I had the unfortunate occasion to be present for many family recitations of the mourner’s Kaddish when I was a child. After my grandparents died, my mom and dad always went to shul for their yahrzeits. When my mother’s father passed away, I attended synagogue with her for a full year. When Kaddish time came, I remained seated when the name of my loved one was called, and it wasn’t only because I wasn’t of age. I can feel mother’s hand on my shoulder, making sure that I was staying seated. She explained to me that we sit as long as our own parents are living. I was glad to be sitting, and hoped to remain so forever!
As I grew up, the customs began to change. People stood “in solidarity with the mourners in our community” or “in memory of all those who have no one to remember them,” or “for the six million who perished in the holocaust.” How could I not stand for those? Yet, it felt wrong. A whole room full of people standing for every Kaddish meant that we are a community perpetually in mourning. And perhaps we are. But doesn’t it still take away from the person for whom mourning is a fresh and very raw experience. Should not their moment of Kaddish stand alone? Shouldn’t it be different than how they stood in all those previous weeks?
Some people tell me that they do not want to stand alone. There are solutions to this problem. Some communities have the mourners rise first when the name is read. Afterwards, the whole community stand alongside them. The mourners then recite the words of Kaddish surrounded by their community.
I am attending the annual conference of my professional organization, the American Conference of Cantors (www.accantors.org). I take this opportunity, when I am not standing at a pulpit, to remain seated during the Mourner’s Kaddish. As I sit in a room full of people standing, i feel so grateful. I am not ready to stand for the Kaddish. I will NEVER be ready. I sit alone and thank G-d for it!