At the kiddush this Shabbos, one of the rabbis came up to me and asked how I was handling the minyan schedule. I answered him, half-jokingly, with the truth.
"It's been grueling," I told him. "I'm exhausted. My whole day revolves around the minyan schedule. I mean, I haven't had time to play video games and I haven't watched TV in a month."
I realize that this will not engender much sympathy from those of you who somehow have already been managing to make it to minyan two or three times a day. But this is really new for me. Yes, I've been in the morning minyan before, and yes, I sometimes make it to mincha/maariv at night. But somehow always there was this knowledge in the back of my mind that if I couldn't make it one day, no big deal.
All that has changed. I feel trapped by the minyan schedule right now. When I took my wife out for our anniversary (just for a drink, and I drank Pepsi), we left after mincha at the kollel and I had one eye on my watch the whole time so I wouldn't miss the 9:45 maariv. I haven't missed a single service since my father's funeral. I would sooner skip a meal than miss a minyan at this point.
And this is not me. My M.O. has always been to get there late and leave early. Now I'm getting there early and leaving late. I'm in the shul at 5:40 a.m. and I leave the kollel after maariv at 10:10 p.m. And somewhere in the middle I chap a mincha. And I can't be late, because I need to lead the service. And I have to stay to the bitter end, to catch that last kaddish. I'm exhausted.
And yet, I don't seem to mind so much. I'm getting into it a little. I've never been one to covet the amud, but I really look forward to getting up there and leading the davening. And I find myself cherishing each and every Kaddish. If we have to skip one, because we don't yet have 10 guys in the room, I really feel disappointed.
I don't know exactly what it is. I'm not alone, I know. People who have lost parents take this very seriously. People who have been lax about their davening and their attendance suddenly turn themselves around and buck up. Maybe it's because it's not only about one person any more. Now I'm davening for two. There's another soul involved here, and I have a responsibility to that soul that sacrificed so much for me, and who made it a point to tell me when I was eight years old that "a boy needs to go to shul."
The rabbi told me about his father-in-law. He said that when his father-in-law was in mourning for his own father, he too started to attend minyan much more punctually and regularly. He pointed out that his father was able to accomplish something in death that he was never able to accomplish in life: to get his son to show up to shul on time.