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How Minyan Matters: A Note from Kaddish Club

How Minyan Matters: A Note from Kaddish Club 

Laura Jacobs

4/30/15

Picture this- sitting on Amichai’s patio with a circle of new friends on a beautiful spring evening, listening to the music of the birds, stomachs full of delicious treats pondering life’s important questions  –

Laura Jacobs and Amichai Lau-Lavie at her Art Opening earlier this year.

What is community? 

When does “Me” become “We”?

Why do we need a Minyan of 10 to say Kaddish, why can’t it be seven or even six as one of  sources in the Talmud states?

How do we feel about the sentiments of Abba Kovner, Jewish hero and partisan, that our ‘prayers must mingle with those of others to be effective…’   and that only in relation to the presence of others is there value in your individual stance. Is there purpose in life if one is alone?’ (scroll down to Kovner’s full text, powerful) 

Is it the actual prayer we are inspired by or the sense of belonging that only praying together, in community, can give us?

What does it mean to be holy? And come to think of it what is holiness anyway?

We were not a minyan – just 8 of us, labeled by Rebecca ‘the dead dad club’ – all of us processing the loss of a parent or loved one in recent months. One of us, already past the year of mourning, still feeling like this circle is important – to her – and to all of us, enough to keep on coming. 

There is definitely something special being here in person, being witnessed by and holding the heart of another in the midst of whatever we are going through- whether its grieving, one year on or simply to be there for others. How reassuring to have this as a reference point, a safe haven amidst all the chaos of everyday life and our digital world. A place, a space to just stop, for a time, no phones, no TV, just the simple act of breaking bread with a circle of kindred spirits discussing important questions, checking in to see how we are and remembering those we have loved and lost. To have the opportunity of creating this sacred space every month is a true blessing and for this I, for one, am truly grateful to Lab/Shul’s Kaddish Club and the blessing of community. 

“During the first week of my arrival in Israel, before the State was declared and the War of Independence, I found myself at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I stood a stride back from the wall and its hallowed stones and felt that I didn’t belong there. I belonged to a different, secular society and presence.

I took a step backwards as though to leave. Suddenly, I felt someone tug at my sleeve. He asked me to join a minyan that was then forming for prayer. I put on a hat, joined the minyan, and even prayed the afternoon prayers with the others. And I was suddenly inspired, not by the prayers so much as by the sense of belonging.

That is the Jewish thing, to be one of the minyan. To know that nine can’t do it without the tenth person and that the tenth person is powerless without the other nine. Perhaps that is the core lesson of Judaism — that my prayers must mingle with those of others to be effective, that my good words must join with the mumble of the other Jews who make up our people. There is no purpose in life if one is alone. Only in relation to the presence of others, to words that come at you from others and even that come from afar, is there value in your individual stance — an individual that is truly one — but nevertheless only one of the whole Jewish community.”

Abba Kovner