June 13, 2024
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June 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Personal Time in Shul

Every once in a while I meet people who kindly offer suggestions about topics that I should write about in this column. Several days ago, while “manning” The Jewish Link booth at KosherPalooza, a woman approached me to suggest a topic which she finds extremely challenging.

She related that the evening before we met she had gone to say Kaddish for a parent or grandparent who had been a Holocaust victim. She said that as there are no survivors in her family she has taken it upon herself to say Kaddish for many of her deceased relatives. Her issue is that whenever she gets up to say Kaddish together with everyone else in the minyan she finds that people who are not saying Kaddish spend the time talking to each other. She finds this extremely disrespectful and rude and wonders why it should not be that just the mourner stands to recite the tefillah. She related how growing up as a child in a Conservative synagogue the only people standing during Kaddish were the mourners. Everyone else sat at attention without speaking.

I was able to bond with that memory as I also grew up in a Conservative synagogue, where decorum was of the essence. In fact the only reason my father switched our shul, going from an Orthodox shul to the one we eventually attended, was due to the lack of decorum in the shul we originally attended. Keep in mind that he was from Berlin.

We are blessed in our local communities with congregations filled with people who are earnestly davening and the level of noise is usually quite low. There are times, however, in both the women’s and men’s sections where some people find the need to discuss the tragedy of the Rangers loss or the fact that the price of gold looks good these days, with little consideration for those around them.

I am really curious about the halachic implications of everyone standing during Kaddish. Before writing this article I did check with one of my favorite rabbonim (my grandson in Norfolk) and he told me that the Mishna Brurah paskens that the halacha is to stand. What he did say, which is probably most important, is that the halacha is that it is absolutely not allowed to speak during Kaddish. I know that Sephardim do not stand unless they are already standing prior to the Kaddish.

Again, this column is not a rabbinical discourse. The Link has many excellent sources of halachic information within its pages. Yet I felt it necessary to address this woman’s concerns and at least raise this issue.

As I think about Shavuot approaching in the next few days and along those same lines, I know that many will be in shul to recite Yizkor on the second day of the chag. Again, I have my own thoughts about this. From the time I lost my father about 40 years ago I would listen to and recite Yizkor with a completely different attitude than I had in the past. Once again, my parents’ minhag was that it was not necessary for their children to leave shul during the recitation of Yizkor. I remember as a child feeling slightly spooked by standing there and watching others recite it.

Once I “came of age,” losing a parent in my late 30s, I felt the obligation and need to say Yizkor. I was privileged to be present when the baal tefillah for Yizkor was always my beloved Mordechai. From his intonation to his powerful voice, the sensitivity in each word was meaningful and mournful. When he made a mishaberach for those who had perished during the Shoah, or the chayalim who had died in the most harrowing and unfair manner, his voice cried out to Hashem with feeling and sincerity.

After leaving Montreal and being exposed to saying Yizkor in various shuls in the neighborhood I have always come away feeling totally lost and disappointed. I truly would prefer to say Yizkor in the privacy of my home, alone with my thoughts and able to concentrate more carefully on those who I am remembering and who I loved so passionately. There always seems to be a disconnect between the baal tefillah and the words that he is chanting. I so miss the passion of feelings for those who have passed. For me the words are deeply felt and I need time to reflect on the losses that we have all suffered.

Especially this year, shouldn’t we all be saying Yizkor for the chayalim, who are our sons and brothers, with the same fervor that we would hope anyone would say for a parent?

I must give special love and credit to Jeffrey Braverman who recited Yizkor at a minyan I attended in Fort Lauderdale during the last days of Pesach. His kavana and intensity reminded me of how Yizkor should be recited. (Thanks, Jeff)

I wish everyone a great Shabbat and a meaningful Shavuot with lots of cheesecake. I just cannot understand not having at least one milchig meal on Shavuot. What could be more of a Yom Tov treat than a slice of cheesecake or an ice cream sundae with chocolate peanut butter ice cream, some chocolate syrup drizzled on top with a shpritz of whipped cream topped by a maraschino cherry?


Nina Glick can be reached at nina2jewishlinknj.com.

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