Updated: Sep 25
Lately I’ve been thinking about the Kaddish, one of the coreprayers in Judaism and more or less a call and response to the life force. It seems especially relevant now at the end of the year and the end of the decade when one stretch of time ends and another begins.
I’ve been Kaddish-prone for a while, but in putting together today’s burial service for Fred Lubin while thinking about his immensely loving family, I’ve re-discovered and learned anew some things about the Kaddish. Here’s what I wrote fro the burial after rooting around various prayerbooks (from the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative traditions) and here and there from the interwebs:
The Kaddish, a word that means “sanctification,” is one of the most beautiful, vital, and mysterious prayers in Judaism. This call to God is so central to Jewish prayers that the sages contended the whole world is sustained through chanting the Kaddish, which was/is believed to have magic power.
This prose-poem is also recited in Aramaic, the spoken tongue of ancient Jews as a way to collectively praise all that is alive and sacred while praying for peace — the peace that surpasses all understanding in our souls and in our world. Besides being a prayer, it’s also a Jewish tradition to call our children our Kaddish, the life that will (hopefully) live on beyond us, which is another dimension of celebration and remembrance.
Although the Kaddish is recited no less than 13 times in a traditional Jewish service, the Mourner’s Kaddish, the same Kaddish prayer, is said during the funeral and burial service of a Jew, then recited each Shabbat (Friday night) for a full year afterwards as well as on the Yahrzeit, the anniversary month of the beloved’s death. This helps remind the mourners that they are not alone and the community that people among them are carrying great love and grief in their hearts.
In reciting the Kaddish, we affirm all that is sacred in this world and invoke the transcendent power of love. What more can I say except to share the Kaddish, first in Hebrew, then in English. To hear it read aloud, you can go to this video. You can also hear a beautiful piece by Maurice Ravel entitled “Kaddish.”
Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba.
B’alma di v’ra chirutei,
uv’chayei d’chol beit Yisrael,
baagala uviz’man kariv. V’im’ru: Amen.
Y’hei sh’mei raba m’varach
l’alam ul’almei almaya.
Yitbarach v’yishtabach v’yitpaar
v’yit’hadar v’yitaleh v’yit’halal
sh’mei d’kud’sha b’rich hu,
l’eila min kol birchata v’shirata,
daamiran b’alma. V’imru: Amen.
Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya,
v’chayim aleinu v’al kol Yisrael.
Oseh shalom bimromav,
Hu yaaseh shalom aleinu,
v’al kol Yisrael. V’imru: Amen.
Now in English:
Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name in the world which God created, according to plan.
May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently, to which we say Amen.
Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity.
Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing, praise, and comfort. To which we say Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel,to which we say Amen.
May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace to us and to all Israel.
To which we say Amen.