Friday, December 18, 2009
Let me begin here by giving some introductory remarks.
The traditional Jewish belief is that after death, the soul of a person (the "neshama") will eventually get to "gan eden" (whatever heaven is). The process of getting there is beyond my understanding. But we are taught that the path to gan eden for the soul is not always an easy one. To help ease the path, which is said to be painful, people say a prayer called the kaddish on behalf of the departed. Technically, it takes a year to get to gan eden. And for a person that lived a good life, saying kaddish for eleven months is said to make that path less painful. (A not so good person needs 12 months of kaddish. So we say it for eleven under the assumption, or delusion, as the case may be, that the person we are saying kaddish for was a good person.)
There's more detail about it here. http://www.sichosinenglish.org/essays/58.htm
Now I have no doubt Mom's going to gan eden. And I don't know much about the tribulations of the soul on the way there. But what I do know is that Mom went through enough in her lifetime, being very sick for many years. And the thought of her suffering further for the next year is almost more than I can take. My eyes are tearing as I type this.
So it is important to me that someone says kaddish for Mom
So I plan to see to it that kaddish will be said for Mom. I will say it as much as I can and get others to say it when I can't.
There are many challenges to getting this done. That is because I believe in the traditional view that, for kaddish to work, 1) it must be said by a Jewish man; 2) it can only be said in the presence of a "minyan" (a quorum of 10 Jewish men); 3) it can mainly be said only in conjunction with daily prayers, which occur three times a day; 4) ideally, it can and should be said sixteen times a day.
For the son of the departed, this is a terribly daunting task. But I get no small measure of relief when I personally am carrying it out. (Does that mean kaddish is really for the survivors and not the departed? Who knows?)
Some people are ignorant of this issue. Some don't believe any of this mumbo jumbo or don't care whether it is true. Some people care a little but make excuses. Maybe they think they can say kaddish without a minyan of men. Or maybe they've been sold a bill of goods about kaddish. The one that gets me is "I don't have to worry about kaddish because my mom was good and she will go to heaven anyway."
That misses the point entirely. All I can say is, OK, fine, be that way.
I guess I just can't take the chance. This will be an adventure. I'll share my experiences and thoughts about this along the way.