I’ve been reading the Mourner’s Kaddish because of the death of my father-in-law. It's been an interesting guide to prayer in this time, and by that I mean I didn't like it. I wanted it to be more emotional than it was, I wanted it to connect to the groans of grief that we have to suffer through in this broken world of life and death. I wanted it to plea for the compassion and the empathy of God to be felt by His people as He ached alongside them for a pain they were never meant to endure. I wanted it to be a cry for mercy; a cry for momentary peace for the mourners who live on as their loved ones move beyond our world of space and time.
The Mourner's Kaddish does none of that, instead it glorifies God. It asks for salvation, peace and The Messiah, but mostly it glorifies God and His great name. The Jews are really good at this, in their prayers there are cries for mercy, but they are far outnumbered by the exaltation of God, seen in statements like the first line of the prayer - May His great name grow exalted and sanctified. Although true and good, it was not giving words to what I actually wanted to say.
Then it goes on - in the world that He created as He willed. What an interesting reminder to those who grieve. God willed this, and the pain of loss is mixed right into that concoction of will. I almost feel entitled to His comfort because of this very fact. God knew that pain would happen yet He still made us, in a sense making Him not only responsible for our redemption, but also responsible to us for the pain of His created existence. I know we made our mess, but then, He made us.
Every day I would read the Mourners Kaddish I would find myself confused and unable to connect with it. I began picking out pieces that seemed so odd to me and fixating on the confusion, contemplating instead, why we should we pray of God’s goodness now. Is this really what the mourner needs? Don’t they need comfort, to be reminded that God cares, to request peace and reprieve from the pain, to receive empathy from God, maybe even to be confused by Him if needed?
Turns out, I was Miagied, I kept doing it and then I understood what it did to me. I think we need a lot of things in grief as it is very complex, like a rubber band ball, all the emotions intertwined and weaving in and out of one another with no rhythm or pattern. But I was reminded again that these prayers guide our souls to the places we can’t find on our own. In the darkness we can’t see our way forward and as it turns out, this place of gratitude, is the very place we need to go. In moments of sorrow we want empathy, we need peace, we need comfort, and we need redemption from this fallen world. That's what I wanted to pray for, and yet in time I discovered, all those things just add up to the fact that we need a good God.
When our tendency might be to feel angry with God or confused about His will for creation, maybe that is the very time we need to claim - May His great name be blessed forever and ever. He is still good, He is still sovereign and in the middle of our pain we pray it until we believe it again and we realize it’s all the hope we ever needed anyways. It is the only thing that matters in the valley of life: that He is good. It is the only bit of real comfort and real peace we could ever find in all our searching. It is the only prayer to pray in the very deepest places of grief - Blessed is He.
I used to think this idea of blessing God in our pain was disconcerting, a very odd cultish thing to do—like it was a way to keep the mob from roaring with anger and confusion, religion silenced the truth and instead chanted God is good. Positive prayer seemed like a cop out, a way to keep people from feeling what they were really feeling, which is something like – but why God?
But now I see it. I see that we claim goodness because it’s actually the best thing for us. Praying in belief of His greatness is not a suppressive silencing mechanism, rather it gives voice the only thing that brings us peace. In the dizziness of grief it is our floor, our consistency, and if it’s true - the only thing there is to say.