Standing for certain prayers and sitting for others is a matter of custom that varies according to each congregation. For example, it is customary at Temple Beth Torah to stand for the Shema. However, in Conservative and Orthodox synagogues the Shema is recited while seated.
At our Reform congregation, it is also customary that everyone rises when we recite the Mourner’s Kaddish. However, for the last month I have initiated a variation in our practice prior to our recitation of Kaddish.
I became acquainted with this variation when I attended the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis conference in January. At every service, the Mourner’s Kaddish was said. However, rather than everyone rising at once, the service leader invited those present who were reciting Kaddish to first rise and to say their loved one’s name. At that time, I was saying Kaddish both for my mother and for my father. I found it moving to be able to remember them by name; to stand for a moment in singular recognition of my loss, and then be joined by others who themselves were mourning the death of a loved one. It also was comforting to be joined by the entire community as everyone rose to offer words of praise to God.
I found what we did at the PARR conference meaningful and I have adapted this practice for our congregation. Following our prayer of Aleinu, I invite the congregation to be seated (we use to remain standing leading into the recitation of the Kaddish). After I offer a meditative reading, I then say, “When your loved one’s name is read, please rise.” I read the names of those who have died this past week, followed by those who have been called to their eternal rest in recent weeks. Then I read the names of loved ones who have died in years past.As each yahrzeit is read, family members stand. I conclude by inviting the entire congregation to rise in remembrance. Then, together as a community, we join in the Mourner’s Kaddish.
I am grateful that as a Reform congregation, we always have the opportunity in our worship to increase our connectivity to one another and to God. Even modest variations in our communal practice can open us to experience an enhanced awareness of the Divine.