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Tattered Kaddish

by on May 19, 2012

The Kaddish in Jewish tradition is the prayer for the dead. However, the dead are never mentioned, but rather the magnification and sanctification of G-d’s name is the central theme throughout the prayer. The prayer ends with a call for peace (“Oseh Shalom…”).

Tattered can have many meanings: torn into shreds, ragged, dressed in ragged clothing, shabby, dilapidated, disordered, disrupted, damaged, defeated, in disarray.

Suicide in Jewish law (Halachah) is strictly forbidden, but there is debate whether one can say the Kaddish for suicides. Until about twenty-five years ago, suicide victims were buried on the edges of Jewish cemeteries at an angle to and separated from the other graves. With advances in medicine that have established depression as a disease, today most Jewish communities treat suicides as if they had died of a disease and bury them with the rest of the community. Unfortunately, this advancement happened only after Rich’s husband killed himself.

Who is then tattered in this Kaddish? Jewish tradition? Rich’s husband? G-d? I think a hint lies in the line “in the nineteenth year and the eleventh month.” The Hebrew calendar is lunar and has a cycle of nineteen years, adding an entire month about every three years. So in each cycle of 19 years, the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years are leap years. The Kaddish is said every year on the anniversary of the beloved’s death, but in the 19th year and the 12th month, the time would be switched to accommodate the extra month. However, it is not the 12th month, but the 11th. Rich’s husband just misses the start of a new cycle of life. His Kaddish is tattered, disordered, disrupted from the natural cycle of life. But, Jewish tradition’s and G-d’s Kaddish as well. Rich seems to be saying that if the Jewish calendar can make adjustments to different rhythms and cycles, why can’t G-d adjust Her need for praise to a different life cycle? Why not praise “them, how they loved it, when they could?”

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