[As a disclaimer, I’m a simple goy (not a typo) and not completely up to speed on modern Judaism, though I support the Israeli settlers and look gleefully forward to the grafting in of many natural branches. So, don’t hate on me if my take on the Kaddish is different from current Rabbinical teachings. For starters, I believe in Yeshua as the promised Messiach, so the Rabbis would hate anything I did anyway.]
I was asked recently where the Kaddish Lem’chael came from. To explain that, I have to explain in my limited understanding what it means to say Kaddish.
Kaddish is a mourner’s prayer, but it is as awesome and godly as any good funeral sermon. To say Kaddish is to speak the praises of God in the moments of the most profound loss and heartache.
Why? Is it that our grief does not matter? Is it that we are heartless to our loss? It is rather that our hearts are weak and faulty, but God’s greatness continues. Our strength flags and fails, and God’s wonder shines new every morning. Our most beloved people are torn from our lives by the wages of sin, be that severed relationships, imprisonment, disease, distance, or just the sinful momentum that drags our hearts farther apart every day we spend on this earth. Ultimately, though, with very few exceptions, everyone we love will die, or we will die on our loved ones.
And then there is Kaddish. Kaddish turns our focus from the loss that causes our hurt to the Good Shepherd who finds and seeks the lost. The prayer is as true in the days when we feel our hearts must surely burn their way free of our chests in grief as they are on the days when our hearts must burst from our ribs in joy. As a good hymn is better than a selfish praise and worship song, because emotions change and a hymn focused on the person of God concentrates on what never changes, Kaddish brings the comfort that this loss, though in the moment that it may seem to overwhelm us, has not and never will touch the power, glory, mercy, and love of the God who knit us in our mother’s womb, who holds us in his everlasting arms, who is with us to the end of the age, who fills us with His Spirit, who prepares a place for us in the day to come, so that we can live forever with him where there will be neither crying, weeping, suffering, or loss.
That is what it means to me to say Kaddish.
I wrote Kaddish Lem’chael for the deepest, most persistent pain and loss I know in my life. I won’t go into too much detail. When I was in my darkest hour someone loved me so radically, reflected Christ’s love so deeply into my life that it changed me in an instant, for the rest of my life. Take into account that this was the person with the most reason in the world to hate me, throw in a little bit of Jesus’ teaching that “he who is forgiven little loves little” and I had been forgiven everything.
Then I lost it. The thing that changed my life went away. It’s footprint is in every day that I wake up a monk and not a messy sinner inside. As its footprint, so too is the pain of its loss.
So on a day when the loss seemed like it would destroy my heart from the inside out, I remembered Kaddish. I wrote about the Glory of God until God gave me peace. Then I stopped writing.
I turn to that Kaddish when that loss, that reaches past all of my defenses to the place where wounds know no time, to reach past the pain of my sinful human life to the peace of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is a personal Kaddish for a personal loss.
And now you know.
Praise God that, though we are all sinners who surely deserve death and hell, he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die for us, his enemies, so that for the sake of his love and joy he might pay our price and live with us forever.
Our sins put Jesus to death on the cross. But the Gospel is the unending pursuit of the Offender by the Victim for the sake of fellowship, love, and undeserved joy. Praise be to God. Amen.