A Different Take on the Kaddish/Yizkor Issue by Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs
[Ed. Note: A further followup on the issue of Kaddish and Yizkor in difficult situations. — JB]
I agree wholeheartedly with Karen’s (Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan, Disenfranchised Grief at Yizkor, 9/27/2017, http://jewishjournal.com/blogs/expiredandinspired/224733/disenfranchised-grief-yizkor-karen-b-kaplan/) take on the prayers that are intended to engender sadness upon recalling the loss of a “loved one” – but, do the opposite. Undeserving praise is untruthful.
I would only like to bring in the possibility of using these prayers with a different slant.
Karen poses the question, and a good one at that… “the meaning of the Fifth Commandment for those who have or did have abusive parents. How can one be good to oneself, which is a mitzvah, yet honor such a parent?”
I think flipping the question is the start to the answer. “How can I honor myself when I had less than honorable parents???” So, now we need to answer that question.
It has been shown in data and surveys that certain negative behaviors of parents – witnessed by children – can often lead to children continuing that behavior. To honor oneself, one would have to make a concerted effort to knowingly and willingly and purposefully separate THEMselves from THEM (the bad influences).
During these moments of prayer we can give thanks that WE are NOT them. We can review the past with sadness, but hopefully also see the present and how far we have come in spite of their actions. That we have overcome, that we are stronger for it, as we ARE standing here, and we are no longer broken. For those of us who are not yet completely healed – Baruch Hashem – there is tomorrow.
In bad times, we need to build ourselves up,.even when others try to knock us down. Remaining strong is the biggest pushback to their attempts to keep us weak.
These prayerful moments afford us the opportunity to give the royal finger, saying, “I am a survivor of your actions. I am here, I am relatively happy, and I will move forward. MY horrible memories can be countered by my successes.” There is no law preventing anyone to change the words of the prayer to fit the occasion (minhag – maybe – but not law). Reinvent the prayer to say what is in your heart. HHMMM, truthfulness on Yom Kippur?
So with every Kaddish/Yizkor moment, those of us who might find love and loss difficult concepts recalling their various and sundry relationships, we might take it as our personal time to:
1) SMILE as we free ourselves to say the truth,
2) BE PROUD that we are not them
3) STAND UP TALL, SHOULDERS BACK – for what we have accomplished IN SPITE of them!!!!
4) THANK HASHEM THAT WE ARE HERE and have become the fabulous persons that we are – on our own – with little or no help from them, and likely no support!!
5) PRAY WITH GRATITUDE AND JOY that we have this opportunity to dilute a toxic relationship and call it out for what it really was.
6) MAY WE NOT DWELL on the past negative and rejoice in our current positive? May we have the strength to look back and acknowledge the pain…but also have the strength to move forward in gladness.
HERE’S TO OUR CONTINUED SUCCESSES!!! AMEN!
[Ed. Note: Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs wrote an earlier entry for this blog that was somewhat related. Here is the link to it:. http://jewishjournal.com/news/los_angeles/seniors/185031/zachor-prayer-unacknowledged-mourners-rabbi-laurie-dinnerstein-kurs/ — JB]
Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs hails from Brooklyn, currently living in NJ. Having originally learned about Taharah as a yeshiva student, I knew I would participate as soon as the opportunity presented itself. I have participated in doing Taharah for almost 30 years. I am currently the ROSHA of our chevrah. When not doing Taharah, I taught school – up until I retired and went back to school and became a chaplain. I held the Federation position of County (Mercer) Chaplain for 15 years. My two children have blessed us with grandchildren.
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LOOKING FORWARD: UPCOMING COURSE
The Gamliel Institute will be offering course 5, Chevrah Kadisha: Ritual, Liturgy, & Practice (Other than Taharah & Shmirah), online, afternoons/evenings, in the Winter semester, starting January 2nd, 2018. This is the core course focusing on ritual, liturgy, practical matters, how-to, and what it means (for everything other than Taharah and Shmirah, which are covered in course 2).
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