The Last Kaddish

by Robert J. Avrech (Los Angeles, CA)

The Kaddish has been called an echo of The Book of Job. Job said: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him.”

The Kaddish is an expression of faith on the part of the mourner that although he is grief-stricken, he still believes in God, still trusts in the meaning of life. It is the ultimate anti-existentialist statement.

Karen and I will mourn forever. We are riven as day follows night. Our son will always be dead, and a central portion of our lives died with him.

This Shabbos I recite the last Kaddish of the eleven months for Ariel.

I stand in shul, eyes closed, swaying back and forth, chanting the words with—I hope—perfect diction and true feeling. I want the b’racha to go on forever. I want to stretch the words like a giant rubber band and make them reach from earth to heaven.

There are at least another dozen mourners in shul, all with much louder voices than mine, but I hear only one sound. Is this my voice? I see Ariel as he used to be: sitting in shul beside me. Is this my voice? I study the delicate contours of his face. I melt as Ariel’s lips move, savoring each syllable, whispering the sacred Hebrew text. Is this me? I study his long tapering fingers as they turn the pages of the siddur. I lean over and bury my lips in the plush groove of his neck. It is my voice. I am close to the end. It is my son.

I take three steps back and three steps forward. I finish the Kaddish. I open my eyes and discover a dozen men in shul gazing at me. Some have tears in their eyes. Several nod, tacitly acknowledging the finality of the moment. I open my eyes and I see light. I open my eyes and I am swimming through layers of memory. I open my eyes and I see splendor. I open my eyes and I see my son, my son, Ariel.

Robert J. Avrech is a screenwriter and producer in Los Angeles. Among his best-known films is the thriller, Body Double, directed by Brian DePalma. His script for the modern Hasidic tale, A Stranger Among Us, directed by Sidney Lumet, was an official selection of the Cannes film festival. Robert won the Emmy award for his adaptation of the young adult classic, The Devil’s Arithmetic, starring Kirsten Dunst and Brittany Murphy. Robert was also nominated for The Humanitas Award for Within These Walls, starring Ellen Burstyn and Laura Dern. Robert writes an award winning blog, Seraphic Secret http://www.seraphicpress.com/. He also writes a regular column for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/author/ravrech/.

This piece is reprinted here with permission of the author. It first appeared in 2004 on his blog, Seraphic Secret.

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1 Comment

Filed under American Jewry

One response to “The Last Kaddish

  1. Mali Schantz-Feld

    This writing touched my heart, with its vivid description and deep feelings. It perfectly depicts the awe, anguish and flurry of emotions involved with the last Kaddish. Very inspiring.

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