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.