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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

A Funny Thing Happened When We Got Down to Nine

A funny thing happened at synagogue this morning.

A small group of people were at the synagogue for Shacharit and as we approached the end of the Shacharit service the Ba'al Koreh stopped his prayer. There was the sound of some people rustling in their seats, others gesturing and then just silence. One of the men in the room opened the door, checked outside and quickly returned to sit down to wait. I sat down as I was ready to recite the Kaddish D'rabanan but I was confused by the silence and then I realized what the silence was. There were not enough people in the room to say the kaddish.

Tick tock, tick tock.....

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

We sat quietly, patiently until we heard rustling outside, the sound of a door opening and the tenth man returned after a visit to the bathroom.


The door closed and the gentleman returned to his seat, we rose and began the kaddish.

Ten men in the room.

So, now we get to the funny part. During those two minutes of uncomfortable quiet while we waited for the person to return to make the quorum, I forgot to count myself as a person in that room.

I sat among a group of men who don't count me as part of the quorum, but I also neglected to count myself. How funny. How sad.

Most of the time in an orthodox setting I forget how much I don't count. In some ways I know that I count, after all, my husband is sitting on the other side of the mechitza along with others who are friends and community members. I know that I am a part of the community, and I know that I am supported and a supporter of this unique community, but I am not counted. This ancient tradition which has played an ongoing important role in my life, officially counts me out.

The picture above paints a picture where words fail to do justice. It is my view from the other side of the mechitza. I cannot see them, they cannot see me. What is unseen is uncounted.

As I sit here at my computer I see my arms, my legs, my fingers typing. I am here. I am a person made of the same cells, muscles, tendons, organs and blood as the other ten people sitting in that room. Yet they saw only nine. Even I, on my side of the mechitza saw only nine. I made the mistake of not counting myself.

In my community I have many choices of places to worship, to congregate. For reasons that I will write about later, I have chosen this place to say kaddish for Irma G. But from now on when I see 9 and not ten, I will go elsewhere. I don't want to ever forget again to count myself.

I do count.

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