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Last Friday was the 10th of the month of Elul. I said Kaddish.
For those who do not know, Kaddish is a prayer spoken in memory of the deceased. We say it during the required period of mourning for one of the seven key relatives (father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, spouse) and at the anniversary of the death.
There are those around my congregation who prefer I do not say it. Those seven relatives are, thankfully, alive and kicking. There is an old superstition that if you say Kaddish with no reason, God will give you a reason. I do not hold by such stupid-stition, not in the least. As well, I have heard of it leading to a damaging legal decision, where someone was told not to say Kaddish for his wife, as his parents were still alive. According to Biblical law, parents command a higher degree of respect than all other relatives. Still, superstition about what might happen to them should not prevent a person from fulfilling both an obligation and a catharsis for a spouse.
When we get to that point in the service. I usually have my cantor lead it.
What changed on Friday? In most synagogues, members will put up memorial plaques for the deceased. There is a small light next to each one that is lit up the week of the yahrtzeit (memorial). On the southern wall of my sanctuary on the memorial board, there are four consecutive plaques lit up this week. A few plaques underneath, there is a fifth.
The four lights are Mrs. Menka's family. The one lone light a few plaques down is for her late husband's entire family. The corresponding English date on all of them was August 23, 1942.
I can imagine what happened. We all can. I do not know where. I do not know how she managed to escape it. What I do know is this: I get a chill every time I look at those four plaques. I must walk past them to get to my pulpit.
Mrs. Menka is no longer able to attend services regularly. Between that and the compelling nature of such a calamitous day, I felt the need to say Kaddish.