Each morning and each evening, the people of the shul’s daily minyan gather for prayer.
It isn’t exciting.
The melodies aren’t particularly uplifting.
Sometimes there is a word of learning, but no sermon.
And at the end of the service, most of the minyan rises to recite Kaddish,
in memory of a loved one recently departed
recalled at this Yahrtzeit.
It isn’t exciting.
in its own way,
It is profoundly moving and deeply spiritual.
Spirituality today means
emotional experiences of ecstasy and wonder,
revealing the Presence of G-D in stirring song, powerful words, and the uplift of a responsive community.
These are true and significant experiences.
But there are other kinds of spirituality.
The spiritual genius of the minyan is located in a deep experience of the steady, regular unchanging rhythms of life.
This is a spirituality of constancy and continuity.
It is unexciting and unremarkable!
supportive context where
the bereaved and the broken are lovingly mentored back into life.
Euphoric spirituality is like
filling the soul with a burst of light and heat,
but soon disapear,
The minyan’s spirituality indicates quiet fidelity and devotion.
The most powerful expression of the minyan’s spirituality, and the center of its rite, is the recitation of Kaddish.
The Kaddish is not about death.
It contains no mention of death.
It provides a context in which death can be met and overcome.
Kaddish is a reaffirmation of faith in G-D, the creator and redeemer.
For the one shaken by death, the Kaddish provides a way back to
In his moving book,
Living a Year of Kaddish,
Ari Goldman describes the power of Kaddish as an expression of continuity:
“To me, the hardest thing about dying must be the not knowing the end of the story.
My mother and father left this world while their grandchildren were small. Maybe kaddish in itself is a kind of afterlife.
The one thing my parents know with reasonable certainty was that we, their sons, would be saying Kaddish for them.
They would be gone someday, but their Kaddish would live on.
I like to think of it as more than a prayer.
I think of Kaddish as a portal for the dead to connect to life.”
This unique spirituality is born in this week’s Torah portion.
" G-D said to Moses: Speak unto the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them:
" Each of you shall not contaminate himself to a dead person among his people, except to the relative who is closest to him, to his Mother and to his Father, to his Son and to his Daughter, and to the Brother...." (Lev 21:1-2)
The portion opens with this severe restriction on the service of the priests. It concludes with a detailed description of the priests’ responsibilities at each of the yearly festivals and holiday.
Confronting death brings tumultuous emotions,
rage and bitterness.
Just as the Kaddish does not mention death, priests did not attend funerals.
For the priest represents the pathway from death back to life,
he holds open the door from darkness back to light,
from despair back to hope.