essays kaddish in two-part harmony

a kaddish for hindy nobler

The funeral was so fast!  Her brother was leading people off to head for a gathering at the house, one last time.  One of the chapel people, said “Stop — we haven’t said a kaddish!”  Some of us had been waiting for a kaddish.  But he was adamant — she wouldn’t want a kaddish.  Just as her beloved, who now lay by her side forever, did not want a kaddish either.

Someone slowed the process down.  One of the attendants, I believe.  Some of us wanted at least to wait for the coffin to be lowered into the grave.  Some of us wanted to put that ritual shovelful of dirt over her coffin. Why does that help us, do you suppose?  Is it just the finality of it all?

The funeral slowed, which helped.  People spoke.  Even I spoke.

She was nice to me, I said.

She didn’t have to be nice to me.  I mean, he never was.  But maybe it was nothing personal.  She was nice to everyone. Or maybe that’s what made her so special: she was nice to everyone.  Even me.

He really loved her.  With all his might.  It tortured him that he was so rough on her.  Rough on anyone else just didn’t matter — but rough on her, he couldn’t stand it.  But he couldn’t help himself either.

She was such an optimist!  Such a sunshine person.  Only a rare critical word.  Interested in everything, everything. Reinventing herself as her skills and life cycle shifted.  This brought her to the forefront of her field.  Group psychotherapy. And as her own health began to slow her down, did she stop? No, she shifted into higher gear.

What about all those elders in nursing homes, for example.  Couldn’t they profit from group psychotherapy? New problems. A new niche for her expertise.  She was an innovator, a mediator.  She was a belly dancer.  Yes, she loved to dance.

But she didn’t want a kaddish.

And I don’t blame her.  All that religious rigamarole — I can see her right in front of me scrunching up her face at it.  She didn’t curse.  But she displayed her disapproval.

And yet, the kaddish is for the rest of us, isn’t it?

Even we who agree with her.  I-don’t-need-no-stinkin-ritual kind of people.  Those of us who disdain religion.  But this is precisely what religion is for.  And finally, Hindy — who called yourself my step-mother, at least in later years — for you, HIndy, whose only photographs in the bedroom were of my kids — for you, Hindy, who stared at those grandchildren as if they were your very own as you lay dying — for you, Hindy a kaddish.  For you, and for all the other secret moments lost to history that you’ve taken with you into the grave.  A kaddish.  For you.

By mira

Mira Z. Amiras is Professor of Comparative Religious Studies and founder of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. She is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and has served on the Executive Council of the American Anthropological Association. She is co-founder, with Ovid Jacob, of Beit Malkhut, a study group in Jewish sacred text. She's most attached to the creatures of her body and her household — first and foremost, her kids, of course: Michael and Rayna — and then the other folks large and small of various species, including Roshi and Vlad, a whole lot of hummingbirds, the old parrot who lives next door, and a beautiful garden that does what it will.

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