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September 2, 2015

Magnified and sanctified may His great name be in the world that He created, as he wills, and may His kingdom come in your lives and in your days and in the lives of all the house of Israel, swiftly and soon, and say all, “Amen!”

May His great name be blessed always and forever!

Blessed and praised and glorified and raised and exalted and honored and uplifted and lauded be the Name of the Holy One (He is blessed!) above all blessings and hymns and praises and consolations that are uttered in the world, and say all, “Amen!”

May a great peace from heaven–and life–be upon us and upon all Israel, and say all, “Amen!”

May He who makes peace in His high places make peace upon us and upon all Israel, and say all, “Amen!

The words above are the English translation of the words I have been saying, without fail, every morning, afternoon, and evening since October 12 of last year, when my siblings and I buried our father.

The “Kaddish” prayer is said for a deceased parent for 11 months of the Hebrew calendar. Its purpose, in essence, is to elevate the spirit of the deceased. Saying Kaddish is both a privilege and a burden, as it must be said in the presence of at least 10 Jewish adults, and it must be said at each of the three daily prayer services. It thus became my obsession for the past 11 months. I planned every day around the times of the prayer service, turning down all sorts of events and social engagements because they would prevent me from making it to a synagogue in time to say Kaddish. Every Jew is obligated to pray three times a day, but there is a much greater impetus when prayer is an opportunity not only to connect and communicate with G-d but to earn cosmic extra credit for your dead father.

Kaddish is the reason there was no cross-country road trip this summer, as finding a prayer service three times a day is impossible in large swaths of this great country. On past road trips the Hamster and I missed regular prayer services on multiple occasions in favor of spending time in National Parks, small towns, and various other fun places that don’t have enough Jews for such things. This was a conscious choice of which I am not particularly proud, but the stakes are much higher when your father’s soul is on the line, so this summer I was determined to stay close to home so as not to miss a single service.

In other words, I spent this summer with my father instead of with my son.

This afternoon marked the end of the 11-month period, and I said Kaddish for the final time. Friends who have lost parents warned me that I would feel a mix of emotions–relief at the end of the burden of saying Kaddish every day, sadness at being confronted with the loss once more, and closure as there is now no more I can do, spiritually speaking, for my father. They were right–I felt all those things, plus a touch of pride at having successfully fulfilled my duty as a Jew and as my father’s son.

This afternoon, in a quiet moment, I read to myself the eulogy I delivered for him 11 months ago. The tears came back, of course. I’ve spent the past 11 months burdened with handling my father’s estate and constantly saying Kaddish, and as a result I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the burden and very little time thinking about the man. Today my thoughts were in both places.

The burden, and the privilege, are now behind me. Ahead of me is next summer, and thoughts of how the Hamster and I might spend it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jeffrey Lazar permalink
    September 3, 2015 7:54 am

    Really wonderful. And now time to plan text great adventure. Maybe a lakeside home?

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