Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Year of Mourning - Reflections On Minyan

As the only member of the mourners concerned with thrice daily, I’d assumed I’d attend the nearby shul for Shacharit, but what about Mincha? In my mother’s development, all seniors, the shiva minyan comes at 7:30 regardless of time of year. I couldn’t leave the shiva house, and more importantly my mother, brother, and aunt, in the middle of the afternoon. And so we gathered family and called in neighbours, struggling each afternoon to create a minyan, discussing and debating the merits of whom to call “just one more time,” relaxing a bit when cousins’ kids came in from NYC or Philadelphia. But minyan grounded us, punctuating our days, and so we struggled through. Each night I stood next to my aunt slowly, very slowly reciting the words of the Mourner’s Kaddish, no longer familiar to her as her involvement in a synagogue waned. 

Minyan continues to ground me. It’s not always a positive experience. I am frustrated when I walk into some minyanim as number 8, 9, or 10, and cannot be counted. I understand the looks of disappointment, but they stab at me, leaving behind small shards that cannot be shed. 

The other evening I walked into Pride for Mincha, went to my normal spot, and opened the space for the siddurim to discover my siddur... was not there! This siddur is different that the one used and says, “RAV JEN” and “GORMAN” on the sides of the pages. It’s impossible to miss. I eventually found it next to someone. He’d switched because he thought it was missing a page. (It’s not.) The siddur is a Birnbaum, the one I used for my first tefillah class in rabbinical school. I do not know if the person who had it was the person who took it. He was standing on the other side of the room. Regardless, I (1) do not understand why people do not use the books in the cubbies at the seats they choose. Why do they take siddurim from elsewhere, causing people to constantly look for siddurim in some areas and a surplus in others. And (2) how, when you open the cubby and my name is staring back at you, do you take that siddur, kol she’kein (all the more so) the rabbi’s siddur?! I was completely out of sorts all of mincha until I discovered it. I hate the idea of needing to lock the siddur up. It’s completely marked with my name, inside and out.

I have discovered that I am impatient. I can be finished with Maariv in the time it takes a minyan to get to the Shema. Tonight I gave up. I simply davenned at my own pace then read a book until we got to Mourner’s Kaddish. I’ll need to make this a regular practice. 

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