I got up from shiva this morning.
With thanks to G-d, we had a minyon this morning. It was tight, but between the yeshiva students and the neighbors, we managed to get 10 people together. I davened, and again let my son take over from Ashrei, so that he can say Kaddish tiskabel (otherwise, he is not saying Kaddish). We sat down for a few minutes, and then Doron Beckerman and David Feinberg told me to get up. Yitzchak Ramati told MES to get up (we had to explain to Yitzchak that he had to tell MES to get up – he couldn’t just extend his arm to him or use hand signs). We then changed into regular clothing, and two students and Dovid Feinberg escorted us around the park. Mr. Dickman told us a few nights ago about a rabbi in Far Rockaway that lamented how his congregation didn’t ask him any important questions. Only silly ones, such as “when you get up from shiva and go around the block, do you go clockwise or counterclockwise?” While it is a silly question, I decided to begin the “circle” around the park by going to the Right – the Right is always a better direction to take when one has an otherwise equal choice between left and right.
When we returned, Mr. Dickman was in the home helping to return the Torah to Ahavas Shalom. I decided to take my boys and escort the Torah across the street – it is certainly more honorable to return a torah with several people instead of just one.
We then packed our bags and got on the 418 bus at 9:00. Elisha immediately began to complain about being thirsty, but I hadn’t brought anything to eat or drink. But I tried to calm him down and he managed the entire trip. I spoke with a stone cutter about a monument. He took my information, and will send me an email. Hopefully the stone will be set by the 30th day after the death.
Upon arrival, we walked to a grocery store and I bought the boys something to drink. We then hailed a taxi and took it to the grave. The driver got a bit mixed up because area 13, section 5, is not between areas 12 and 14, but at the very bottom of the cemetery, right next to highway #1. While he was trying to figure out his way, I got a call from the principal of Toras Moshe, who offered his condolences – he was away in the USA until Friday. I eventually convinced the driver to go the other way, and we found some signs pointing to the right area.
I decided to have the driver wait for us, rather than contacting another cab and waiting. There is a list of psalms that one should say, so we went through that list. Then one is supposed to used Psalm 119, which contains 8 verses for each letter of the Aleph-Beis, and spell out the name of the deceased. We did that – I had the kids help me so as to keep their interest – and then Mordechai Eliyahu said Ale Maley Rachamim using my grandfather’s “graveside service” prayerbook (copyright on the inside cover was 1910).
I sent the kids back to the cab and had it turn around while I said a few words alone to my son. I tried to bring myself to tears as part of the mourning process, and was mildly “successful”. I then got back in the cab, and we went to the washing station at the entrance to the cemetery. Then after a few changes, we decided to go to the String Bridge (100nis total for the cab ride), and we walked across. On the other side, we went to Center One and bought some food for the guinea pigs, and some new tiny fish for the tank. MES also picked out a plastic plant to replace the moldy plant currently in the tank.
What to do next? It was almost time for mincha, and I didn’t want to eat until after I davened. I thought we might go to the bus station and daven there, but by the time we were almost at the entrance, we pretty much missed the starting time. That is now a problem for me since I have an obligation to lead the davening until the end of shloshim. So I decided we’d instead go to Zichron Moshe and daven there, and then go to Geula for lunch. There were no cabs available in front of the bus station, so I started walking. The kids were not happy. I tried to keep their spirits up by taking them into Obadi and buying them each a soda. Elisha apparently wanted a rugelech, but forgot to ask. Oh well. We kept walking, and the kids got a little more excited as the scenery changed and the soda entered their bloodstream. We finally found a cab, and took it to the shteibel. I took the amud (that means I stood at the front to lead the service) and after 5 minutes we had a minyon. Nothing special about the minyon – I davened normally.
Then we went across the street and we bought a small set of Mishnayos. It is customary to learn mishnayos to elevate the soul of the departed. I was told to buy this set and MES would give out one volume to each of his classmates. If they learned it by the end of shloshim, they could keep the volume (if not, they had to return it). I had the guy wrap it in shipping paper to protect it as we walked the streets. We then walked to Malki Yisrael street and decided to go to a fleishig fast-food restaurant. I let MES do the ordering, and I sat down and relaxed. The kids enjoyed the meal. It was important to keep the day fun, so that they will remember the first visit to their brother’s grave with happy feelings. Next stop was Brooklyn Bakery, where everyone got to order one item. Finally, I went to J1 pizza and got a vegetable pizza – same as I ordered last week after my visit to Yitzchak Meir. We then walked to the bus stop. I picked up a bottle of water on the way, and then tried to find a Mishpacha magazine for MES. When we couldn’t find one, we decided to walk down the hill (to a bus stop that was farther away) and check out the stores next to that bus stop – we were successful, and the bus came a few moments later. Elisha ate his cupcake on the bus, and I scored well with that: When grandma asked him on the phone how his day was, he replied – with incredible excitement and emotion: “I got my own chocolate cupcake!!!”
I tried to catch up on work and email in the afternoon. I had a little success, but I was really exhausted, and ended up sleeping until just before 7pm Maariv. The boys had left earlier to have dinner with their mother. I took the amud at Ahavas Shalom, but I am not sure what will happen next time, as there are other people with yahrzeit (though no one else in shloshim). At the end I turned around and saw MES & NS there – they had finished their dinner before 7pm and rushed to Ahavas Shalom for Maariv. MES commented to me that his mother was referring to Yitzchak Meir as Yitzchak Meir ben Ella Yapha. (While that is technically correct, only a child that is sick is referred to by the mother’s name. Once a child dies, they are referred to using their father’s name, in this case, Yitzchak Meir ben Lev HaLevi. If one of my kids, chas vesholom, gets sick, I will refer to him with the mother’s name (whether I like doing that or not.) MES didn’t like that she was doing this, but there was nothing I could do about it.
MES told me that he was going back to Yeshiva for the night learning, and I was very pleased to hear it (and I made sure to tell him so). Nechemiah stayed home and we had some dinner together (he was still hungry even after eating dinner at his mother’s apartment). I went back to my computer and tried to catch up. There is still much to do: I have 252 messages in my inbox, of which about 200 are new for the past week. Some are condolences. Some are from clients. Some are from relatives (Cliff sent me a report and videos of Max’s bar mitzvah, and I have to respond to him soon). I’ll have some time tomorrow, but it is a busy day: I have to shop for groceries (I haven’t been to the store in more than a week). I have to pay the child support. And then the kids return to their home, and I have to give them time and attention.
I was thinking of what to do after shloshim. Some people might say “Oh, you’ve been through so much – why don’t you take a break?!” I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing to do or not. For example, I could have asked my mother to sponsor a visit to New York in 4 weeks. I asked my Rav about it, and he recommended no. But his reason was different than what I would have thought. He said I should stay with my children at this critical time. Even though I might be justified in taking a break, the kids might (unjustifiably) feel alone and abandoned. I should therefore stay and spend as much time possible bonding with the kids. I noticed with Elisha, for example, that he wanted to hold my hand for nearly the entire day (usually he wants to hold my hand only for some of the “date” – not the entire time). He was also more touchy-feely over the past few days, giving (and requesting) more hugs and kisses. So I tried to be there for him, and held his hand as much as I could (along with the backpack with the fish in it, the bag with two slices of pizza, and another bag with the brownie, cookies, and chocolate cupcake).
It is late, and tomorrow I return to my sunrise minyon. I have placed a sticker in the new large-print prayerbook I bought in memory of my son, and I will bring it with me in the morning.
I feel like I lost a week. The world continued and I stopped. I remember one of my friends told me this happened to him when he was sitting shiva. Now I have to try to catch up.