Baal Shem Tov, or Besht — the founder of Chasidism —
Kaddish for a Human Minyan, in gratitude to the One, for all Creation
What does the kaddish really mean? And what can I say when there's no minyan of Jewish people?
When I was in Costa Rica after my mother died, I improvised a "secular" kaddish so that I could say kaddish under circumstances where I could gather ten people but not ten Jews. I continued to work on this kaddish when I got home. It became especially important at my boy's Jewish day school, where I could often get ten parents to stay after drop-off to help me say kaddish, but not all of those parents would be Jewish. The community felt so much stronger when everyone was included, it meant so much to the non-Jewish parents, and I found that people really loved it and got a lot out of it. In the world of zoom meetings during the COVID pandemic, this kaddish is also an option for anyone who halakhically does not feel right about doing the traditionally kaddish in a virtual minyan, and I often do it at the end of my online classes where we are studying eco-Torah.
You may find it useful in three ways:
1) As a kind of prayer for Creation, in the spirit of the our hope for the time when "all creatures become united in one band" to serve God, and also as an expression of a fully biocentric theology that is humane and humble.
2) As an alternative kaddish to do at any point in synagogue where people might benefit from something recited in English. As such this could be said in place of any of the kaddishes that get said in a service. Note that there are two lines in brackets that are meant for when this Kaddish is used in place of Kaddish Shalem (Kaddish Titkabeil) or Kaddish deRabanan.
3) As a way to honor and create community within a group of people who may be both Jewish and not Jewish -- especially when a mourner can find a minyan of ten friends but not ten Jews.
Here is the text -- you can download the most current version in a PDF formatted two per sheet here.
"Kaddish for a Human Minyan"
Like the original Kaddish, this Kaddish does not name God or use the word "God". Why doesn't the Kaddish point directly at "God"? This is an important question that can have many answers. For me, it hints at the nature of God's presence, interwoven with and within every being and between every being -- this is what led me to translate the Kaddish into English in the way that I have. Our desire to point to that presence is more of a language game than a real possibility, hence the Kaddish focuses on "the Name" rather than God, while still opening to a greater vision of what that name means.
Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006