Tattooed Jew

Tattooed Jew


Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba.

Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name.


This is the beginning of the Mourner’s Kaddish, one of the most beautiful and moving prayers I have ever found.

It is a prayer said in memory of those we have lost. It is a prayer more of of America should be paying attention to.

In the midst of death and sorrow, Judaism turns to a prayer that never mentions death. It never mentions anger or rage or revenge. It never mentions judgment. It mentions peace. It mentions life. It mentions the praising of God for what has been given to the children of Israel and to all the world.

Every year I think of the Kaddish often as 9-11 approaches. I wonder who, if anyone, is saying the Kaddish for the Iraqi soldiers or the al-Qaeda. I wonder who is saying the Kaddish for Osama bin Laden. I wonder if anyone remembers a story about him where he gave a child a toy, where he was kind to a woman on the street, where he drew a beautiful picture that brought joy into the world.


We, as a collective people, have vilified Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to the point where we can forget that they are people. They have, for many, become faces so evil that there is no humanity left. We forget that they too worshiped and prayed. We forget that they strove towards God in the best ways they knew how.

I am ashamed.

Our national grief has made us monsters incapable of forgiveness. It has turned us away from the glory and joy of acknowledging God that is found in the Kaddish and towards hate and vengeance. We are festering, rotting – being eaten alive by fear, distust, and anger that lives in the collective American heart.

What happened to forgiveness? What happened to turning the other cheek? Our sins do not go with us unto death. God is better than that. We have defended. We have attacked. Now, it is time to find God within ourselves and heal. We must forgive. We must be willing to love enough to pray for forgiveness for our enemies.


We have an opportunity to show the world that we are better than they think we are. We have a chance, this 9-11, to talk of peace and forgiveness, instead of celebrating the ‘victory’ of Osama’s death.

I will wake up that morning and say morning prayers. I will finish the traditional ones with the Mourner’s Kaddish, as I always do. But I will not end there. I will pray for the soul of Osama, for the souls of every al-Qaeda member, for every innocent victim of every attack. And I will pray for the souls of all Americans, that we might find healing and forgiveness in our hearts, that we may heal from the rot that has taken over our souls. And I will pray with the words of one of the great prophets, as Muhammad taught us to pray:


“O God, forgive our living and our dead, those who are present among us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our males and our females. O God, whoever You keep alive, keep him alive in Islam, and whoever You cause to die, cause him to die with faith.O God, do not deprive us of the reward and do not cause us to go astray after this. O God, forgive him and have mercy on him, keep him safe and sound and forgive him, honour his rest and ease his entrance; wash him with water and snow and hail, and cleanse him of sin as a white garment is cleansed of dirt. O God, give him a home better than his home and a family better than his family. O God, admit him to Paradise and protect him from the torment of the grave and the torment of Hell-fire; make his grave spacious and fill it with light.”


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