I may have let it slip in the pages of this blog over the past few years that I daven (pray) at an early minyan (prayer group) that ostensibly starts at 5:45 every morning. You may even recall that after years of being, well shall we say...less than dedicated...to showing up consistently and on time, I rededicated myself in full force after the death of my father this spring. That's because one of my obligations as a mourner is to say the Kaddish and lead the davening every day.
One of the things I love about this minyan, aside from the fact that it is slightly faster than the other minyanim, is the cast of characters. Perhaps my favorite is the Rabbi who stands in the back of the room and implores me, every day, to skip tachanun.
Tachanun is a part of the service which means supplication and it is not infrequently skipped for various legitimate and some questionable reasons. There are different customs. The one thing that seems to be universal is that, whenever the ruling comes down that tachanun is to be skipped, there is near unanimous rejoicing. I even managed to find this essay on "Why We Hate Tachanun."
To the various reasons discussed there, I will add my own, which is that I hate tachanun because it adds between 5 and 10 minutes (depending on the day) to my already overbooked early a.m. schedule. To put it simply: the days that we skip tachanun are the days that I am more likely to get to work on time.
Which is why it is now so complicated that we have one guy in the back urging me to skip tachanun while the rest of the minyan thinks we should say it. Because as the chazzan, I am the final arbiter of whether it is GO or NO-GO. I feel like I'm in that scene in Animal House where I have the good angel on one shoulder and the bad one on the other. And I kinda prefer the bad one.
I really dislike being in the middle of this conflict. The shul doesn't help, because as a Chassidishe place they skip tachanun frequently to commemorate the yahrtzeits of rebbes whose names I can't even pronounce much less recognize. And they never say tachanun at all by mincha. So who am I to say that tachanun should be said on one guy's yahrtzeit and not another's?
It's getting to be kind of a joke around the community. "No Tachanun" is becoming a generic "Mazel Tov."
The Cohen's had a baby boy! No Tachanun!
The Shapiro's kid is engaged! No Tachanun!
Happy St. Patrick's Day! No Tachanun!
I think my boss is going to give me a raise! No Tachanun!
We have Heros to watch tonight on the TiVo! No Tachanun!
You get the gist.
I joke but the tension level is starting to rise in the 5:45 minyan, which, because daybreak is getting later and later, now starts at 6:10. The Rabbi REALLY wants me to skip tachanun. And some of the other guys REALLY don't want me to.
Today I thought it might come to blows. After I finished shmoneh esrei, before I could start the viduy (confession) before the tachanun, the rabbi yelled "yisgadal" from the back of the room, his prompt to skip tachanun and proceed directly to Kaddish. This caused a moment of doubt, because I didn't see today's date in the authorized "No Tachanun" list (yes, we have one) but then, it is the day before Channukah, and maybe that's one of those days that it's not said? So I went for it, and said Kaddish.
Afterwards there was a large argument out in the hallway between the Rabbi and the others and I knew that if I didn't get out of there soon that I would get caught in the middle. So I bundled up, put my shoulder forward and broke through like a quaterback trying to make a rushing play.
Believe me, if we never said tachanun again, I wouldn't miss it. I think the davening is too long already, but I just hate being in the middle of these things.