Kaddish, Women’s Voices pulls at the heart strings. At times painful, at times funny, and always spiritually rich, it presents the views of many Jewish women on this essential Jewish practice for honoring the passing of our loved ones. Traditionally, the Kaddish Yatom, the Kaddish said for the dead, is read at every Jewish service in which there is a “minyan” or prayer assembly of at least ten men. Following the death of parents, we are commanded to say the Kaddish for a full year as we believe it encourages the soul to rise higher and higher on its heavenly course. It says nothing about death, but praises the source of all life. The traditional teaching requires us to say Kaddish for our parents, for whom the longest period to recite the Kaddish is prescribed. This assumes that because parents have had a decisive role in shaping our lives, we must mourn for a full year. For children, however, we are required to recite the Kaddish for only one month.Of course, there are other rituals for honoring the dead that mark the first week, the first month, the first year,and then the memory of our loved one each passing year at the time of “Yahrzeit” or yearly commemoration of the passing as it is marked on the Jewish calendar. More liberal Jews have added the practice of reciting the Kaddish for the deaths of others and to honor those lost in the Holocaust who have no one to say Kaddish for them.
While in Orthodox Jewish practice, women are “relieved” of this commandment or “mitzvah” (good deed), as they are not burdened by any time-bound “mitzvoth,” Kaddish, Women’s Voices presents what we might call the “other side” of the performance of this “mitzvah.” By other side, I mean at least two different things. First, we recite the Kaddish not only to honor the dead, but to help ourselves heal from the loss. We ritualize our response to death and we do so in community. Among Conservative, Reform, Renewal or Reconstructionist Jews, a community of ten may be made up of women and/or of men, and Kaddish is recited by all concerned regardless of gender. In these congregations, women do perform time-bound holy deeds. Second, as this book shows us so eloquently, women benefit tremendously from being able to participate in this age-old practice. In this book, we meet many women from all branches of Judaism talking about the meaningfulness of this prayer. We read their testimonials and witness the power of this prayer in their lives, in their mourning, and in the healing of the wounds of their losses. Some women speak of parents, some of children. All of them reach deeply into their own hearts and ours. Read the rest of this entry »