Not Enough

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.

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6 thoughts on “Not Enough

  1. I am sorry to hear that you weren’t able to say Kaddish when you wanted to. I have found that when in comes to religon that sometimes the rules have to be in place to make it something you need to think about and meditate over what you are doing rather then going into it willy-nilly….if that makes any sence. It is important to know why you do what you do and sometimes the rules are there as speed bumps to get you to think about why you do it. There is a movement in the Catholic Church to bring back the fast before Communion because people are forgetting how special it is suppose to be. So the rules are just there to remind you how important the task you are doing is.

    BTW I high school I worked at a local clothing store run by a Jewish family and the synagogue was right across the street from store and sometimes when they didn’t have the ten men to make up a minyan, they would send someone over to the store to get men to complete the minyan. So I have a lot of memories around not having enough people (in the community I was in: men) for a minyan.

    I am glad you did have enough this morning. >hugs<

  2. I can imagine how upsetting it was to be ready, willing and able, and not have the minyan available to witness your prayer

    It astounds me that during a time of grief, the prayer reads [to me] as being glorification of God – if I was grieving the loss of someone close to me, praising and glorifying would not be my natural response

    Can you explain a little more about that?

  3. I’m sorry — but one good point, with three boys — pretty soon your family will be helping to make that minyan.

  4. Jewish children who have been Bar Mitzvahed are considered adults. Therefore, they count as part of a minyan. Wizard will count after August 2009, his Bar Mitzvah. The other two will have to wait their turn.

  5. I had similar luck earlier this year when it came time to say Kaddish for my Bubbe. We did not have enough for a minyan at either Friday night or Saturday morning service. Our congregation is quite small, so not having a minyan is not unusual. I only hope that this is not the case in October when it comes time to say Kaddish for my Sabba.

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