Sunday, October 27, 2013


Kaddish is one of the more important elements within the liturgy of the culture in which you were born and, to a degree, raised.  Its purpose is to offer prayer and respect to the godhead.  Many in your culture would not even use that word, godhead, as you have rendered it, but would express it g__head, in the belief that the name itself is powerful enough to gather and focus energy.  

With the potentials of mood and purpose of that entity, as described in The Old Testament, you don't want to mess around; you want to be respectful and devoted, the way Job, for instance, was, even when it became evident that the g--head was messing with him.

To the non-orthodox, such as you, in your culture, the most frequent contact with the Kaddish is the Mourner's Kaddish, a prayer to be recited in congregation and alone, for the dead. One line from the Hebrew in the Mourner's Kaddish is Yehei shmëh rabba mevarakh lealam ulalmey almaya, which is pretty clear to all concerned. "May His great name be blessed forever and for all eternity."  You've come to pay respect for the departed, which you do by, in spite of your grief, giving praise to the g--head.

You have no problem with the psychology of that approach; your moments begin with the probability that you are if not an atheist, at least an agnostic.  If there is any difference between the two terms.  The "something" you see or experience when you regard such things is a result of all that ever was, all that is now, and all that ever will be.  You could just as well call that definition a description of reality.  You could, and sometimes do, call "It" Evolution or Awareness.

If you were deeper into your culture, you'd know the day of your father's death on the Hebrew calendar.  Even if you recalled the date of his death according to the calendar of the Common Era, you could go online to get an equivalency.  Thus you could observe the ritual of Yahrzeit (Hebrew and German for year time) for him.  Instead, and being you, his birthday is the time you've assigned to the ritual of Yahrzeit, lighting a candle (of course, the label says Yahrzeit Memorial Candle) at sundown, the night before his birthday.  

You scrambled last night to find the Yahrzeith candle, which was stuck in back of a small statue of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god, er g-d of success and in his way the patron saint of writers because of the belief that he broke off one of his tusks to use as a stylus to take down appropriate thoughts from the g-d Shiva.

You knew right where to go for the Hebrew transliteration of the Mourner's Kaddish, which was somehow under a Haldeman-Julius Little Blue Book with a chapter of H.G. Welles' The Time Machine.  Also a prayer shawl and skull cap, which the nuns at the Vedanta Society like you to wear for vespers on the first day of Hanukkah.

Thus accoutered a tad before the time of sunset last night, you began reading the Mourner's Kaddish, then lighting the Yahrzeit Memorial Candle to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Jake's death on the hundred fourteenth anniversary of his birth.

At one point during his final illness, you visited Jake in the hospital.  "As you know,"  he said, "I am not a religious man.  A once-a-year Jew in terms of temple for the holidays.  I know you are not what I would call religious, but I have to ask you something."

You patted your pocket.  "Yes, I brought cigars."

"Wise guy,"  he said.  "I have to ask you to be my Kaddish."

"You don't have to ask.  You should have known."

"Nice,"  he said.  "Nice you can think that way.  Father and son and all that."

"All that you went through with me,"  you said.

"You were a kid,"  he said.  "Being a kid is not easy.  Being my age is not so easy.  I have begun maybe to see things."

"What things?"

"Possibly a nurse.  Possibly a recent hire with, you know, not good English."

"Possibly?"  You said.

"Possibly the Malcha Movis.  You know.  The angel of death.  Possibly she speaks Aramaic and is testing the sound of my name."

"Possibly she is a nurse, asking you for your name to make sure what she does for you is on her chart."

"Always the wise guy. Possibly the Malcha Movis has a chart, with names to check off, making sure the right people die and the wrong people live."

"You've come to the right place.  I am your Kaddish."

"Let's see now what kinds of cigars my Kaddish has brought me."

"Wouldn't it be funny,"  you say, "if the Angel of Death can't stand cigar smoke?"

You see in his eyes the twinkle you hope to have reside in yours.

Happy Birthday, Jake.

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