Presence

And so, I warmed into my new routine:  Lunchtime minyan afforded me quiet, uninterrupted winter evenings.  For five months, Monday through Thursday, I made my way to CHAT at one o’clock; my ‘Visitor Pass’ stayed in my pocket as I greeted the receptionist, walked down the hall and to the left, and took my  set place — my Makom Kavua — among those who belonged.

My commitment was to say Kaddish once each day (more if the opportunity presented itself, but for sure at least once).  On Tu B’Shvat, , some three months in at CHAT, I contemplated not heading over.    The night before, a Sunday, I had attended both  mincha and ma’ariv services, thus ‘covering’ Monday.   I was feeling under the weather with a rotten cold, and having already fulfilled ‘today’, I was tempted to stay put.    But after a moment’s consideration, I went ahead with my usual routine.  If I skipped out, I would sincerely miss the positive and recharging moment in my day.   Also, I feel I may well be giving those kids as much as they’re giving me.  The sense of community purpose in those few minutes is made palpable by the presence of someone who actually needs those young people in order to fulfill a mitzvah.

I arrived to a dark and empty Bais Medrash.   Eventually, a couple of teachers wandered in, but in the absence of one particular teacher and his daily announced call to prayer, we had a crowd of four.  One teacher gathered up a half dozen somewhat reluctant participants from the hallway, and we commenced.  Kaddish is the very last part of the service, and there are always a few voices reciting it in comfortable unison.   I had become part of that rhythm.   As the leader reached the end of the prayers, there was silence where those voices should have been.  I hesitated, then tentatively began:   Yitgadal v’yitkadash shmei rabbah.   And there it was.  For the first time, I alone recited Kaddish.  It was daunting, but as I heard the group respond ‘Amen’, I gathered strength and continued.  And after concluding that G-d should grant peace to us and all Israel, and hearing the resounding ‘Amen’, I had the awesome privilege of thanking those kids directly, for being there for me.  More than anything, this was why I showed up today.

  

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