January 28, 2015 – 8 Shevat 5775

My carefully choreographed plans for my two day trip to Houston were upended Sunday night by the constantly changing predictions of when a major snowstorm would hit the east coast. As a result of a revised forecast which had the snow arriving during the day on Monday, I had to change my original flight plans which had me leaving after maariv on Monday evening I flew out on a 9:00 am flight. In addition to losing a much needed day in the office, I was forced to attend the 6:15am rocket minyan at YISE. Were I not saying kaddish I would have davened at home rather than attend this “drive by” minyan.

I arrived in Houston mid afternoon and attended mincha/maariv at the Young Israel of Houston. I was literally shocked by the obvious robustness of the Houston Orthodox community. There is a community Kollel in Houston and many who came to that mincha minyan were either members of or associated with the Kollel.

The 6:15 am shachris minyan (one of two regular minyanim) was even more impressive. At least 75 men attended this early shachris minyan.

Another added benefit was a fairly nice newly opened steak restaurant at which I was able to comfortably entertain business associates for dinner.

The only downside is that I will have to miss mincha today. The shul is an hour away from the airport due to Houston’s terrible traffic during the evening rush. So I changed my originally scheduled 7:00 pm flight to a mid afternoon flight so that I can hopefully make maariv at the Yeshiva tonight.


Just when you think you have things under control Hashem reminds who is really in charge. I arrived at the airport with plenty of time; the flight boarded on time; pulled out onto the runway; and then the plane taxied off the runway and the pilot announced that there was a “minor” maintenance issue which would delay take off a few minutes.

An hour and forty-five minutes later we finally took off. And now my plan, which I was very confident would enable me to say kaddish at maariv in the Yeshiva, is very much at risk. An important reminder applicable to life. All man can do is his “hishtadlus” (effort). Success is in G-d’s hands

January 25, 2015 – 5 Shevat 5775

I am scheduled to fly to Houston tomorrow night to teach a power industry course on Tuesday and Wednesday. My flight selection back and forth is minyan determined, as always. Thus, I am scheduled to leave on the last flight out tomorrow night so that I can drive back to Silver Spring in the afternoon to make mincha/maariv and then rush back to DC to make my flight out. On Wednesday my course ends mid-day but I have to stay to make mincha/maariv there and so I will be returning on the last flight back Wednesday night. I am not sure what I will do in Houston for 5 hours waiting to daven but I will figure that out on Wednesday.

Now to the added complication – snow. A snow storm is predicted to hit the east coast tonight. While the total accumulation for the DC area is predicted to be relatively light who knows what impact the snow storm will have on air travel. If I change my flights to an earlier flight I will definitely not be able to say kaddish at mincha and probably not at maariv unless I can find a late maariv in Houston. Of course, there is no way to predict whether I am more likely to get off on time on my late flight out – when by all predictions the snow will have passed for several hours or whether I will do better on an earlier flight.

What is an aveil to do?

Obviously it is all in G-d’s hands. I don’t know yet what I will do.

One thing is for sure the stress of saying kaddish continues all the way through the year of aveilus!

January 20, 2015 – 29 Teves 5775

The practices of aveilus are in small measure Halacha (Jewish law) and in large measure minhag (custom). Thus, while certain practices are uniform across all Jewish communities, other practices vary from community to community. Oftentimes the customs of one community conflict with those of another. For example, in many communities a mourner does not sit for the entire year of mourning in his regular seat in the synagogue both on weekdays and on Shabbos. In other communities the mourner sits in his regular seat on the Sabbath because not do so is considered a prohibited public demonstration of mourning on the Sabbath.

In my travels from city to city, in the Ashkenazik shuls in which I have davened, I have encountered very few differences in custom – until last night. Last night and again this morning one of the parishioners in Ahavs Shalom in Columbus had yartzhiet for his mother. At the conclusion of maariv and again this morning at the end of shachris, the gabbai announced that the kaddish after aleinu would be recited by this gentleman. Last night I did not understand the announcement and when it was time to recite kaddish after aleinu I began saying “Yisgadal Veyiskadash” only to immediately realize that none of the other mourners were saying kaddish – except for the man who had yartzhiet. I stopped and assumed that there would be no other kaddish for the rest of us to recite. And then after the yartzhiet concluded his kaddish the gabbai began reciting tehilim (Pslams) and the remaining mourners recited a kaddish.

What is interesting is that I have been in that shul on other occasions when there has been a yartzhiet and this custom was not observed. I will have to ask the next time I am there.

January 18, 2015 – 27 Teves 5775

On Sundays I generally attend the 7:30 minyan at YISE. It ends with an “add-on”; a brief study of mishnayos. I stay the several minutes it takes after the conclusion of shachris so that I can say the “extra” kaddish which is recited after the study of the mishnayos. On many a Sunday I am in a rush to get downtown and therefore contemplate leaving before the mishnayos and skipping the extra kaddish. But in the end I never leave before this extra kaddish because I feel it would be disrespectful to my mother. So I stay no matter how rushed I may be.

This morning I seriously considered leaving before mishnayos because I was traveling to Columbus for a very important meeting this afternoon and wanted to get a few things done before leaving for the airport. In the end, I did not leave and recited the extra kaddish after the learning session. As things turned out it was a good thing that I stayed and said that “extra” kaddish.

I was unable to make the 7:30 am flight to Columbus due to shachris and the next flight was at 1:10 pm arriving 2:30 pm. Since I would be arriving late for a very important meeting I was unsure whether I would be able to leave at 5:00 pm to make the 5:20 pm mincha/maariv minyan. At 4:45 the meeting was still going strong so I went on the web and confirmed that there was a late maariv at the Columbus Community Kollel. Then suddenly at 5:15pm the meeting started to break up! I rushed to my car, sped to shul arriving just as the kaddish of mincha was concluding. Though I missed mincha I made maariv.

As things turned out that “extra” kaddish this morning was not “extra” at all.


January 13, 2015 – 22 Teves 5775

My short trip to New Jersey this past Sunday and Monday had its share of saying kaddish logistics.

To maximize my time in New Jersey I left Silver Spring at 5:15 am and stopped in Baltimore to make the 6:20 am shachris minyan in the Agudah.

I left the Agudah and drove straight to New Jersey arriving a little after 10:00 am. I worked at my mother’s house until the 4:30 pm mincha/maariv minyan at B’nai Yeshurun in Teaneck then went to Englewood to spend the night at my son Nachum’s house.

Monday morning I went to the earliest shachris minyan I could find – the 6:15 Shachris minyan in Ahavas Torah as I had an early morning meeting with a mover who was coming to give me a quote on moving some of my mother’s furniture to St. Louis. I had originally planned on making a 4″40 pm mincha/maariv minyan in either Silver Spring or Baltimore, however, a client emergency required that I be on a conference call at 4:30 pm. That required that I stay in Teaneck a few extra hours so that I could daven mincha midafternoon and catch a maariv in Silver Spring upon my return. Thus, I davened mincha at a 1:45 pm minyan at B’nai Yeshurun, then hit the road and made the 8:45 maariv minyan at the Yeshiva in Silver Spring.

Just another day in the life of one saying kaddish logistics. I get a few days off until Sunday when I return to Columbus.


January 12, 2015 – 21 Teves 5775

It is 7:00 am Monday morning. I am sitting in my mother’s dining room on the chair on which I sat as a child to my father’s left, always next to my grandmother, across from my brother and mother. I am waiting for movers to come and give me quotes for moving assorted pieces of my mother’s furniture to St. Louis and Silver Spring. I came up yesterday for one final trip to finish packing up my mother’s house. And now I find myself sitting for the very last time at the table where our family celebrated Shabbos and Yom Tov, eat the Purim Seudah and conducted the Seder, enjoyed many a homemade birthday cake, where I studied Gemorrah and played chess with my dad; the table which was a central focal point in our house and in our family life.

Though I never lived in this house in Teaneck, my mother having moved here long after Marilyn and I were married, it nonetheless was my mother’s house. And your mother’s house is always your mother’s house. There is an eerie silence in the house; the sounds of life are nowhere to be found; just the symbols of an end. A sad, very final end. From this day forward the central repository of my childhood and my parents will be no longer. All that will be left will be reminders and memories; but that central location where it once thrived and all came together will be no longer. Death once again. A different form of death. But death nonetheless.IMG_0124

January 9, 2015 – 18 Teves 5775

What should have been, from a saying kaddish perspective, a routine two day trip to Columbus, turned into a series of challenges which, thank G-d, all ended well.

I was scheduled to leave on a10:00 am Monday morning USAir flight arriving in Columbus at 11:30 am; in time for my noon meeting at AMP. This was the first time since I started saying kaddish, that I did not have to fly into Columbus the night before in order to say kaddish as required and make an early morning meeting at AMP. And I was looking forward to a non-stressful start for my two day trip to Columbus.

At 5:00 am as I was sitting at my desk at home I received an email from USAIR informing me that that my 10:00 am flight was delayed until 2:00 pm. What a great way to start the day! Not only would I now be hours late for my meeting, there was be no way that I would be able to leave the meeting at 4:30 pm, a mere two hours after I arrived, to drive to the shul on Broad Street for mincha maariv. I quickly changed my flight to a Southwest flight leaving BWI at 12:45 pm, emailed my client about this forced change in travel plans and began searching for a late maariv minyan in Columbus. On Go Daven I found a 9:45 pm maariv minyan at the Columbus Community Kollel and planned to say kaddish at that minyan.

At 6:30 am I left my house for my regular shachris minyan and due to my now delayed departure stayed for a bris of a grandson of a friend. At the end of the bris I recited an “extra” kaddish after Aleinu. Driving home I thought to myself that the “extra” kaddish would have to “make up” for my missing mincha which was now highly likely.

I arrived in Columbus a little before 2:00 pm; picked up my rental car and raced to AMP resigned to missing mincha and settling for the late maariv minyan at the Columbus Community Kollel.

But the Almighty assists one who desires to perform a mitzvah and out of nowhere that is precisely what happened to me. What was supposed to be a noon start for an important and intense two day meeting began upon my arrival at about 2:30 pm. After several hours, at about 4:40 pm, the CEO and General Counsel gathered their things, handed out assignments and ended the meeting until 9 am in the morning! I looked at my watch and decided to give it a shot and see if I could make it to Broad Street in time for mincha. At the very least, I thought to myself, even with traffic, I should make maariv. I quickly stuffed my laptop into my briefcase, raced to my car and driving 70 mph I got to shul at 5:10 pm. After punching in the entry code I literally ran down the hall to the beis medrash only to find a small minyan waiting to begin the repetition of Shmoneh Esreah. I made it! I would not miss saying kaddish at mincha after all!

A the conclusion of maariv a gentlemen announced the 6:45 am start time for Tuesday morning’s shachris and requested that everyone make an extra effort to come for shachris because snow was predicted and as a result there may not be a minyan. As I walked to my car I checked the weather on my IPhone. Indeed a snow storm was predicted for Monday night and Tuesday morning. Great! Before I even had a chance to “enjoy” my making mincha I had to start preparing myself for the possibility that I would miss shachris on Tuesday morning!

As I drove back to my hotel after picking up some dinner at the kosher market at Kroger’s, I began to plan out my morning strategy. I decided to wake up at 4:00 am, check the conditions, and if at all possible, leave the hotel at 5:30 am for the drive in the snow to shul.

Tuesday morning I awoke at 4:00 am, turned on the TV and watched the reports of the season’s first snowstorm as it blanketed central Ohio. Two to four inches were already on the ground, snow was still falling, the temperature was in the teens and the roads and highways were snow covered. I looked out the window and the asphalt parking lot was a white blanket of snow.

Quickly I showered, packed up, checked out and with a cup of coffee in hand started cleaning off my rental car. There were at least 2-3 inches of snow on the ground. At about 5:15 am I slowly exited the parking lot and set out on the drive to shul. The roads were pretty bad but thankfully at this early hour there were far fewer cars on the road than usual. Driving conditions were not great, to say the least. All along the route there were cars that had spun off the road, but driving slowly and carefully I arrived at shul at 6:30 am. A plow was shoveling the small parking lot where a few cars were parked. Several men were in the beis medrash and by 6:45 am we had a minyan. What a relief; I made it! I would not miss a kaddish!

After shachris the drive to AMP took about 45 minutes and I arrived ahead of the delayed start time of 9 am. Tuesday’s meeting was non-stop but I was able at 4:30 pm to leave and go back to Ahavas Shalom for mincha maariv.

My 7:45 pm flight was delayed an hour and I did not get home until mid- night. But notwithstanding the airlines and the snow I made every kaddish.

January 2, 2015 – 11 Teves 5775

As I enter the final quarter of my saying kaddish I find it a bit more challenging to maintain the intensity of my commitment to all the practices and restrictions of aveilus. For example, the frequency with which I am able to be the chazzan has quite dramatically been reduced as the months have passed and new mourners have joined the ranks of those saying kaddish. The constant need to schedule my day around saying kaddish has become less of a “challenge” and more of a never ending “burden”. Wearing the same clothes and not listening to music, is feeling more like an annoyance than an observance.

Perhaps this is to be expected. Perhaps it is the way it is supposed to be. For in a few months’ time I will “reenter” life as usual. Perhaps the challenge of maintaining one’s intensity and commitment in the final quarter of the year of mourning is a way to prepare for the resumption of “regular” life.

As I pondered these thoughts and as I took myself to task for thinking them, I attended my regular Thursday late night Parshas Hashuvah (Torah) shiur (class) given by Rabbi Dovid Katzenstein. Towards the end of the class Rabbi Katzenstein discussed a seemingly difficult passage in the Talmud which states that Jacob did not die. This passage is quite problematic as the Torah explicitly describes Jacob’s death, burial and mourning. To find the meaning of this passage, Rabbi Katzenstein studied a selection from the Maharal of Prague. The Maharal explains that in a non-physical sense a parent and his children and descendants are forever connected because the parent is integral to the very being, makeup and personality of the child. Thus, in the non-physical world a parent never dies. Rather, the parent “lives on” in and through his/her children and grandchildren.

While this concept is a very deep and requires much contemplation, it immediately provided me with a much clearer understanding of my year of aveilus and my responsibilities not only during the final quarter of this year but far beyond, as well. How wise is our tradition that it imposes on a child a formal year long process of mourning with its many obligations and restrictions! For this year long formal process teach us that the ultimate purpose of such mourning does not end after twelve months but continues for a lifetime during which the child has a sacred obligation to bring honor to his/her parent and to carry on the departed’ s life’s work through one’s own life.

My saying kaddish and all the related obligations and practices may soon end, but my responsibility to make sure that my parents never die will remain with me for a lifetime.

Good Shabbos