The Kaddish prayer is a puzzlement for me. I say it because of tradition, nothing more. It could be interpreted as a prayer praising G-d despite the loss of a loved one. But the recitation provides no relief, no words of comfort, no connection to the actual reason most people give voice to it.
When my beloved Warren died, I said the Kaddish prayer every day for eleven months. I said it by rote, from memory without thinking about the meaning. But each time, when I finished reciting it, as I stood in front of a favorite photo of him, I took the time to reflect on various memories that came flooding into my mind and my heart, smiling amidst the tears and whispering softly to him that our life together was one of wonder, beauty, laughter and so much love. Those precious few minutes of reciting the prayer and remembering helped me to start my day and enabled me to leave my bedroom without collapsing in utter grief.
I am not a Rabbinic scholar. I can read Hebrew but I can't speak it in conversation nor do I understand much of it. So reciting the Kaddish is an exercise in how good my memory is. But when I participate in the recitation of it while in synagogue, it takes on a whole different meaning for me. I am not the only one who stands for it. I'm surrounded by many who repeat the prayer with me. The key words here are "with me." I am in a community of wonderful people who have experienced deep loss and together we acknowledge our pain, together we remember our loved ones and we recognize each other's loss.
Perhaps that community of mourners standing together all thinking of their loved ones creates a common bond, if only for a few moments. I want to think that such a bond may be the real reason many recite the Kaddish. And when I recited the familiar words, the words I really don't understand, alone, on all those days, it gave me time to prepare to face the day. So, voicing the words, alone or included in a community of mourners, it affords me some precious time of concentrating completely on my Beloved and those other loved family members and knowing that I am not really alone.
Copyright © 2019 Reisa Sterling Miller. All Rights Reserved.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
The Kaddish prayer: what it does and does not do
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