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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

The Memory Room

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Suddenly it's almost here. In less than three weeks I will complete the eleven months of kaddish for my beautiful mom, Irma G. I began to write this blog a few weeks after my brothers and I got up from saying the kaddish and a few weeks before the lockdown. My husband and I have been fortunate to be a part of the amazing Sephardic synagogue in the town where I live but when the synagogue closed down for Covid I felt the need to search online for a place to continue to say kaddish.

My first entries to included Zoom explorations of synagogues across the country. They include my first forays into the Zoom universe where I experienced my first Zoom bloopers. Time went on and I continued searching. I'm not sure how I ended up at KI; I was trying so many places in March and April, but from the first morning that I attended Shacharit services at KI, I felt at home. The minyan was beautiful in its consistency, the humble nature of the rabbi and the sensitive and skilled man who runs the minyan each day. The service is almost all lay led which led to a wide variety of davening styles.

The Divrei Torah over the months have been varied, intelligent and deeply felt. The davening is traditional, but women lead in every aspect of the tefillah which was particularly inspiring for me. To me the Zoom morning minyan has been a calm pool in the midst of an ocean storm.

Shortly after I began to attend the minyan at KI, my husband contracted Covid-19. For entire month of May he was quarantined upstairs. The minyan, along with a few other important mainstays, became my anchor as my husband weathered the virus and B"H recovered from it. My husband also felt a strong connection to this online "room" during this time when he was very vulnerable. At the beginning of June, when he finally received his negative test, Rabbi H gave him the opportunity to say the Gomel bracha in the Zoom Shacharit room. It was a moment of great meaning for him and we were both grateful for this opportunity to mark the aversion of danger.

Over the course of the springtime months new people appeared at the daily minyan. Each had their own story to tell of the people they are mourning and each began to regularly attend. We began to share tiny vignettes of the people we mourned and I am not sure when, but our Zoom room began to hold more and more importance in our strange Covid lives. At a certain point I began to call the room "The Memory Room." I couldn't imagine starting the day without my "Memory Room" people. Whether I was in the car or at home or walking, I had to go to minyan, not just to say the Kaddish for my beautiful mom, but to be in this online room. When I prayed the kaddish I was never alone, but surrounded by friends. When I said the Amidah in the mornings in my living room I never felt alone; I was surrounded by people and could feel the kavannah of those who daven there. At the end of each Shacharit we have listen to each other, daily sharing tiny stories that helped to paint pictures of our loved ones, but also helping us to bond together as a tiny community.

Months ago the wonderful Sephardic Minyan re-opened for outdoor services, but I haven't attended at all because I don't want to leave the room which is so connected to my mom and feelings about her. My hometown minyan has wonderfully devoted people and beautiful tefillot, as does the "Memory Room" but I just am am not ready to leave these people whom I see every day. And now as I begin the completion of my obligation to say kaddish for mom, I can already feel the enormous influence that this room has had on me. I can't imagine leaving these people behind. I want to hear the silence of the Amidah, I want to hear the different people who daven either for the first time or the 500th time. I want to hear the rabbis speak and see the smiles on the Zoom windows when someone sings The Song of the Sea. I want to continue to grow as I learn to lead davening. As much as I am anxious for this pandemic to end, I want this room to stay with me. I want its consistency, its quiet warmth, its simplicity and its people.

My mother left me with many gifts that she bestowed upon me during her lifetime. Upon her departure from this world she gifted me, through this obligation to say kaddish, with a community, with continuity, and calm. This small room of memories, filled with people and their stories is a bridge between us and the departed, but is also very much about life and living and maintaining the values of our loved ones. It's a connection that bridges the online divide. It's an experience I am grateful for and so glad that I didn't miss.

To my fellow daveners in The Memory Room, may all of our loved ones live on in our thoughts and values.

מַה־טֹּ֥בוּ אֹהָלֶ֖יךָ יַעֲקֹ֑ב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶ֖יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel!

Numbers 24:5

From Sefaria

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