My Neighbor’s Prayer

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster

My Neighbor’s Prayer: The Vocabulary of Blessing as Common Bond
How do we grieve? What words rise up? How do we pray on the cusp of such intense loss? We have been wondering for centuries, millennia. We have been wondering—what do we do with our hands? With our voices? With our longings? With our urge to move or not move? With our not-knowing what to expect or feel in such a wide expanse?

The Jewish faith has found a way, a practice, a word to speak aloud at this impossible boundary. It is called the Mourner’s Kaddish, a hymn and prayer to God, asking for blessing and power, a reliable, unfailing divine presence. For eleven months after the death of a loved one—especially a close family member—when this prayer is recited in the synagogue, the mourner will stand with all the others who mourn and pray the words below.

Similar to the Lord’s Prayer it is prayed often, always in weekly worship and in many instances daily, especially in the first thirty days. But unlike the Lord’s Prayer, the one praying only prays the Mourner’s Kaddish in a time of grief—daily at first, then in worship through those first hard eleven months, and then yearly on the anniversary of a loved one’s death. The prayer is learned by heart simply due to exposure to its repetition, and yet only spoken aloud when grief comes to your doorstep, when grief is yours to bear. The texture of the words in Hebrew knit people together across generations and offer some routine semblance of solid ground (or maybe a river of love) through which to commune with the one who has died, connect with the divine, and bodily engage with grief—together in community.

My Neighbor’s Prayer
Exalted and hallowed be
God’s great name in the world
which God created, according to plan.

May God’s majesty be revealed
in the days of our lifetime and the life of all Israel
—speedily, imminently, to which we say Amen.

Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity.

Blessed, praised, honored, exalted,
extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded
be the name of the Holy Blessed One,
beyond all earthly words and songs
of blessing, praise, and comfort.
To which we say Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven,
and life, for us and all Israel.
To which we say Amen.

May the One who creates harmony on high,
bring peace to us and to all Israel.
To which we say Amen.

The Mourner’s Kaddish

January 19, 2022

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