Loss And Legacy
In "Living Kaddish," Ari Goldman continues his
spiritual quest in a personal and poignant
account of the year following his father's death.
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he day after Ari Goldman's
50th birthday, his father
Marvin died of a heart
attack at home in
Jerusalem. Goldman, who directs the
journalism program at Columbia
University, is a modern Orthodox Jew
who distinguished himself as a religion
reporter for the New York limes.
In his affecting new memoir, Living
a Year of Kaddish (Schocken Books;
$22), Goldman juxtaposes the histori-
cal roots of Kaddish, the mourner's
prayer, with his yearlong, daily recita-
tion of the prayer as a mourner, as a
son, and as an orphan.
This ancient Aramaic poem that
praises God is one of the oldest parts
of the Jewish liturgy.
Goldman notes that more than
likely it was first said in synagogues
established just after the destruction
of the Second Temple, in 70 C.E.,
on Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the
month of Av.
Mourners sat outside and were led
in Kaddish by the leader of the con-
gregation. During the Middle Ages,
mourners sat among other worshipers
and led the prayer themselves.
By then, the connection between
Kaddish and Tisha B'Av -- an
annual day of Jewish mourning —
While Kaddish is intense and pow-
erful, it is also an all-purpose prayer
and is recited, for example, after
In the words of Rabbi Maurice
Lamm, it is "a self-contained, minia-
ture service that achieves the heights
I, too, recently said Kaddish for
my father for the required 11
months. Early on in my Kaddish
experience, a fellow mourner advised
me to think of myself as distinctly
vertical. She said that each time I
Judith Bolton Fasman is a writer
in Newton, Mass., and was the
founding editor of Jbooks.com.
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Ari Goldman:"Losing a
parent is a rite of passage for
which no one is prepared."
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stood up to say Kaddish, I was a
monument to my father.
The tradition surrounding the
Kaddish also operates on a metaphori-
cal vertical axis: Goldman cites the
Jewish view of death in which the soul
initially spends some time in hell and
from there begins its ascent to heaven
on the breath of Kaddish.
After reading Goldman's memoir,
I realized that missing from that
analogy was the horizontal dimen-
sion of saying Kaddish. Goldman
relates Rabbi- Lamrn's articulation of
the unique spiritual graph that
"The recitation of Kaddish has unit-
ed generations in a vertical chain —
from parent to child -.while the
requirement to gather in a minyan [a
group of 10 adults] for Kaddish has
united Jews on the horizontal plane."
For Goldman, author of the best-
selling The Search for God at
Harvard, these two distinct move-
ments bind the mourner to the past
and present, to a life with and then
without a loved one.
For most of the year, Goldman said
Kaddish in the early morning minyan
that gathered each day at Ramath
Orah, a small Orthodox synagogue on
New Yorks Upper West Side.
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