Friday, August 31, 2012

Kaddish and Cohanim

Saying Kaddish - the prayer that those in mourning say - has been hard. But not just for the reasons you think. I plan, eventually, to write a blog post about my experiences of my first week saying Kaddish for my sister z"l* after shiva**.  In the meantime, I had an experience this morning that affected me very deeply and was so very special.

For two years, one of our dearest friends was fighting his own cancer. Things looked up, then they looked grim. We cried a lot; we prayed even more. We were fiercely davening (praying), saying tehillim (psalms) and desperately trying to provide assistance to his far-too-competent wife (also a beloved friend). Last year, thank God, he finally received a clean bill of health, notice of remission, and gave me the go ahead to remove his name from my tehillim list for a refuah shlema (a full healing, basically). I continued davening to express my gratitude that this friend would remain in our lives, and go on to continue getting back to "normal."

This friend is also a Cohen***. While he was in the midst of his struggle, he could not perform  his Cohen duties, which include saying a special blessing during morning services. At the same time, we moved apartments. It was only a few blocks away, but too far from our shul (synagogue) to go regularly.

This morning, I went to services to say Kaddish for my sister. As is usual during the week, I  was the only woman present. The chairs are stacked up, so it's just me, in my one chair, on my side of the mechitza (divider). Without realizing it, I had positioned myself on the other side of the mechitza from this very same friend. When it came time for the Cohanim (plural) to make their blessing, I suddenly realized that I hadn't heard him doing his Cohen duties in a very, very long time. The Cohen blessing is one of my very favourite parts of the service, and to see my friend going up to the front of the room made me smile.

Then I realized: here I am, saying Kaddish for my beloved sister who never even really had a chance to fight her cancer, while being given a blessing from a beloved friend who struggled so long and hard to come through his battle with this devastating disease. We were so scared for so long, and, Baruch Hashem, there he was, standing where he belonged, looking healthy and serene, sending out God's blessing to us all.

I was so grateful and so moved. I simply don't know how to put into words how beautiful a moment that was for me. To receive such a blessing at the moment of such devastation fills my heart. I tried to explain this to my friend, and he got it. I know Pamela would get it, too.

May the neshama of Ayala Pamela bat Avraham v'Leah be elevated.

* Zichrona Livracha - may her memory be a blessing
** Shiva - seven days of mourning
*** Cohen - priestly class.