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The Mourner’s Kaddish Is For The Living

Mourner’s Kaddish: Central to Jewish Prayer

The Mourner’s Kaddish is the most recognized and central prayer of the Jewish mourning ritual, even though it does not, even once, mention death.

Starting with the prayer’s first verse, the Mourner’s Kaddish is a reaffirmation of faith, life and a prayer for peace. Instead of lamenting the past, the Mourner’s Kaddish focuses upon the future. It reminds everyone that despite the loss of a loved one, our future still awaits us as we pray for a good life filled with comfort, healing, redemption, forgiveness, and salvation.

When we recite the Mourner’s Kaddish, we implore God to grant “peace upon us and upon all his nation Israel”. We reaffirm the eternal relationship between God and man.

The Kaddish was originally written in Aramaic, which for a time was the spoken language of Jews throughout the world. Aramaic was the language of major Jewish texts such as the Talmud, the Book of Ezra, the Book of Daniel, and the Book of Zohar. It was the predominant Jewish language during the life of Rabbi Hillel.

The Kaddish is still recited in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. The Hebrew text of the Kaddish is a phonetic transliteration of the prayer, as is the “English version”.

The Purpose Of The Kaddish

What function does the Kaddish play for mourners, despite its failure to mention death or those that have been lost?

I think that the Kaddish serves three essential purposes.

Firstly, after the death of a loved one. when we are most likely to question the wisdom and presence of God, the Mourner’s Kaddish reaffirms our faith in God and confirms God’s supremacy over man. It forces us to remember that we cannot question our faith in God, even though we have lost so much through the death of a loved one.

Secondly, the Mourner’s Kaddish is uniformly recited at the end of the funeral service. It signifies the beginning of life without those that have been just laid to rest. The Mourner’s Kaddish represents a finality to the funeral service and the time when we must accept the death of our relatives and friends. For the rest of our lives, when we recite the Kaddish we have no choice but to remember those that we have laid to rest. The Mourner’s Kaddish is a primary weapon in the war against forgetting.

Thirdly, the Mourner’s Kaddish provides a routine and familiar prayer that unifies all Jews, regardless of denomination or location. Where ever I am in the world, I know that the Mourner’s Kaddish will be spoken in Synagogue.

The Mourner’s Kaddish serves an essential function in Jewish life and helps keeps hope and faith alive, even in the face of great loss.

The text and translation of the Mourner’s Kaddish.

Yit’gadal v’yit’kadash sh’mei raba (Cong: Amein).
May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified (Cong: Amen.)

b’al’ma di v’ra khir’utei
in the world that He created as He willed.

v’yam’likh mal’khutei b’chayeikhon uv’yomeikhon
May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days,

uv’chayei d’khol beit yis’ra’eil
and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel,

ba’agala uviz’man kariv v’im’ru:
swiftly and soon. Now say:

(Mourners and Congregation:)

Amein. Y’hei sh’mei raba m’varakh l’alam ul’al’mei al’maya
(Amen. May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.)

Yit’barakh v’yish’tabach v’yit’pa’ar v’yit’romam v’yit’nasei
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled,

v’yit’hadar v’yit’aleh v’yit’halal sh’mei d’kud’sha
mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One

(Mourners and Congregation:)

 B’rikh hu.
Blessed is He.

l’eila min kol bir’khata v’shirata
beyond any blessing and song,

toosh’b’chatah v’nechematah, da’ameeran b’al’mah, v’eemru:
praise and consolation that are uttered in the world. Now say:

(Mourners and Congregation:)


Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya
May there be abundant peace from Heaven

v’chayim aleinu v’al kol yis’ra’eil v’im’ru
and life upon us and upon all Israel. Now say:

(Mourners and Congregation:)


Oseh shalom bim’romav hu ya’aseh shalom
He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace,

aleinu v’al kol Yis’ra’eil v’im’ru
upon us and upon all Israel. Now say:

(Mourners and Congregation:)


Mark Sunshine

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