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Knowing Kaddish

Things I know about Judaism and learned at funerals. I know Kaddish.

You must understand humility to know Kaddish. You must understand trust.

Having dabbled without lasting effect in many religions, I know that Christianity is an operator's manual for a machine you'd just as soon ignore.

Judaism is poetry, and no example more profound than the Kaddish. It is a yearning call from deep in the soul for God's comfort after catastrophe. Judaism knows how souls must manage death with elegance. It is spoken in Aramaic, the oldest of Jewish languages employed because the prayer was first spoken in that language.

Jews figure with some authority that God understood those words clearly 2,500 years ago and understands them now.

The Kaddish answers questions with hope and courage. And humility. It answers the first fear of all faith. What if I pray, and no one hears? What if I am truly alone?

Before the Kaddish - a prayer celebrating the Almighty's glory - the congregation stands to say this meditation in unison.

It is a statement of hope and principle delivered at funerals. Sons are required to say Kaddish for 11 months after the death of a parent.

I do not pray because I doubt anyone is listening.

But if I did pray, this is the God I would seek to touch . . .

When I die
Give what's left of me away
To children
And old men that wait to die.

And if you need to cry,
Cry for your brother
Walking the street beside you.

And when you need me,
Put your arms
Around anyone
And give them
What you need to give to me.

I want to leave you something,
Something better
Than words
Or sounds.

Look for me
In the people I've known
Or loved,

And if you cannot give me away,
At least let me live on in your eyes
And not your mind.

You can love me most
By letting
Hands touch hands,

By letting bodies touch bodies,
And by letting go
Of children
That need to be free.

Love doesn't die,
People do.
So, when all that's left of me
Is love,
Give me away.


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was Florida. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.


Posted on August 10, 2021

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