Many Orthodox women who have had a death in the family have found it difficult to find a synagogue that will accommodate them so that they can say KaddishThe Aramaic memorial prayer for the dead. Mourners recite this prayer at every service, every day, in the presence of a minyan (prayer quorum) over the course of a year (for a parent) or thirty days (for a sibling or offspring). The prayer actually makes no mention of the dead, but rather prays for the sanctification and magnification of God's name.. I used the following alternative after the death of a cousin for whom no immediate family members were saying Kaddish: I chose a chapter of Psalms to recite three times a day for the first 11 months, and every year on her Yahrtzeit(Yiddish) The anniversary of a death, usually marked by the lighting of a 24-hour yahrzeit candle and the recitation of Kaddish, the memorial prayer. For U.S. Jews, the unveiling of the headstone usually takes place on or around the first yahrzeit..
At the end of the morning, afternoon, and evening prayers, stand up (if other people are present, they should stand, too) and read Psalm 138 (or another reading of your choice) aloud.
At a tefillahLit. Prayer group, you or someone else might want to announce that you will now say a Psalm in memory of ____, since this ritual may not be familiar to those present.
I found this ritual helpful because:
- I could do it aloud at a women’s tefillah, quietly in a minyanThe group of ten adult Jews needed to read from the Torah and to recite some of the most important communal prayers. In Orthodox communities, a quorum of ten men is traditionally required. Today, most liberal Jewish communities count all Jewish adults as part of a minyan., or even at home when no one else was around
- It would have felt strange to say Kaddish since, barukh HashemLit. The Name, referring to the ineffable name of God; used as a substitute for any of the more sacred names of God when not speaking in prayer. Particularly used in conversation., my parents are both alive and well!
I chose Psalm 138 because I felt that it echoed some of the themes of Kaddish, and also had some phrases that I think would have helped my cousin (and all of us!). Others might find that another Psalm (or other text) is more meaningful.