November 30, 2006

Faith & Loss

Yesterday, I received news that a friend's father had passed on. As she is Jewish, I read about their mourning practices, and I'd like to share a few things I learned.

In Judaism, life is valued very highly. There are few commandments that "outrank" the command to preserve life. Since we are descended from the one first member of the human race, from Adam, then "taking a single life is like destroying an entire world, and saving a single life is like saving an entire world." (

I'm reminded, again, of John Donne's Meditation 17, which begins with the well-known words "No man is an island, entire of itself" and reminds us that each loss diminishes humankind. Every life is one of God's creations and, if for no other reason - certainly for no greater reason, it is precious. Each time someone leaves this world for the next, we lose another "piece of the maine" - that person's being, as well as their knowledge and experience.

The Mourner's Kaddish is prayed each day for eleven months when a son has lost a parent. This prayer affirms faith in God, despite the loss, and begins:

May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified
in the world that He created as He willed
May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days,
and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel,
swiftly and soon.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It makes perfect sense that Jesus' suggested prayer would stem from Judaism. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Do we each have the strength of faith to stand after great loss and proclaim belief in our loving Father and just Judge?

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