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Kavannah of Transformation

I used to come to BJ’s morning minyan when I received a postcard (or email), or when I was observing the yahrzeit of one of my grandparents. Then, in 2015, my mother died just before Pesah.

Because of the holiday, shiva lasted only a couple of hours. By saying Kaddish at the morning minyan, I found the structure and solace I needed. People supported me with hugs, with tissues, and with support at my first aliyah after the completion of shloshim. I found a community of fellow mourners and minyan regulars.

My father’s health, which had been deteriorating for years, got much worse after my mother died. Seven months later, I was saying Kaddish for them both.

More than four years have gone by, and I’m now a minyan regular. On a fundamental level, it’s a blessing to help make sure there is a minyan for the people saying Kaddish, and to give them the support that the community gave to me during that difficult time.

On a deeper level, however, this has been a transformative, personal journey. Even though we’ve been members of BJ for decades, and our daughter had her Bat Mitzvah here, I was always self-conscious of my Hebrew literacy, as I never went to Hebrew school.

The morning’s beautiful prayers and melodies, however, have become cherished sources of comfort and reflection. With the support and guidance of my minyan community, my familiarity with the morning service has given me the confidence to deepen my Jewish practice: stepping in occasionally as a gabbai; leading the shaharit service a few times; and leyning Torah in honor of my parents’ yahrzeits.

Not long after I began attending morning minyan every weekday at BJ, I began attending Shabbat services more frequently, volunteering, and participating in more events, transforming how I connected with my community.

As we approach the High Holy Days, I look back on the past few years with joy and gratitude, and wonder what moments might transform my spiritual and communal connections in the year to come.