It seems lately we have been reciting the “Mourner’s Kaddish” more often than in the past. This past Shabbat Leslie and I received a call early in the morning telling us that her uncle passed away Friday night. So this week has had a little more turmoil then usual and my wife and I stood and recited the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Why do we recite the Mourner’s Kaddish and what is the significance of it?
The Mourner’s Kaddish is a prayer that praises God and expresses a yearning for the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. The word Kaddish means sanctification, and the prayer is a sanctification of God’s name. The earliest version dates back to the time of the Second Temple.
Kaddish is traditionally said with a minyan—the prayer quorum of ten men. Yeshua told us that wherever 2 or more are gathered in His name, God is in our midst, which is why we don’t observe this tradition. The Mourner’s Kaddish is also recited following a psalm or prayer which has been spoken in the presence of a minyan, since the essence of the Kaddish is public sanctification.
The one who says Kaddish always stands. Whether other worshipers sit or stand depends on the congregation. It is customary for all the mourners in the congregation to recite Kaddish in unison.
Although Kaddish contains no reference to death, it has become the prayer for mourners to say. One explanation is that it is an expression of acceptance of Divine judgment and righteousness at a time when a person may easily become bitter and reject God. Kaddish is a way in which children can continue to show respect and concern for their parents even after they have died.
The opening words, yitgadal t’yitkadash, were inspired by Ezekiel 38:23. In this verse, the prophet envisions a time when God will become great in the eyes of all the nations. The response of the listeners to the first lines of the mourners is a public declaration of the belief that God is great and holy: Yehei Shmei rabba mevorakh l’olam ul’almei almaya (May His great Name be blessed forever and ever). This response is central to the Kaddish and should be said out loud.
So we say this prayer so that we do not forget that God’ is in control and He has a plan for each and everyone of us.