Tragedy and Beauty
Thank G-d, it doesn’t happen often. When it does, silence reigns.
What am I referring to?
Children saying Kaddish, the mourners’ prayer.
There they were. Young-looking father with two boys beside him. One, about 11 or 12, trying hard to emulate his father in his prayers and pretty much succeeding. The other, younger by a year or two, standing in place and mouthing the words that he had just begun to learn. When an adult begins to say Kaddish, I notice and try to find out who died, and perhaps say a comforting word.
In this case, I didn’t quite know what to say. Clearly, the mother had passed away at a young age. While young children are not obligated in the Kaddish prayer, for some children it can help their grieving process.
Kaddish itself is a beautiful testament to Jewish wisdom. Instead of focusing on death – the immediate cause of the prayer’s recital – it focuses on life. When mourners are feeling bereft and empty, that life has no meaning, the daily recital slowly and beautifully reminds them of the goodness and G-dliness inherent in the world.
Judaism is, after all, the religion of life. The Egyptians and Tibetans had a “Book of the Dead.” Other religions focus almost exclusively on the afterlife, whether to encourage asceticism or teach young people to sacrifice their lives in order to receive Heavenly reward.
Judaism’s approach is deep and wise. Our lives here on the planet are but a drop in the ocean of the eternity that our souls will enjoy. But they are a crucial few years on the planet – our chance to improve ourselves and the world, and to appreciate (and enjoy!) the goodness despite the pain.
The world certainly has tragedy. To ignore it is inhuman.
But the world also has great beauty. To ignore that is un-Godly. When disaster strikes, our job is to help others in their moments of need, and to stay positive in our quest for self-improvement. And, when need be, to answer the Kaddish: “Yisgadal veyiskadesh shmeh Rabbah” – May His great Name be exalted and sanctified.
Doron Kornbluth is an internationally acclaimed speaker, bestselling author (of Raising Kids to LOVE Being Jewish and the soon-to-be-released Why Be Jewish?) and “Jewish Inspiration” tour guide of Israel. Spread the word about Doron’s free newsletter. Sign up at www.doronkornbluth.com. Contact Doron at firstname.lastname@example.org.