Just A Simple Table
s, was leav-
heard a snippet of con-
versation behind me.
"I think I'll tell her
to go to the minyan at
Temple Israel," said
"Don't do that," her
"All they do there is sit
around a table."
That much is true. It
is a long wooden table, bordered in
black, in the temple library. It seats 11
down each side and another two
on either end.
The first time I saw it was
right after the death of my
daughter, as I wondered
whether I would ever again be
able to savor anything in life.
Like most of the people who
sit down there for the first time,
I didn't know what to expect. I
did know, however, that sharing
intimacies with a bunch of
strangers had no appeal for me
But as it turned out, there
were no strangers at that table.
Just others of my faith who were
struggling with their own grief
We took comfort in the ancient
prayers and each other's pres-
When it came time to recite
Kaddish for the first time, it was
all I could do to get Courtney's
name out. But as the days
become weeks and then
months, we drew strength from
The others at the table became our
extended family, people with whom we
shared celebrations as well as sorrow.
The table was our bond. We reached
out across its width and found each
other and held on tight.
In another week, I will conclude my
second term at the table, saying Kaddish
for my father.
Not everyone who comes to this min-
yan takes to it. To some, attending for
the full 11 months becomes burden-
some. Others find no comfort there.
But there are many who come to that
table and continue long after their
mourning period is over. They return
George Cantor's e-mail address is
day after day, year after year. On
Sundays, the table cannot accommodate
them all. Folding chairs have to be set
up. People rouse themselves from soft
beds so as to be there at 9 a.m. on a
leisurely weekend morning.
After services, the table becomes our
dining board as bagels and coffee are
On Yom Kippur, it becomes a tisch, as
we sit around it after the regular service
is over to discuss ethics and Torah until
it is time for the closing prayers.
And on one of the happiest days of
my life, it was on this table that my
daughter, Jaime, and her Michael signed
`All they do there is sit around a
I did not turn around and say any-
thing when I heard this, although I
wanted to. My wife, who was walking
beside me, felt the same way and also
restrained herself, which takes a good
deal more effort.
No, it isn't a table like the one in
Camelot, where every day brought forth
a noble deed. Nor is it like the one at
the Algonquin in New York of the
1920s, where witticisms flew back and
forth like badminton strokes.
It's just a long wooden table, bordered
in black, where 26 people can fit.
But while seated there, we learned
how to hope again and were finally,
surely, restored to life. ❑
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