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Thought for the Week: Interfaith

Some people see inter-faith work as detached from reality. So let me share a recent personal experience which demonstrates its importance.

My cousin David Loshak, a distinguished journalist, died recently. He was culturally if not religiously Jewish, and an atheist with a spiritual dimension. To add to these complexities, he chose – for family reasons connected with his wife – to be buried in the churchyard of the beautiful St Peter and St Paul Church at Yattendon in West Berkshire.

The local vicar – Sue – was just wonderful. With patience, skill and deep humanity she created – in consultation with David’s wife Maggi – an order of service which was utterly appropriate for those attending, and with which David would have been entirely content. Uniquely, the printed Order of Service ended “Churchyard – Committal and Kaddish.” It was my privilege to stand next to her at David’s graveside to add in Hebrew the traditional Jewish words of committal to her Anglican ones, and then to ask God’s merciful remembrance of David’s soul and say Kaddish, the traditional Jewish Memorial Prayer for the Departed.

The Kaddish does not actually mention the departed. It is, as its name implies (“Kaddish” means “holy”), a sanctification of the name of God. The implicit message is that life goes on.

The Kaddish is so old that its language is Aramaic as well as Hebrew. For Christians, it is worth reflecting that, as Aramaic was the language spoken in Palestine 2,000 years ago, this prayer would, in the words and sounds we still use, have been heard – and in all likelihood spoken – by Jesus of Nazareth.

Philip Goldenberg, member of the Jewish faith

Date: Monday 26th April 2021


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