Last week, my small apartment turned into a synagogue.
At 7:00 a.m. every morning, twelve to eighteen men wrapped in white tallitot stood in the living room, facing a narrow cupboard with a Torah scroll inside. They came in quickly and made almost no noise unless the service called for the reader to repeat prayers aloud. At Kaddish, the mourner’s prayer, Husband’s voice rose over the others. For my mother-in-law, whose travail I have written about here before, had returned her soul to G-d at last. Our neighbors came morning and afternoon for Husband to say Kaddish for her during the shiva week.
Naturally, it was hard for Husband to swallow food in the beginning. But the first thing a Jewish mourner does upon returning from the burial is eat a small ritual meal. Round foods, traditionally lentils and hard-boiled eggs, to symbolize the circle of life, and bread. This meal should a gift from a neighbor or friend, reaffirming community ties. It’s a poignant meal, a step away from death, a step towards continuing life. My good friend Hannah Katsman of A Mother in Israel brought us this meal.
I cooked up a big pot of – what else? – chicken soup. I had told every one that offered that I would handle the week’s cooking – no need to bring anything. It was just Husband, the Little One, and me. Michelle of Baroness Tapuzina brought some nosh to have handy for visitors anyway. It did come in handy. Soon enough, I realized that I should have accepted the offers of meals that well-meaning neighbors pressed on me.