Friday, September 14, 2012

Macho kaddish

The duality of kaddish is this: it is at once a very personal prayer and yet it can only be recited in a minyan (quorum). You are reciting it for your personal loss, yet except for the kaddishes at the shiva (first week after burial), you are reciting it in a public space, generally a synagogue. By saying kaddish, you are connecting yourself to your deceased and yet you are reciting kaddish along with other mourners.

It is these dualities which make people more sensitive when it comes to kaddish. I've seldom heard anyone complain that people were not listening or were talking while they prayed (other than the rabbi), but I've more than once heard people complain that people were not being sufficiently attentive while they were reciting kaddish. (See previous posts on these topics at and

In addition to the behavior of others, another issue that affects the experience of saying kaddish is how other mourners recite kaddish. (see Some people are in the habit of reciting it very quickly, for having memorized the words long ago, they spill off the tongue like a waterfall. If other mourner's can't keep up, they lag behind, resulting in a cacophony of voices and out-of-sync "amen" responses by the congregation. Ideally, all mourners should recite kaddish together at the same pace so that the congregation's amens correspond to each kaddish, everyone finishes at the same time and all feel that their own kaddish is equally valued by the congregation.

Lately an issue has arisen for me because a recent mourner has an extremely forceful voice and tends to recite kaddish more quickly than I do. His voice is so domineering that the congregation is unable to hear anyone else saying kaddish. All their "amen" responses seem directed toward his kaddish only. He's monopolizing the kaddish "space." And usually I cannot recite kaddish at his pace, so I finish a few seconds after him by which time the congregation has already said the last "amen." I'm forced to raise my voice for fear that my kaddish will be totally disregarded by the congregation.

Should I do anything about this? And if so, what? I only have a few more weeks of saying kaddish so I suppose I can put up with it for a little while. I would feel funny approaching this person I don't know and asking him to slow down and lower his voice. Should I speak to the rabbi about it? I'm really not sure what if anything to do.

If this had happened at the beginning of my kaddish year, it would have been a big problem. Having come this far, I'm not going to let this annoyance bother me too much. I'm already less emotionally invested in the kaddish experience than I was in the months after my mother's death. And after hundred of trips to shul and thousands of kaddishes, I own my kaddishes. No one can take away my inner connection to the words and the feelings I have when I say them.

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