Kaddish For Dummies

Kaddish For Dummies

One thing that takes some of the sting out of saying the Mourner’s Kaddish is the brotherhood you encounter at shul. No matter where I daven, people can always sense I’m a rookie, even though — if I may say so myself — I read aloud rather quickly and my pronunciation is fairly decent.

Maybe it’s the way I tend to fumble for the right page in anticipation of Kaddish or just the worried look on my face as it approaches or if I walk in late. Many is the time that helpful people will instantly hand me their book with the right page as the cue approaches.

The toughest thing about saying Kaddish in multiple Orthodox shuls is that customs differ from place to place. One of my fears is that I’ll mistakenly say the standard Kaddish instead of the longer rabbanan, or vice verssa. At the Chabad shul where I occasionally spend Shabbat morning, the customs are different, as is the inclusion of the phrase about hastening the arrival of the messiah. There are also different customs for Sephardic and Askenaz davening. There doesn’t seem to be an "Idiot’s Guide" or "Dummies" handbook, although there are plenty of tomes written on the subject.

It can be nerve-wracking because of the tendency of many Orthodox Jews to rather loudly interrupt a person who has made a mistake – whether he is reading from the Torah or davening for the congregation – with the proper pronunciation. It’s well-meaning, but often inconsiderate.

But that hasn’t happened to me yet. On one occasion, someone quietly offered a pointer about a word, and on another I was told discreetly by a rabbi to keep my feet together, as if reciting the amidah. Those who help out in such a way are doing more than saying "Get it right." They are saying "I’m here for you."

The great thing about doing a mitzvah is that it often gives other people a chance to do related mitzvot, and those who have experienced kaddish themselves and provide comfort to the newbies among us honor not only themselves and the Torah, but the relatives they mourn.

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