The Blessings of the Mourner’s Kaddish

“Please Rise if you have a need or desire to say the Mourner’s Kaddish”.

After hearing these words, The mouths next to me close. The guy on his phone two rows in front of me sneakily hits the power off button on his iPhone. The girl behind me pauses her invigorating conversation about the latest episode of “Pretty Little Liars”. We’ve now reached the Mourner’s Kaddish. The holiest, sacred, and most quiet aspect of our contemporary services.

Some may argue that true kavanah (devotion) with God occurs during the Amidah. The entire congregation stands together, first praying aloud, and then silently. We pray together yet separately. However, for many, especially for those who struggle with Hebrew, the Amidah proves to be a difficult time. When seeing fellow daveners immersed in their personal prayers, one may feel overwhelmed. The Mourner’s Kaddish connects all. Whether you speak fluent Hebrew, or recently learned the word“Shalom”, the Mourner’s Kaddish allows every member sitting in the service to feel as though he/she contributed to someone else’s well being.

We say the Mourners’s Kaddish to memorialize a loved one. We say it for our parents for a year, for our siblings, spouses, and others, only thirty days. During this sensitive time, the Kaddish grants a solace to those in periods of grief.  Because of the difficult nature of the moment, we must always silence ourselves during the Mourners Kaddish. Throughout the whole service we talk to one another.  Every now and then we’ll stop for the Shema or the Barechu or another prayer, but we speak with our friends. Why? Because we go to synagogue not only to engage with God, but also to engage with our tight-knit and friendly community. This community also supports one another in both the Happy and the not-so happy times.

During the Mourner’s Kaddish we all abide to a “code of silence”. We place ourselves in the mourner’s position. We think: “I should support the mourner because I hope they’d support me if I were in this position.” Staying silent is the minimum. Participating in the congregational aspects of the prayer also provides comfort and solace to the mourner. The Mourner truly knows that his/her compatriots at the service understand their sadness and grief.

Next time you’re in services and you see people talking during the Mourner’s Kaddish, politely motion them to stop. After the service, educate them about the need for active responses and silence during the Kaddish. Ask if they’ve dealt with the death of a loved one. Stress the importance of quiet and listening during our most significant prayer.

About the Author
Avi Sholkoff is a graduate of the University of Michigan with Distinction and High Honors in History. He wrote an Honors Thesis titled "Is this Any Way for Nice Jewish Boys to Behave?" American Jewish Masculinity and the Jewish Defense League. He worked as a Sports Editor for the Michigan Daily and served as a group facilitator and mentor for Wolverine Support Network, an organizationi that establishes a brave space for and empowers students to be their most authentic selves.
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