Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Year of Mourning - Travelling & Kaddish

I’m in Israel. I’m here on a MERCAZ Olami retreat. It was the next step in my slowly re-entering the world. It’s not so easy. I really wasn’t ready to leave. Normally I am totally organized. I have a packing list, and I pack early. Yet there I was, hours before I had to leave, trying to get organized in between bouts of crying. I thought I was past spontaneous crying, but clearly not.

“It’s too soon.” That’s how I felt. Too soon to travel. Too soon to be away from the comfort of my family. Too soon not to hug my children every night. Keren tearfully said, “Eema don’t go.” But I had no choice.

The benefit of being scattered was the focus of a lack of time. Rushing from house to car to check in to the gate. On to the plane. Finally breathe. Oh wait, no. There was work to do. I had teaching to finish. So the plane ride, with some sleep, was focused on fleshing out my teaching, having emailed the texts only minutes before leaving.

Of course there’s the Kaddish issue. While there will be a minyan on the plane, reciting Kaddish with that crowd simply wasn’t an option. I debated reciting Kaddish, counting the Jews on the plane without their consent.  Instead I recited El Malei Rachamim for my father, davenning as if I wasn’t surrounded by Jews. And again in the morning, part of me feeling antagonistic and wondering just how much shit I would stir up if I were to stand and don my tallit and tefillin. I was saved by some turbulence and a descent, I’d slept too long. Barely time to pray. Another El Malei. Tallit and tefillin back at the house.

A mere 9 1/2 hours later we were descending. Tears again came into my eyes. Of course I always cry when I land in Israel. I wondered, is this my normal crying or something more? Brucha haba’ah. Welcome to Israel. Wait in line a mob for over an hour to get through customs. To My cousins' for Shabbat. Thank God I have a home here to go to. It’s a comfort to have someplace familiar, but I still wondered about Kaddish. The shul is Orthodox, and though I’d been there dozens of times, I couldn’t remember ever hearing a woman recite Kaddish.

I showered and dressed for Shabbat, and made my way up the hill for Mincha and Kaddish. In the balcony I said the words I say every day, and NO ONE ANSWERED! Not a single woman standing around me answered with “Amen.” Again for Ma’ariv, for Shacharit, for Musaf, for Mincha.... No one answered. At Mincha on Shabbat I arrived early and found myself in a tsofim (scouts) minyan. Unlike the regular t’fillot, few girls upstairs davenned. They gossipped. They giggled. They walked in and out. And then, they stopped. They looked. Did they listen? Maybe. But still no one answered. What a comfort to get to the Conservative Yeshiva on Sunday to be surrounded by others who, while mostly strangers to me, supported my recitation of Kaddish, standing quietly with me and saying “Amen” strongly and clearly. At these minyanim I am supported in my recitation. With my colleagues from MERCAZ Olami, I feel bolstered by their presence. I cannot express how thankful I am to this group for their spiritual embrace, thankful for their presence.

At the Knesset Monday my father is in my heart and my mind. Daddy instilled in me my love of Israel and my belief in democracy. I sit listening to the MKs who come to speak to and with us. I am privileged to ask a question of MK Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset, and I credit my father’s lessons in my words asking about parity in funding for religious services. Mr. Edelstein is not receptive. To me he seems in denial, believing nothing has gotten worse at the Kotel. He’s wrong. I have photographic proof and personal experience.

From the Knesset to the Kotel, where I davenned Mincha as the shatz, breaking down during Kaddish Yatom, tears streaming, my voice cracking. I was enveloped by the warmth of my community. Hugs. Someone who knew my dad telling me how proud he would have been.

Today is a day of celebration. Tu B’Shevat and the 40th anniversary of the Masorti Movement in Israel. We have spent a day in learning, sharing ideas and passions. Another experience of Kaddish here with hundreds of Jews around me, reciting with a couple of others and the great crowd answering.

Each minyan, each experience is so unique.

Tu B’Shevat sameach.