Kaddish Explained

[Re-post – just found this and thought to put it up again]

Refraction, the fascinating phenomenon whereby light gets transposed and translated into different streams of light.  Hold up a crystal to the sunlight and watch bright white be translated into different interpretations of color, depending on which part of the crystal the light has passed through.  Spin the crystal and watch the light dance about, sending brilliant rainbows arching throughout the room.  My parents once owned a lead crystal ashtray which I would spin for hours to get light broken through each of its facets.  Different spins, different sides held to the light, different angles at which I held it, all these factors gave me different effects.

When a person leaves this world, the Jewish prayer Kaddish is the gift given by the living to the deceased.  It is usually recited by a child for a parent who has passed on.  Magen Dror left behind grieving parents and siblings, but no children.   He had not yet married when he was diagnosed with the dread illness, and, within the span of a year, his body faded away, until his soul finally found its way back to Heaven.  His Kaddish becomes harder for the one who will be asked to recite it.  There is something tangibly comforting about being a child survivor of a parent’s death, a continuation of a parent’s dream.  When it is the parent grieving the child, that is a pain with no comfort, especially if the child’s life ends with him.     A period.  So final.  At the end of his life.  With no surviving offspring.  Magen Dror Ben Yisroel.    You think of it and your mind flits to the pain of King David, when he cried out, “my son,” when his own son passed on.  Or to the mute agony of Aaron, the High Priest, when he lost his two single sons.

How can one then do kindness to the finis of any life?  Perhaps, by all joining in Kaddish, by understanding each Kaddish we say.

 Kaddish is not just a prayer said in memory of a deceased person.  In fact, it is the declaration of our fervent wish that G-d’s glory be increased in the world which is said at every communal prayer and learning session.  We stand there in synagogue, during the recital of Kaddish, like soldiers reporting to duty, “aye, aye, sir, all present, sir, to do your bidding, sir.”  Each Jew, as he stands at attention for Kaddish, is being asked to dedicate himself to exalting G-d by bringing G-d’s awareness to the world.  The Chazan intones the age-old words,  May His great Name be exalted…”, and then pauses and asks the congregation, “and now respond Amen.”  At that point, in a swelling of noise of many throats joining in the recital, the congregation says, “Uhmayn Ye’hay Shemay Rabbah Me’Vuhrach L’Uhlahm Ool’uhlmay Uhlmahyah,” which means, “May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.”  Kaddish is our Pledge of Allegiance to G-d.  It is a Jew’s way of reporting to duty in the service of G-d.

All those who want to join in “Magen’s Kaddish” can study that transliterated line in the previous paragraph, get the “Uhmayn Ye’hay Shemay Rabbah…” fluent in their mouths and be there to respond loud and clear the next time Kaddish is recited in synagogue.  But how does that make any sense vis a’ vis the dead?  Does a one-line zinger, even if said loud and clear and melodious, compensate for the loss of a human soul to this world?

Each soul created and sent to this world is part of a multi-generational prism.  Each one is sent to refract another aspect of G-d’s glory in the world.  As that person interfaces with the world, that person becomes the crystal through which G-d’s light becomes interpreted.  By requesting that G-d’s glory become greater, we are reporting to duty, even with one soldier down and out, asking for a chance to refract farther and wider the light of G-dliness in this world.

Magen has moved on past this world and our duties in it.  His eyes can no longer refract color in every direction.  But his memory can spur us to dangle and swing, to expand and to grow, and to absorb and refract more G-dliness in our lives.  That could be our gift, our Kaddish, for him.

[L’aliyas Nishmas Magen Dror Ben Yisroel]

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About jewishspectacles

Jewish Spectacles-the kind you look through, not the kind you create!
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