I’ve been teaching an evening class every Monday at the synagogue where I’m interning (long story) and in the middle of our class we dismiss for 10 minutes to join the evening minyan. Minyan is a short prayer service and this particular congregation gathers every morning and evening outside of the Sabbath.
Tonight I noted a middle aged man and a teenage boy standing at the back of the room who had been to every service I’d seen. Now during each of these services, there is something called a “Mourner’s Kaddish.” This prayer is said only by those who have lost a family member in the last 12 months (or on the commemoration of their death). They stand and speak while the rest of us sit.
Tonight I happened to glance back at the young man and our eyes met for a moment while he was standing and reciting the prayer.
And it hit me.
The reason this teenage guy was there was because he had lost his mom.
Now in Judaism, after you lose a parent you’re supposed to say this Mourner’s Kaddish multiple times a day… for a year. The only problem?
The Mourner’s Kaddish is only supposed to be said among community: Ten or more adult-aged (13+) Jews must be present.
After the service and the resumption of my class, I asked about the father and son. My helpful class explained that not only did the man and his son come every day, they came every morning and every evening.
This father had committed to taking his son to minyan for a year, morning and night, to help him mourn. To honor his mother. To pray.
And they have to do it as a community. They aren’t allowed to mourn completely alone. Their grief is visible and their loss is remembered every single day.
In such a sad circumstance, it was encouraging to see religion play an active role in guiding these men through their grief and loss.
It’s these moments that make everything clear. It’s these moments that remind me why religious communities are so important.
We can’t do this alone.