the Amud is in the front of the shul, but they heard me and I'm pretty sure the tone of my words conveyed the heaviness of my heart. Afterwards I shook the Rabbi and the Gabbai's hands to express my appreciation for their support. I don't think they were overly moved--I wasn't the first mourner they've seen go through this process and I won't be the last.

After Mincha I returned to my seat thinking I'd recited my last kaddish. But as the Rabbi began talking, I remembered there was also a Kaddish D'rabbanan (Rabbi's Kaddish). I couldn't pay attention to the Rabbi's words at all. I have no idea what he said (it was something about a mishna in the tractate of Rosh Hashana).

And so I learned the protocol of the last day. You lead all the prayers for one last time (until the Yahrzteit). You are honored by being called to the Torah. In an unspoken way, the protocol was a way of acknowledging my effort in attending shul every day to pray and say kaddish. I am grateful for the the rules and the structure of Jewish public mourning. And I was grateful to have been supported in my mourning by a community of shul goers. I take pride in my accomplishment. It's nice when one's efforts are recognized. I was honored, and through that recognition, so was my mother. And if anyone deserves to be honored, it was her.

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