In the Kemp Mill neighborhood where I live there are a good number of minyanim on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I am a chazzan in the main shul at Young Israel Shomrei Emunah. Each year, friends who have davened elsewhere ask me, “How did your davening go?’ My answer is always the same, “Time will tell. Let’s see how the year goes.” How well I ‘performed’ is not important (and is not for me to say in any event). The real question is: Were our prayers accepted? For the answer to that question we have to wait and see.
This year in addition to the usual question I have also been asked, “How did aveilus (mourning) impact your davening?” This question stems from the fact that an aveil is prohibited from serving as the chazzan on Shabbos and holidays. My serving as chazzan on the High Holidays is a somewhat “unique” exception from the norm. At this post-Rosh Hashanah, pre-Yom Kippur time frame, I am still contemplating the answer to this question. I do have the following preliminary observations, to date:
I do not want to burden the congregation for whom I am chazzen with my personal feelings. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah I arrived in shul at 7:30 am just as the davening (service) began. As I recited the very first kaddish, at the very beginning of the davening, I unexpectedly became choked up and had trouble completing it. I walked out of shul, composed myself, and determined not to allow my personal emotions to affect my public davening. It was neither appropriate nor fair to burden the congregation with my personal emotions.
I have a heightened awareness of life, old age and death. While I worked to suppress the outward manifestation of my emotions, I was clearly impacted by the heightened understanding I have gained this year of life, aging and death. These are no longer abstract concepts they are very real and I feel and envision their meaning.
The “others” whom I have had in mind while saying kaddish were in the forefront of my mind. Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali H’yd and all those who died and were injured in the Gaza war were very much in my thinking as I led the services. How could one recite Mimkomcha Malkeinu Sofia and not shed real tears for the three teenagers? How could one recite the Nesana Tokef without thinking of those who died and those who were injured? This year of all years how could one daven just for himself and his own family? How could a chazzan ignore these holy souls?
It felt a bit incongruous to be reciting the mourner’s kaddish from the amud. The restriction on serving as the chazzan on Shabbos and yomim tovim (holidays) has had a very real impact on me as normally I am asked quite often to lead the services on a “regular” Shabbos or holiday. Since my mother’s passing, I obviously have not done so. So on Rosh Hshanah as I found myself back at the amud It felt a bit “awkward” leading the services as the chazzan and then saying kaddish at the end of the davening as an aveil.
These are some of my preliminary thoughts. I have a long day of “chazzanus” ahead of me. More to come.
G’mar tov to all.