Mourner’s Kaddish ritual provides comfort at time of profound loss

By Student Rabbi Jonathan Falco

Our tradition has much to offer to seekers of many forms.

For some, living a religious life — not just a Jewish life, but any religious life — provides a sense of structure.

Dramatic events occur throughout life, irrespective of one’s religious tradition. At the same time, that tradition and its rituals serve to enrich these watershed moments and create memories to look back on, for better or worse.

Drawing upon the wisdom of our ancestors, Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of both community and reflection for the process of healing.

Our Jewish tradition presents us with a framework from which to approach and to accept some of life’s most trying times, acting as a source of comfort.

For example, confronting the death of a loved one and beginning the process of mourning is never easy. The feeling of loss is both universal and profound.

Drawing upon the wisdom of our ancestors, Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of both community and reflection for the process of healing.

Community offers spiritual healing

Each of these two aspects is present in the Kaddish Yatom, also known as the Mourner’s Kaddish.

Traditionally, the Kaddish is meant to be recited in the presence of a minyan, which is the quorum of 10 Jewish adults gathered together in a prayer setting.

The frequency with which a mourner recites Kaddish also serves a function, its habitual recitation bringing with it a sense of familiarity and stability in what might otherwise be a time of uncertainty and vulnerability.

This is an intentional stricture, for our sages understood the comforting power of community and its potential for spiritual healing in the context of experiencing loss.

The frequency with which a mourner recites Kaddish also serves a function, its habitual recitation bringing with it a sense of familiarity and stability in what might otherwise be a time of uncertainty and vulnerability.

The very words of the Kaddish lend themselves to the practice of reverential reflection encouraged by the early process of mourning in Jewish settings.

Stand tall and acknowledge God’s power for good

Rather than reflecting on the personal life of the departed one, the mourner reciting Kaddish extols upon the glory of the Holy One and reaffirms God’s sovereignty in the world.

It is a mitzvah to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish for a loved one, just as it is a mitzvah to stand tall, acknowledging God’s power for good in the face of tragedy.

When we engage with the practices of our tradition, we have potential to bring great meaning into our lives.

By championing this truth, and by striving to emulate God’s holiness in the world, we honor the cherished memories of those whom we have lost.

When we engage with the practices of our tradition, we have potential to bring great meaning into our lives.

Even at our most challenging of hours, the tools of our tradition can also serve as instruments of nurture.

Through this framework and these practices of old, we open a connection to our collective past. And from this connection, we draw strength.

Student Rabbi Jonathan Falco will serve United Hebrew Congregation throughout the 2018-19 academic year.

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