The Kaddish prayer binds the generations together. But it also strengthens community ties. The inextricable bonds created by the daily minyan community became apparent to me soon after I began reciting Kaddish for my father z"l five years ago at my synagogue, Temple Israel of Natick, Massachusetts.
Seeing the same familiar faces each day at minyan became a significant part of the healing process. Total strangers soon became friends. Newcomers and old-timers alike, we sensed the presence of God in our holy community. Our small chapel became a sacred space where we embraced, comforted and sustained each other. When members of the minyan disappeared after their period of mourning came to an end, our close-knit group felt their absence.
There is truly never closure because the memory of our dearly beloved will eternally remain with us. However, I decided it was important to acknowledge both the individual's transition from the mourner's path and the important role of the minyan community during this spiritual journey.
To do so, I created a ceremony (described below and which has evolved over the years) to mark the end of the Kaddish period. An important part of the ceremony is the presentation of a daily prayer book, engraved with the name of the deceased relative and lovingly autographed on the inside front cover by each member of the minyan.
Opens with a passage from Marcia Falk's The Book of Blessings or other appropriate invocation.
Today, as a holy minyan community we mark the last day that [name] has recited the Kaddish prayer for his/her/their beloved [insert relationship, e.g. father, mother]. By reciting Kaddish and worshipping here as a member of the community of Israel, you have performed chesed shel emet, you have bestowed honor to the memory of your beloved [insert name and relationship, e.g. father, Morris Levy], and expressed an unbroken link with Am Yisrael, and have indeed kept [his/her] spirit alive within our community.
Dear [name], we hope that our sacred community has brought you comfort and healing during this difficult time. Now, may I share with your minyan friends some words that you have shared with me about your beloved [name].
Leader now shares brief but highly personalized remarks about the deceased. Leader may relate this to the weekly Torah portion or something relevant as appropriate.
Presents the siddur.
Leader and Mourner:
(The following is the English version, for the all Hebrew version, see below.)
You sustained me on this difficult journey,
You understood my pain,
You comforted and healed me,
And helped me reaffirm my faith.
May you bestow blessing upon this sacred community, May you bring peace,
To those who join together in prayer,
To those who organize a minyan,
To all who provide comfort and healing,
And whose sacred deeds bring holiness and renewal.
Yitgadal v'yitkadash sh'mei rabbah
May we magnify and sanctify the Great Name for now and forever.
v'Ken y'hi ratzon
May it be Your will.
(For those congregations that prefer to include the above prayer in Hebrew.)
I lift up my eyes to the hills
What is the source of my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Maker of the heavens and the earth.
He will not allow you to stumble. Your Guardian will not slumber.
Indeed, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.
The Lord is your Guardian, your shelter at your side.
The sun will not smite you by day nor the moon by night.
The Lord will guard you against all evil,
He will guard you, body and soul.
The Lord will guard your going out
And your coming home, now and forever.
Used with permission by the author