Last night we attended regular Friday evening services for the Sabbath. We belong to a very small Conservative synagogue that’s just getting started. During the height of tourist season, there is never a problem getting a minyan, a quorum of ten Jewish adults required to fulfill certain Jewish obligations. Summertime is different because far fewer members are around. Last night, there were only nine adults at the service; the rest were my children. The rabbi conducted services, but there weren’t enough people there for me to say Kaddish for my father.
For the first time since my dad’s death, I was not permitted to say Kaddish when I was ready to and wanted to. I was so sad. Wild Thing noticed the tears in my eyes. How could I explain to him that I just wanted to honor my father and my heritage, but I was not allowed. It bothered me all night. This morning, we attended Sabbath services again, and there were enough people present so that I could recite the prayer.
I can already hear your questions: “Why don’t you just go ahead and say the prayer anyway? Doesn’t the restriction seem silly to you? I thought Conservative Judaism was supposed to be egalitarian; how can that be if you can’t pray the way you want to?” I don’t have all the answers, but here is what I know. The obligation of saying Kaddish requires the presence of the quorum to ensure that the mourner is surrounded by a community in which she feels safe enough to grieve and pray. The problem is tautological, but that is Jewish law. Of course, I don’t follow Jewish law blindly or to the letter (like my eldest brother, The Egg). That’s the cruel beauty of Conservative Judaism: enough adherence to halacha (Jewish law) to be meaningful but flexible enough to accommodate the modern world. Nevertheless, it is my Jewish identity.
It took me weeks following my father’s death to want to stand and pray to elevate his soul instead of going through the motions. Now, when we attend Sabbath services, I want to stand up and pray; it makes me feel closer to my dad. Thankfully, we had a minyan at Sabbath services this morning. Although I was the only mourner, I stood and recited these words:
May the great Name of God be exalted and sanctified, throughout the world, which He has created according to his will.
May His Kingship be established in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the entire household of Israel, swiftly and in the near future; and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed, forever and ever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, honored, elevated and lauded be the name of the Holy One, Blessed is He – above and beyond any blessings and hymns, Praises and consolations which are uttered in the world; and say Amen.
May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel; and say, Amen.
May He who makes peace in his high holy places, bring peace upon us, and upon all Israel; and say Amen.