Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Watch your speed

What bothers me most about the technical aspect of saying kaddish is when various mourners recite kaddish at different rates of speed.  The shul then is turned into a cacophony of indistinguishable sounds, with those responding to the kaddish trying to pay attention to one particular mourner to recite the "yehay shmai rabba" and "amens" at the right points.  When this happens, kaddish becomes an unfulfilling, sometimes even upsetting, experience.  You don't know whether to speed up, slow down, or just keep on plowing through at your own speed.  If possible, I try to recite kaddish at the same pace as other mourners so that, as a group, we end each paragraph at about the same time.  I want to enhance, or at least not interfere, with the experience of other mourners.

To avoid the cacophony, the Rabbi will also recite kaddish, the unspoken signal being that all mourners are to follow his lead.  But this doesn't always help.  Sometimes the number of mourners simply drown out his voice.  I've also been in shul where the Rabbi and other mourners went so slowly that I became agitated.  I continued at my own pace and then waited for them to catch up.

Equally annoying is when other mourners go too fast and I am left "hanging out to dry." The congregation is left to wonder why someone is still reciting kaddish when everyone else has finished. 

In the laws of saying kaddish in the Artscroll Siddur, it says that only one mourner need say kaddish; however, as not to embarrass other mourners, the custom has arisen for all mourners to recite it.  Nevertheless, the idea seems to be that, in reciting kaddish, the mourners should be as one voice.  The experience of a group coming together in the kaddish brings honor to the congregation, themselves and to those for whom they are saying kaddish.

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