Kaddish is said only where 10 Jewish people constitute a prayer minyan. For the most Orthodox minyans, person equals male. And in most places, only the Orthodox gather for daily prayers; certainly they are the only ones who rise early enough to complete prayers in time to get to work by 8:00 am. That is how I found myself frequently going to the 6:35 am Orthodox morning minyan where my brother Steve prays twice a day, to say kaddish for my father.
Going to daven with this community disrupts my decades-long, sacred morning routine, forcing me to get up 45 minutes earlier than usual, shortening my run with my dog and rushing me through my morning coffee. That run is normally the venue for my morning prayers. Mumbling as I jog along, pausing out of respect for the Divine while I locate and pick up Leila’s shit in the dark, my daily prayer would be both recognizable and shocking to a traditional Orthodox davener. I know just enough Hebrew to inflect a substantial portion of the prayers into female gender, though doubtless I’ve got a lot of the grammar wrong, so God only knows what I’m really saying. And it’s not just the gender I bend. Prayers I judge too ethnocentric fly out of me altered. I bless the Shechina, God’s female presence, for strengthening Israel with vigor and justice. Rather than bless Her for not making me a heathen, I bless Him for making me Jewish.
I’m unable to explain to myself why I now go to this morning minyan. I did not say kaddish when mother died, and my father did not ask this of me. Nor did he do it for his parents.
Nevertheless here I am, dressed in my work pants, quietly opening the women’s entrance to the classroom that serves as our prayer space.