Friday, September 28, 2012

Kaddish and Yom Kippur

From my experience, when you are saying kaddish, all your synagogue experiences revolve around that basic fact. But Yom Kippur was different. As usual, I made sure I got to shul when davening had just begun even though it meant I knew I was in for a long day in shul. I had to make sure I was there in time to say the kaddishes that appear at the beginning of the morning service. And before I knew it, the kaddishes came. And came. Kaddish after kaddish. A Mourner's Kaddish after the Psalm of the Day which normally is recited at the end rather than the beginning of the prayer service. Then another Mourner's Kaddish after L'david (Psalm 27), which is added between Rosh Hashana and the end of Sukkot. Then a Kaddish D'rabbanan after Rabbi Ishamel Omer. Then another Mourner's Kaddish after Psalm 30.

But then--not another kaddish for the rest of the day. I never knew before, or wasn't aware, that other than these kaddishes, the Yom Kippur service contains not a single Mourner's Kaddish. Musaf ends abruptly after the repetition of the Amidah. Mincha and Neilah, the additional service for Yom Kippur, end with Avinu Malkaynu.

So why the absence of kaddishes on Yom Kippur? The technical reason I supposed is that Aleinu is not recited at any service and kaddish always follows Aleinu. (But why isn't Aleinu recited?) Perhaps there is a deeper reason that relates to the spirit of the day. We don't want to publicly declare individual losses when the focus is on the community's confessions of guilt. Maybe kaddishes would interfere with the aim of purification from sin through which we hope to gain a fresh perspective on our lives. Maybe we need to set kaddish aside as we are trying to renew our relationship with God. Perhaps we are, through fasting, not washing, putting aside our physical urges and wearing white garments, already too close to confronting our own mortality.

I didn't miss not saying kaddish. I considered it a preview of the time, in less than two weeks, when my kaddish saying days for my mother will be over. I prayed for life and a good year for myself and my family. Yet I so much wish that these prayers could have included my mother.

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