Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Minyan Musings

I'm the first to admit that I've never been a "minyan person". Through most of my adult life, until February 2004 to be precise, I almost always tended to daven [pray] at home on weekdays, going to shul only on Shabbos, Yom Tov, and other special occasions. Not that I would ever dream of skipping davening altogether - I prayed the three required services daily without fail, sometimes in the most inconvenient of places (one of the most embarrassing was in a stairwell in the Bell Canada building in Ottawa, wearing tallis and tefillin while total strangers walked by and gave me odd looks!). In this I was following in my father's footsteps; he also generally avoided shul except on Shabbos morning, preferring to daven in solitude. I often told myself, not wholly falsely, that my kavana [intent] was stronger when I davened alone, that the distractions of the crowd would make me lose more than I would gain from joining a minyan.

Then, in February 2004, my father Z'L passed away (more on his life, accomplishments, and passing in a future post, G-d willing). Suddenly, I was saddled with the obligation of saying kaddish, the mourner's prayer, with a minyan every day, every prayer service, for eleven months. Going to shul every morning and evening became a daily grind, and at first felt almost unbearable. I vividly remember saying to myself, not long after the initial, 30-day shloshim period of more intense mourning ended, with ten more months of "forced" daily minyan attendance stretching bleakly before me... "There's no way I'm going to make it!" I recall a tangible feeling of relief on the day that the 5-1/2 month milestone was passed - "I'm halfway there!" This attitude lasted in full force for at least eight or nine of the eleven required months.

Strangely though, somewhere in those last couple of months, something changed for me. Maybe it simply took that long for me to adjust to something new, or maybe some part of me started to feel that daily minyan attendance had become a personal way for me to honor my Dad's memory, by taking on a growth area that he never chose to. Perhaps I even started to enjoy the "daily grind" on some level. Whatever the reason, the end of my 11-month kaddish obligation came and went, and I continued to go to daily minyan, especially in the mornings, as regularly as during those months when I "had" to.

Now, of course, I am saying kaddish again, in a much more tragic and heartbreaking situation. And I wonder if my unexpected psychological and emotional adjustment to daily minyan attendance just a few months earlier, was part of some unfathomable Divine plan, to allow me to avoid one more difficult alteration that would have been added to the numerous, excruciating daily changes that our life has gone through after losing Aaron. Who can ever know? But today, it does make me stop and think - and blog.
  • I have some more thoughts to add, on why us Jewish menfolk in particular have the requirement for a minyan in the first place. But that's for another day.


At 7/19/05, 10:28 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I was also not a "Minyan person" until 2 years ago when I went to a Rav in Israel who encouraged me to daven with a minyan. I have barely missed a minyan since then (not including situations beyond my control). My daughter passed away last summer right before her 11th birthday. Fortunatly my parents are both alive but I mourn the fact that I can't say kaddish for my daughter.

glen holman


At 7/20/05, 9:35 AM, Blogger Elie said...


Thanks for the comment. I am so sorry about your daughter. Though you are blessed to have both parents with you (Ad Meah V'Esrim), not being able to say kaddish yourself for Nechama must have been hard.

I have added your blog to my slowly-growing linked list. I'll be reading your back-posts and building up the courage to write more about Aaron's story soon.

Did you ever work at Telcordia? Your name is familiar.

At 8/12/05, 9:20 AM, Blogger benros52589 said...

my comment was deleted last time but i think god wants you to have a minyan always or to go to one always which is the sign here

At 6/16/06, 9:20 AM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...


Soccer Dad directed me to your post. I have to confess to having the same feelings towards minyan. My father passed away and I am just now completing my shloshim.

I do feel a sense of accomplishment, but I wonder if it is that same satisfaction anybody feels when taking on a new discipline and succeeding.

In any event, my morning schedule requires me to be in the hospital early, and in clinic most of the day. I worry about what will happen when we start saying slichos, or when mincha starts at 3:30pm.

At 6/16/06, 12:14 PM, Blogger Elie said...


My condolences on your loss - may you and your family have nechama. I read some of your postings on your dad and he sounds like a remarkable man.

I think towards the end I just got used to going to minyan - it wasn't any kind of big spiritual shift. Though in a sense, as I said in my post, at a certain point it helped me to tell myself I was completing/extending my father's zechusim since daily minyan was one area he did not focus on.

Now, after going through two almost-consecutive years of saying kaddish, I'm so adjusted to daily morning minyan that it feels weird when I need to miss it for some reason. Though I admit I'm much less diligent about mincha/maariv now, than I was when I was saying it.

By the way, in terms of your early mincha issue, as I understand it the only real "requirement" (if a minhag can be called such) is to say kaddish once a day. Even then I had to miss some days when traveling for business, and I relied on my brother (for our dad) and/or other relatives (for Aaron) to cover kaddish in those cases.

Take care and have a good Shabbos.


PS: It was neat getting a new comment on my almost-first post after all these months!


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