rhu: (torah)
This is the d'var Torah that I gave this morning at the kiddush that we sponsored in memory of my father on the occasion of his first Yahrzeit, which is this coming Monday.

Cut for length )
rhu: (torah)
This is the d'var Torah that I gave this morning at the kiddush that we sponsored in memory of my father on the occasion of his first Yahrzeit, which is this coming Monday.

Cut for length )
rhu: (torah)
This evening, I will complete the eleven months of saying kaddish for my father. While I remain an avel, a mourner, for another month, in Jewish traditon kaddish is not recited for the last month of the year of mourning.

So at the end of the 7:50 mincha service, I will say kaddish. And at the end of the 8:05 arvit service, I will respond to the kaddish recited by others.

People have asked me how I feel about it, and it's a mixed bag. But one thing that I'm certain of: I'm looking forward to being able to say "Aleinu", the prayer before kaddish, at my own pace, without rushing to make sure I'll be ready to say "Yitgadal".

I don't hold by mystical interpretations of kaddish. I know that for some, there is a concept of an immediate afterlife, and they have the idea that every time a child says kaddish, the soul of the parent ascends one level, and their goal is to ensure that they say kaddish at least enough times to elevate their parent's soul from "doomed to purgatory" to "ensured a place in the next world." Almost sounds like a rule out of Dungeons and Dragons, doesn't it?

That's not how I see kaddish.

A co-worker who lost his mother a few months ago commented to the effect that his mother, a devout Catholic, could now talk to God directly. And in the broader culture in which we live, there is an amorphous concept that the living can ask the dead to intercede on their behalf, that they are somehow closer to God than we are.

That's not the Jewish view. The Psalmist wrote: "The dead do not praise God, nor does anyone who has descended into the grave." My father's ability to pray ended with his last breath eleven months ago. It is we, the living, who can speak words to God --- words of praise and words of anger, words of gratitude and words of despair.

For me, kaddish must have a function in this world, among the living.

And so I have been going to synagogue, twice daily (usually), to say the kaddish that my father cannot. To lead the community in prayer, as my father cannot. To fulfill the fifth commandment, showing respect for my father, in the symbolic act that our people have used for millenia.

In short, to present evidence, through my actions, of what kind of Jew my father was, by demonstrating what kind of Jew my father raised.

And yet that means that, to a greater or lesser degree, my prayers for the last eleven months have not been entirely mine. My father's absence has been a constant companion. About one service out of every six, I have been leading as "the representative of the community," as it is called, which means often I've also been sharing my prayer mindspace with everyone else in the room.

It's gotten crowded in there.

But tonight, at arvit, it will be just me. When I say the "Amen" that concludes my father's one remaining kaddish, the final echo of his voice will fade out, and I will enter the penultimate stage of mourning. I will have to start learning how to leave daily mourning behind, to prepare for the final stage, the one that starts on his first yahrzeit and lasts for the rest of my life.

For the next month, I will be ineligible to lead services both on weekdays (as someone no longer saying kaddish) and on Shabbat and Yom Tov (as one in the year of formal mourning). I intend to use that month to rediscover my own voice, and to find my way back to that quiet, solitary space so I can once again learn how to become intimate with God.
rhu: (torah)
This evening, I will complete the eleven months of saying kaddish for my father. While I remain an avel, a mourner, for another month, in Jewish traditon kaddish is not recited for the last month of the year of mourning.

So at the end of the 7:50 mincha service, I will say kaddish. And at the end of the 8:05 arvit service, I will respond to the kaddish recited by others.

People have asked me how I feel about it, and it's a mixed bag. But one thing that I'm certain of: I'm looking forward to being able to say "Aleinu", the prayer before kaddish, at my own pace, without rushing to make sure I'll be ready to say "Yitgadal".

I don't hold by mystical interpretations of kaddish. I know that for some, there is a concept of an immediate afterlife, and they have the idea that every time a child says kaddish, the soul of the parent ascends one level, and their goal is to ensure that they say kaddish at least enough times to elevate their parent's soul from "doomed to purgatory" to "ensured a place in the next world." Almost sounds like a rule out of Dungeons and Dragons, doesn't it?

That's not how I see kaddish.

A co-worker who lost his mother a few months ago commented to the effect that his mother, a devout Catholic, could now talk to God directly. And in the broader culture in which we live, there is an amorphous concept that the living can ask the dead to intercede on their behalf, that they are somehow closer to God than we are.

That's not the Jewish view. The Psalmist wrote: "The dead do not praise God, nor does anyone who has descended into the grave." My father's ability to pray ended with his last breath eleven months ago. It is we, the living, who can speak words to God --- words of praise and words of anger, words of gratitude and words of despair.

For me, kaddish must have a function in this world, among the living.

And so I have been going to synagogue, twice daily (usually), to say the kaddish that my father cannot. To lead the community in prayer, as my father cannot. To fulfill the fifth commandment, showing respect for my father, in the symbolic act that our people have used for millenia.

In short, to present evidence, through my actions, of what kind of Jew my father was, by demonstrating what kind of Jew my father raised.

And yet that means that, to a greater or lesser degree, my prayers for the last eleven months have not been entirely mine. My father's absence has been a constant companion. About one service out of every six, I have been leading as "the representative of the community," as it is called, which means often I've also been sharing my prayer mindspace with everyone else in the room.

It's gotten crowded in there.

But tonight, at arvit, it will be just me. When I say the "Amen" that concludes my father's one remaining kaddish, the final echo of his voice will fade out, and I will enter the penultimate stage of mourning. I will have to start learning how to leave daily mourning behind, to prepare for the final stage, the one that starts on his first yahrzeit and lasts for the rest of my life.

For the next month, I will be ineligible to lead services both on weekdays (as someone no longer saying kaddish) and on Shabbat and Yom Tov (as one in the year of formal mourning). I intend to use that month to rediscover my own voice, and to find my way back to that quiet, solitary space so I can once again learn how to become intimate with God.
rhu: (torah)
I haven't had much to say here about the mourning process in the last few months; I haven't had any observations that seemed worth recording.

But I'm getting towards the end of the eleven months of saying kaddish. Next week, Jews start counting the 49 days of the Omer, the period between Passover and Shavuot. Coincidentally, today, I realized, I start the final 49 days of saying kaddish.

It's a turning point. Cut for length )
rhu: (torah)
I haven't had much to say here about the mourning process in the last few months; I haven't had any observations that seemed worth recording.

But I'm getting towards the end of the eleven months of saying kaddish. Next week, Jews start counting the 49 days of the Omer, the period between Passover and Shavuot. Coincidentally, today, I realized, I start the final 49 days of saying kaddish.

It's a turning point. Cut for length )
rhu: (Default)
I knew that at some point not only would I be unable to daven with a minyan (that happened, as expected, for Mincha when Daylight Saving Time ended), but that at some point I'd miss a service entirely, even by myself. That happened yesterday, Shabbat afternoon, when I got sick right before mincha time. That was the first amidah that I missed since my father passed away.

Because I'm a data collector, the stats are: the streak lasted 611 services over 191 days, of which 597 were with a minyan. My streak of shacharit with a minyan continues with 191 as of this morning. (I was exempt from shacharit the day of the funeral.)
rhu: (Default)
I knew that at some point not only would I be unable to daven with a minyan (that happened, as expected, for Mincha when Daylight Saving Time ended), but that at some point I'd miss a service entirely, even by myself. That happened yesterday, Shabbat afternoon, when I got sick right before mincha time. That was the first amidah that I missed since my father passed away.

Because I'm a data collector, the stats are: the streak lasted 611 services over 191 days, of which 597 were with a minyan. My streak of shacharit with a minyan continues with 191 as of this morning. (I was exempt from shacharit the day of the funeral.)
rhu: (530nm330Hz)
Tonight and tomorrow are my paternal grandfather's yahrzeit. My paternal grandmother's yahrzeit fell during my father's shiva. So tonight has been extra hard; saying le-eilah le-eilah during kaddish at arvit really hit home, as tonight I felt like I was saying kadish le-iluiy two neshamas.

[Gloss: During the Ten days we repeat the word le-eilah, "ascending above", in the phrase "God's praise should ascend above all blessings and songs that are said in this world."; and kaddish is often referred to as "le-iluiy neshama", to raise up the soul of the departed.]

I also realized tonight that Yom Kippur will mark the 100th day of saying kaddish for my father. Not that 100 days really means anything; on the second day of Rosh Hashanah when it was 13 complete weeks; 1/4 year; 1 season --- that felt like a significant day. 100 days is an accident of us having ten fingers. But still.... I don't know if 100 days is a lot or a little.
rhu: (530nm330Hz)
Tonight and tomorrow are my paternal grandfather's yahrzeit. My paternal grandmother's yahrzeit fell during my father's shiva. So tonight has been extra hard; saying le-eilah le-eilah during kaddish at arvit really hit home, as tonight I felt like I was saying kadish le-iluiy two neshamas.

[Gloss: During the Ten days we repeat the word le-eilah, "ascending above", in the phrase "God's praise should ascend above all blessings and songs that are said in this world."; and kaddish is often referred to as "le-iluiy neshama", to raise up the soul of the departed.]

I also realized tonight that Yom Kippur will mark the 100th day of saying kaddish for my father. Not that 100 days really means anything; on the second day of Rosh Hashanah when it was 13 complete weeks; 1/4 year; 1 season --- that felt like a significant day. 100 days is an accident of us having ten fingers. But still.... I don't know if 100 days is a lot or a little.
rhu: (torah)
This past Shabbat, just after daybreak, I completed observing the 30-day "shloshim" stage of mourning for my father. Some reflections behind the cut. )
rhu: (torah)
This past Shabbat, just after daybreak, I completed observing the 30-day "shloshim" stage of mourning for my father. Some reflections behind the cut. )

Time

Jul. 18th, 2011 10:17 pm
rhu: (torah)
I knew that when I became an avel, one subject to the Jewish laws of mourning, that it would alter my awareness of the passage of time. This was evident in the dvar Torah that I wrote for MIT Hillel a few months back:

We mourn someone whose days have reached their final number, and we count seven days, and thirty days, and eleven months, and a year.

What I hadn't anticipated was the way my time awareness would also change regarding hours, minutes, and seconds.

Cut for length, ironically enough. )

The lesson is: I have to watch the seconds, and let the year take care of itself.

Time

Jul. 18th, 2011 10:17 pm
rhu: (torah)
I knew that when I became an avel, one subject to the Jewish laws of mourning, that it would alter my awareness of the passage of time. This was evident in the dvar Torah that I wrote for MIT Hillel a few months back:

We mourn someone whose days have reached their final number, and we count seven days, and thirty days, and eleven months, and a year.

What I hadn't anticipated was the way my time awareness would also change regarding hours, minutes, and seconds.

Cut for length, ironically enough. )

The lesson is: I have to watch the seconds, and let the year take care of itself.
rhu: (torah)
I'm no Leon Wieseltier (which is undoubtedly a good thing) but there are certain thoughts and memories that I wanted to capture while they are fresh. This is a mostly disjointed post, there's no attempt to edit these into a coherent essay.

And it's long )
rhu: (torah)
I'm no Leon Wieseltier (which is undoubtedly a good thing) but there are certain thoughts and memories that I wanted to capture while they are fresh. This is a mostly disjointed post, there's no attempt to edit these into a coherent essay.

And it's long )
rhu: (Default)
We got a fruit delivery during shiva with the following card. The first part was the personalized message; the bottom was the corporate slogan.

Our sympathies for your loss
Love,
[redacted for privacy]

Happiness is always in season at:
Edible Arrangements

rhu: (Default)
We got a fruit delivery during shiva with the following card. The first part was the personalized message; the bottom was the corporate slogan.

Our sympathies for your loss
Love,
[redacted for privacy]

Happiness is always in season at:
Edible Arrangements

Emerging

Jul. 7th, 2011 11:14 am
rhu: (Default)
This morning we got up from a week of sitting shiva for my father. It has been an incredibly powerful experience, and I hope to capture memories from it soon. Right now, though, I have been out of the world for two weeks (since I wasn't really dealing with anything during the week he was in the hospital). I will catch up on email, LJ, FB, and the newspaper as best I can, but it will take a while. Time still doesn't quite have meaning to me.

If there's anything important I should know, please tell me.

For those of our Boston-area friends who wanted to remember my father with us, we are planning to hold an evening of remembrance on Sun Jul 17, which would have been his 75th birthday. Details will follow.

Emerging

Jul. 7th, 2011 11:14 am
rhu: (Default)
This morning we got up from a week of sitting shiva for my father. It has been an incredibly powerful experience, and I hope to capture memories from it soon. Right now, though, I have been out of the world for two weeks (since I wasn't really dealing with anything during the week he was in the hospital). I will catch up on email, LJ, FB, and the newspaper as best I can, but it will take a while. Time still doesn't quite have meaning to me.

If there's anything important I should know, please tell me.

For those of our Boston-area friends who wanted to remember my father with us, we are planning to hold an evening of remembrance on Sun Jul 17, which would have been his 75th birthday. Details will follow.

Profile

rhu: (Default)
Andrew M. Greene

January 2013

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