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Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

07/20/2020 10:27:23 AM


Jodi Weinfeld


Fulfilling the mitzvah of saying kaddish during COVID-19

Something Old

In Rabbi Herbert Yoskowitz’s book, The Kaddish Minyan, he eloquently introduced the history and meaning of the Kaddish Prayer. This prayer, while something old, continues to connect Jews with previous generations. Below please find an excerpt from the book.

“While the Kaddish is thought to be a prayer for the dead, essentially it is an affirmation of life. Neither death nor the dead is mentioned.

Originally, Kaddish was a response recited at the close of a Rabbinic lesson in the synagogue during the Talmudic Period (200 BCE-550 CE). A message of comfort and consolation would conclude the Rabbi’s lesson. Kaddish extended that message by focusing on our messianic hope. This Kaddish is called the Rabbis’ Kaddish.

In post-Talmudic time, saying the Kaddish was extended from the House of Study to the House of Prayer and ultimately to the cemetery. The Rabbis taught that Kaddish should be recited for eleven months for a deceased parent. For other deceased relatives, there was a thirty-day obligation to say Kaddish. Today, some choose to say Kaddish for eleven months in memory not just of parents but of other relatives, too.

Kaddish, an Aramaic word for “holy” praises God’s name and must be said in public assembly, which is defined as a quorum of at least ten Jewish adults, a minyan. In addition to the Rabbi’s Kaddish, other forms of Kaddish said during a religious service include the Full Kaddish recited at the end of a service, the Half Kaddish said at the conclusion of smaller prayer units, and the Mourner’s Kaddish.

Kaddish is said subsequently by a mourner on the anniversary of the death (yahrzeit) of a loved one during all services on that day and on Yom Kuppur, Succot, Pesach and Shavuot when the Memorial Service(Yizkor) is recited. On the yahrzeit, it is customary for the mourner to receive an aliyah, an honor involving being called to the Torah and reciting Torah blessings expressing joyous sentiments. It is suggested that if the yahrzeit occurs on a non-Torah reading day, the person observing the yahrzeit should receive an aliyah(an opportunity to praise God while standing before the open Torah) in the synagogue on the Shabbat before the yahrzeit.”

Something New

For the next 11 months, this will continue to be a new way of life; a way to perpetuate the memories of my parents with honor the way so many generations before me have done. (L’dor va Dor) A “B’nai Moshe Bonus” was that I made new friends who either attended services to say Kaddish for their loved one(s) or attended services for any one of a million personal reasons.

Something new for me: saying Kaddish on Zoom. My father died January 30, 2020 and my mother died on February 9, 2020. Technically, “Pre-Covid” so attending morning minyan and evening minyan became my new existence. With Covid came our synagogue’s response to conduct services via Zoom. This technology along with the work of professional and lay leaders became a “lifeline” to continue the recitation of Kaddish for me and many others. I am grateful to all of you for your ingenuity, perseverance and commitment to our tradition which has allowed me/us to fulfill this mitzvah.

Something Borrowed

With Covid came Zoom, with Zoom came the need to borrow siddurim from the synagogue in order to follow along and participate in both the weekly and Shabbat services while at home. We found the Eastern wall in our living room, set up our tablet complete with camera and microphone in order to be part of the Gallery view during services with other congregants. Home became an even more sacred place.

Something Blue

The unique siddur we use on Shabbat, Siddur Tefillah L’Moshe has a blue cover. Ahh….something blue.

It is a reminder of the familiar, the comfortable, the connection and the continuation of tradition specific to our shul. It helped erase the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable. It reminded me that I was part of a larger, loving community, especially in this time of extreme need and desire to connect.

So, while the phrase Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue is typically associated with a wedding, a simcha, it is now associated with another life cycle event for me, one that also reminds me of the simchas( happier times)…..a time of honor and love of family near and far.

*Zoom has been a good alternative to in-person services but there is no substitute for Michael Leibowitz’s delicious breakfasts. (Although I bet he doesn’t mind sleeping in).

Thu, July 25 2024 19 Tammuz 5784