Kaddish Initiates Aveilut

After burial Jewish law requires the mourner to turn from despair in the face of death to the affirmation of life.

Print this page Print this page

From Despair to the Affirmation of Life

While before burial, in the stage of aninut,man mourned in total darkness and confusion, and his grief expressed itself in an act of resignation from his greatness and chosenness, after burial, in stage two, man mourns in an enlightened mood, and his grief asserts itself in the awareness of human greatness and human election.

The ceremonial turning point at which aninut is trans­formed into aveilut, despair into intelligent sadness, and self­-negation into self-affirmation, is to be found in the recital of Kaddish at the grave.

The Kaddish marks the beginning of a new phase of courageous and heroic mourning to which the message of sal­vation is addressed. What is the relationship between the proc­lamation of the solemn doxology [that is, the Kaddish, a liturgical expression of praise to God] and burial? Through the Kaddish we hurl defiance at death and its fiendish conspiracy against man.

When the mourner recites: "Glorified and sanc­tified be the great name…" he declares: No matter how pow­erful death is, notwithstanding the ugly end of man, however terrifying the grave is, however nonsensical and absurd every­thing appears, no matter how black one's despair is and how nauseating an affair life is, we declare and profess publicly and solemnly that we are not giving up, that we are not surrender­ing, that we will carry on the work of our ancestors as though nothing has happened, that we will not be satisfied with less than the full realization of the ultimate goal--the establish­ment of God's kingdom, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal life for man.



Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik was one of the most important Orthodox thinkers of the 20th century. He delivered an annual lecture on repentance that was a highly anticipated event for Modern Orthodox Jews in America.