Magazine article Midstream

The Last Kaddish

Magazine article Midstream

The Last Kaddish

Article excerpt

to my nephew Carl

("For [David Klinghoffer], true Judaism must be rooted in knowing Torah, observing the commandments and believing above all that they come from God. The truth is that for many Jews living in America more freely and more openly than Jews have ever lived in the Diaspora before, Judaism has become an amalgam of things not necessarily dependent on a belief in God. Judaism is a historical attachment; it is a set of values, a music and a poetry, a collection of fables and commentaries that make up a magnificently rich literature on virtually every human situation. Not least, Jewish attachment is an unwillingness to forsake an identity for which ancestors were persecuted and murdered. For many Jews today, observance of rituals and holidays is less a matter of divine commandment than it is an act of association, something that gives form to their sense of belonging to a people and to a history."--from "A Secular Jew Feeds a Hunger on a Spiritual Journey," a book review by Richard Bernstein of The Lord Will Gather Me In by David Klinghoffer [Free Press] in The New York Times, Wednesday, December 16, 1998, "The Arts" section, p. E10)

"When Dad couldn't make it to the synagogue, he would call me beforehand, and I would seek out a temple in town and say the Kaddish in his stead. I did it about a dozen times in the year after Mom's passing. I did it for him. It meant a lot to him. It meant nothing to me. The words don't even speak of Mom or of any other person dying. They just run on and on with praise and glorification of God, and that's not my bag. They sound pretty good, all that Aramaic, not even Hebrew, long words purling on the tongue. Poetry, I suppose. I have them memorized by now. But they leave me cold.

"In the synagogue I attended, I met a bunch of real characters, from middle-aged socialists to conservative old men, but they were fairly nice to me. …

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