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Off the cuff: Kaddish

Now some of my faithful readers might think an off the cuff Dose of the Good (and Not So Good) Words about Kaddish lacks a necessary sense of gravity. But the truth of the matter is that some things are so awe-ful that even dump truck load of words cannot capture them.

Death by suicide is one of those awful things that words cannot capture.

You throw out the words in a game similar to 52 card pick up. The words falter and fail and fall. You get down on your hands and knees, searching, praying for some meaning. Sometimes the only meaning to be found is that this game is for keeps, and you lose again and again and again. You are at a loss for words. You thought you knew which game you were playing, but the rules shift as you play. You have no choice, you must play the hand dealt. You pick up the cards and hand them back to the dealer. It may be a long while before the cards come back into play. You can be sure that sooner or later you will be dealt another hand of “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

And once again your words will falter and fail and fall.

And once more you will get down on your hands and knees, searching, praying for meaning.

And once more you find that this game is for keeps.

And once more you lose again and again and again.

And once more you are at a loss for words.

And once more you thought you knew the game.

And once more the rules change.

And once more you have no choice, you must play this hand.

And once more you pick up the cards and hand them to the dealer.

And once more you wait for the next round of “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

I will leave explanations of what it means to say Kaddish to those more qualified. It is enough to know that it is a ritual of words to say when words fail. Today an email dealt me back into the game of grief. This particular multi-round game started last October when a loved one shot and killed himself. Not having a minyan handy (and technicalities like not being Jewish), meant saying Kaddish was not an option. I turned to Sumi Jo’s rendition of Maurice Ravel’s Kaddish, the first song of his Deux melodies hebraiques. While not strictly the Mourners’ Kaddish, it carries enough of its phrases that it served my needs.

l’ella min kol birkhata

I wept.

v’shirata tushb’chata v’nechemata

I pick up the cards. I hand them back to the dealer.

da’amiran b’al’ma

I wait for the next hand of “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

v’imru amen

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