Kadish For Who Was Killed For Israel - קדיש על הרוגי ארץ ישראל

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קדיש על הרוגי ארץ ישראל/ ש"י עגנון

Kadish for who was killed for Israel

When a king of flesh and blood goes to war against his enemies, he sends his soldiers to kill and to be killed. He may love his soldiers or he may not love them. He may have regard for them or he may not have regard for them. Even if he has regard for them, however, he regards them as dead, for the angel of death is close upon the heels of a man who goes to war, and accompanies him to kill him. When he is cut down and slain by an arrow or a sword or any of the instruments of destruction, another man is put in his place. The king does not feel that someone is missing. After all, the nations are many and their troops are many. If one of them is killed, the king has many replacements.

But our king, the King of Kings, the Holy one, Blessed Be He, wants life and loves peace and pursues peace and loves His people Israel. He chose us, and not because we are a large nation, for we are one of the smallest of nations. We are few, and owing to the love with which He loves us, each one of us is, for Him, an entire legion. He does not have many replacements for us. If one of us is missing, heaven forfend, then the king’s forces are diminished, with the consequence that His kingdom is weakened, as it were. One of His legions is gone and His greatness is lessened.

For this reason, it is our custom to recite the kaddish when a Jew dies. God’s Name will be magnified and sanctified in its power, so that there will be no loss of strength before Him...and sanctified so that we need not fear for ourselves, but only for the splendor and the pride of His Holiness.

If this is what we pray and what we say for every individual who dies, how much more shall we pray it and say it for our brothers and out sisters, the lovely and pleasant and dear children of Zion who were slain for the land of Israel, whose blood was spilled for the honor of His blessed name, for His people and His land of Israel and for His heritage! Indeed everyone who dwells in the land of Israel is one of the legions of the King of Kings, the Holy one, Blessed Be He, whom the King has appointed a watchman over His palace. When one of them is killed, He is bereft of others to put in his place.

And so my brothers in the house of Israel, all of you who mourn in this mourning, let us direct out hearts to our Father in Heaven, the King of Israel and its Redeemer, and pray for ourselves and for His, as it were: ‘Magnified and sanctified may His great Name be…”

- S. Y. Agnon, 1947. Translation by Leon Wieseltier, Kaddish (New York: Knopf, 1998)


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