Friday, July 27, 2018

A Year of Mourning - Obligation and Desire

A while back I wrote of saying, “I have to say Kaddish.” A congregant replied, “You want to say Kaddish.” While it is true that I want to sy Kaddish for my father, I also have to say Kaddish for my father. This is true regardless of the desire. Many a morning I have cursed the dawn. (that was true before I was saying Kaddish too. I am not a morning person.) I have cursed the morning that always seems to arrive too soon, too early. I need my morning sleep. It is even worse on those days when I have not gotten nearly enough sleep the night before.

Today was a day like that. I stayed up way too late writing a sermon. This is my own darn fault (pushed along by a ridiculous schedule). But there I was. As I wandered to my bed I toyed with the idea of sleeping in. If I did I could go into Shabbat somewhat rested instead of one the edge. With  Shabbat dinner and lunch plans, I know I won’t get the Shabbat nap I’d really like.

With that thought in my head, I lay down; tossed a few times to get comfortable, and settled into sleep. Again, morning came to soon; the alarm waking me from a deep, healing sleep. I needed it. I was tired physically, but also emotionally, writing a sermon to address the recent mass shooting on the Danforth. How do I convey the feeling of this aftermath had worried me, and wrung me out. When the radio blared, I reached over for the snooze button, debating hitting off, as I rolled over for five more minutes.

My body wouldn’t listen. My brain wanted my bed. My body turned, lowering my feet to the floor, rising up for the day. It was time to go to minyan, and say Kaddish.

Hiyuv (obligation) and mitzvah (commandment) are interesting motivators. In our modern world, all religion is voluntary. We choose, whether actively or passively. But for those who believe mitzvah is so much more than a good deed, once done, the choice is gone. My decision to recite Kaddish was a passive one. I am an observant Jew. I made the decision decades ago. I believe that mitzvah is a command, an obligation between God and humankind. I could no more not recite Kaddish that I could rob a liquor store.

That is not to say that I haven’t missed minyan. There have been times when there was no minyan. There has been illness. But it’s always a given that my first thought is when and where I will say Kaddish. I want to say Kaddish. But more importantly, I have to say Kaddish.

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