Written as I am about to head off to lead a shiva minyan:
At first I said I wasn't available, which was technically true: it was an exhausting week, and I felt emotionally unequipped to share in someone else's grief. But they couldn't find enough volunteers because of the long holiday weekend, and the call for minyan participants went out once again. And then I was asked to lead, so could not say no.
The technical aspects of Ma'ariv are easy for me me now, but I'm still insecure about the speaking part. I only have to say a few words after everyone shares memories of the deceased (and, really, no one would mind if I kept my mouth shut--the days of a mourner are long enough as it is), and I want these words to be comforting in some way. I feel responsible for fulfilling my role as prayer leader in spirit as well as action, bringing meaning to the ritual.
I turned to the beginning of this coming week's parasha, Ki Tissa, in hopes that an insight would leap off the page and demand to be noticed. It did. The parasha opens with a census in which each participant must contribute a half shekel in order to be counted. Why (said the commentary at the bottom of the page) a half shekel and not a whole? Because a half shekel reminds us that we're incomplete--that we must join together with others in order to become whole.
And at the end of the parasha, after the incident with the Golden Calf and destruction of the first set of tablets, Moshe ascends the mountain to receive a second set. But this one--the one that really matters--unlike the first set, was fashioned by both God and Moshe together--created by partnership out of brokenness.
It's the same with a shiva minyan. At times of grief, we are broken and need each other in prayer and support to help restore ourselves to wholeness.
I will share some of these words at the end of the minyan and will wish the mourning family a week of shiva that, with the help of their community, brings tikkun (repair) and healing.