Image of text of the Kaddish prayerIs it time to recite Kaddish?

Is it time to recite Kaddish?

The prayer known as Kaddish has several forms, but the one most familiar to Jews is referred to as the Mourner’s Kaddish, recited when a loved one dies and, subsequently, on the yahrzeit–the anniversary–of that loved one’s death. The prayer itself makes no mention of death, loss or mourning. It is, in fact, an extended paean to God’s greatness. Here is a translation of the Mourner’s Kaddish:

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world that God has created according to God’s will. May [God’s sovereignty] be established in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, “Amen”.

May God’s great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be God, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, “Amen”.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us, for all Israel [and for all the world’s inhabitants]; and say, Amen.

[May God], who creates peace in His celestial heights, create peace for, for all Israel; and [all the world’s inhabitants] and say, “Amen”.

The power of this prayers lies not so much in its text as in its mantra-like sound and rhythms when it is recited in its traditional Hebrew/Aramaic formulation.

So I return to my question: “Is it time to recite Kaddish….for all that we have lost, or had taken from us, over the course of the pandemic-to-date?”

Tragically, too many people have had reason to recite Kaddish for loved ones whose lives were claimed by COVID-19 disease. But all of us have experienced COVID-induced loss over the past two years….lost jobs, lost opportunities for career development, lost connections with family and friends, lost opportunities to safely pursue passions and avocations that, heretofore, filled our lives with purpose and meaning.

With each new viral-variant claiming a successive letter in the Greek alphabet, I find it increasingly hard to imagine a future that looks convincingly like the past that I recall circa 2019. COVID disease may well become endemic throughout the globe, face-masks may well become a permanent part of our wardrobes and COVID-boosters as frequent as the flu-vaccinations we have long grown accustomed to taking.

So is it time to recite Kaddish for the pre-COVID life we knew and for which we still yearn?

Insofar as the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish serves as spiritual tool to accept loss and the grief it engenders, perhaps it has comfort to offer us as we contemplate a hazy future. But, should we avail ourselves of this prayer in response to the pandemic’s depredations, I would urge all of us to focus on this particular segment of that prayer:

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us, for all Israel [and for all the world’s inhabitants]; and say, Amen.

So stay safe, stay masked, stay vigilant!

Reb Elias