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Kaddish

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“I belong to a havurah,” Dr. Rosen said. For a moment Rachel couldn’t tell whether he was mumbling more than usual or just saying a word she didn’t know. Of course Dr. Rosen sensed her discomfort and the uncertainty of the others, and immediately clarified. “It’s a group, a sort of Jewish worship and study group. I’m hosting our meeting this Friday night. We’ll be remembering Danielle at the service. I’d be honored if you’d join us.”

“Dr. Rosen,” Nina said, obviously touched. “Are you sure? We wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“It’s no intrusion,” he said. “And I wouldn’t ask you to participate in anything inconsistent with your faiths, or lack thereof, Gary—” and miraculously Gary shut his mouth—“but your company would be most welcome.”

They looked from one to the other (skipping Gary, so that there’d be no lecture about eye contact), and the consensus was simple. “Of course, Dr. Rosen,” Rachel said. “We’d love to come.”

****

“Oh, I get it,” Gary said, with his usual lack of modulation. “It’s like stimming. You do the same thing over and over again. You say the same thing over and over again. It’s calming.”

Dr. Rosen’s friends must have been told to expect Gary, because no one shushed him, though Dr. Rosen did take him aside. “Yes, Gary, it’s calming. The davening is how some of us enter a prayerful mindset.”

“Prayer doesn’t make sense,” Gary said. “There’s no God.”

“Gary,” Rachel said warningly, but Dr. Rosen shook his head.

“Sometimes God is in the relations we have with other people. Our shared history, our shared grief. The mourner’s kaddish is a recognition that others have lost loved ones, and that others will lose loved ones again. But we are not lost. We, the community, change and we remain.”

“Thanks for bringing us, doc,” Bill said, his voice careful.

“Do you think,” Cameron said, and then continued staring at the wall instead of meeting anyone’s eyes, “do you think you could teach me how to say it?”

“I’d like that very much, Cameron,” Dr. Rosen said. And Rachel believed him.