“Kaddish for Those Who Fell in Defence of the Land of Israel”

Online lecture in English with Jeffrey Saks

י"ז בכסלו תשפ"ד

Rabbi Jeffrey Saks

Agnon House

Our third session in Jeffrey Saks’ “War, Writing & Remembrance” series in English will focus on S.Y. Agnon’s “Introduction to the Kaddish” (access the text here; the Hebrew is found at the back of Samukh veNireh). Following a medieval tradition of an “opening” to a prayer, in which the themes of the piece of worship to be introduced are highlighted or expanded, Agnon prepared this introduction to the Mourner’s Kaddish in 1947 to be recited “for the fallen defenders of the Land of Israel.”

A king of flesh and blood who goes out to war against his enemies brings forth his force to kill and to be killed.… But our King, the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, desires life, loves peace and pursues peace, loves Israel His people and has chosen us from all the nations…. And because He loves us and we are few in number, each one of us is as important in His eyes as a whole regiment. Thus if one Jew dies (God forbid), distress falls upon the regiments of the King, and a weakening comes to the kingdom of He who is blessed, for His kingdom lacks one of its regiments and the greatness of He who is blessed is lessened.

The death of each individual causes a lessening of God’s kingdom on earth, therefore we recite the Kaddish, imploring Yitgadal ve-yitkadash shemah raba – praying that His name should be magnified on high to rectify His own diminution caused by the loss of each member of the collective below. As opposed to treatments of this theme in his works of fiction, this is Agnon’s attempt to compose liturgy (indeed, it is still ceremoniously recited at Memorial Day events throughout Israel).

Thursday, November 30 at 7:00 PM Israel (= Noon EST) on Zoom.

Cost 20 NIS per session or 70 NIS for the series.

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