Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kaddish

I have been learning about the Jewish prayer of mourner’s kaddish. This prayer is said by those who have lost a loved one and must be said in the presence of a minyan, or quorum of ten people. It is said daily anywhere from thirty days to eleven months. The theme of the text is the exaltation and eternal nature of God. Here is a translated excerpt:
May His great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity. Blessed and praised, glorified, exalted and extolled, honored, adored and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He; and say, Amen.

Beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world; and say, Amen.
There are so many things I can learn from this about grieving. First, it is a healing ritual to repeat prayers in the presence of others. While so much of grief takes place privately, in tears cried in the dark night, the presence of others who care for the mourner is a way to honor and give voice to that grief, to reassure the person that not only are they not crazy for feeling it, but there are others who are willing to stand beside them and listen. The length of time given to these prayers also says that grief is not rushed, cannot be swept away as quickly as our western tradition seems to desire. There is length and space and community to give the mourner what The Message version of the psalms calls “wide open spaces for healing.”

Finally, the mourner’s kaddish focuses on exalting God. Beyond any consolation uttered in the world, beyond the searing pain of suffering and the impossibility of knowing how to go on, there is a God whose name and whose love goes on forever, who is to be praised and adored forever and all eternity. And say, Amen. Amen.

2 comments:

Wenda said...

Amen. I especially like the part about the prayers exalting God, as if there is nothing left to say except "God is". My labyrinth prayer or contemplative prayer is,
"Holy, Holy, Holy Lord,
God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of your glory." And sometimes, it is enough to just focus on God and proclaim his is-ness.

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