Ever wondered why there is no mention of death in Kaddish? There isn't even a word about the soul, the Neshoma. We simply say "yitgadal Ve’yitkadash..." “Magnified and sanctified be the great name of G‑d”. Kaddish is not a memorial prayer, nor is it meant to be words of solace or comfort.

So what is it? The answer is that Kaddish is simply a testament of faith.

A loved one dies, who do we blame? The doctor, the hospital, the nursing staff, illness, smoking, bad lifestyle habits? Ultimately, after all is said and done, where does the buck stop? The answer is with G‑d.

He and He alone is the author of life and death. He and He alone decides “who will live and who will die” and when and how. So if I am going to be angry and bitter, who should I be angry with? G‑d. It’s His fault. It was all part of His vast, eternal plan.

So when a son stands at an open grave of a father or mother and says those words, Yitgadal Ve’vitkadash, "Praised and sanctified be the name of G‑d," what he is really saying is nothing less than the single most powerful statement of faith in the whole world!

It is more powerful than the "Shma," more awesome than Kol Nidrei on Yom Kipper night, more meaningful than anything the most articulate rabbi could say. Because here is someone who could be angry with G‑d and that same person turns around and publicly states, “I accept your will, G‑d. No, I am not happy, I am devastated by this loss. But in faith, I accept that You see things that I cannot see. So I am not upset with You and indeed I say, Yitgadal Ve’vitkadash, "Praised and sanctified be the name of G‑d," That is true faith!

S.Y. Agnon, the prize-winning Israeli author once wrote a beautiful piece about the Kaddish to explain why we praise G‑d at this time. Said Agnon, when a mortal king goes to war against his enemies, he hardly knows the identity of his soldiers. They go to slay and be slain. When one soldier goes down there are others to take his place. But our King, the King of Kings, the Holy One Blessed be He, is a King who loves life and peace and loves all His people. Each and every single one of us matters to Him as if it were an entire legion. When even one soldier is missing from Israel, G‑d forbid, the King’s legions are significantly diminished and thus the King’s greatness, too, has been diminished.

That is why for each and every single person in Israel we recite the Kaddish. Magnified and sanctified be His great name so that even though there has been a serious loss, we pray that there will be no decline of strength before Him. May His Holy grandeur continue to grow and His sovereignty increase and never be diminished by the loss of even one of His holy soldiers.

The great sages and mystics taught us the secret that Kaddish helps the soul. And when a son says Kaddish faithfully, it brings peace to the soul above. The soul never dies. The body is laid to rest but the soul goes On High. And why is Kaddish effective? Because when a child fulfils his moral duty, parents not only get nachat, spiritual pleasure, they get a significant part of the credit. Because they taught him, they raised him, they must have done something right.

That’s why often at prayers in the house of mourning, I will repeat the story of my zayde, my grandfather of blessed memory, Rabbi Yochonon Gordon, who had his daily morning ritual before he went to synagogue in the morning. Grandfather had a charity box and a pile of nickels and dimes and he would put in a coin for every departed member of his family. "This is for my father's soul" — clink. "This is for my mother's soul" — clank. He did an act of charity and each and every coin was designated for the souls of his loved ones. So when I was a kid observing this ritual, I thought, well I guess this is what old Jews do before they go to synagogue. But when I grew older, became a rabbi and had to find ways to bring comfort to others, I remembered this scene from my childhood. Today I tell people that I am convinced that those coins clanking in Brooklyn made a mighty noise up in heaven! Because the good deeds of children below most certainly do affect the souls of their parents above.

But it works both ways. You know, people speak of the “terrible finality of death.” But if we can still do things for them On High, then it is not as terribly final as we think. And they, too, can reciprocate.

I am also fond of telling the story of Mark Handelsman, who was a very eligible bachelor but for some reason just wasn’t finding the girl of his dreams. And in the year in which his late mom, Bella, passed away, he did find his mate.

Mark’s words in his wedding speech still ring in my ears. Mark got up at his wedding, and amongst other things said he was certain that, "Mom went up to heaven to find me this angel."

I believe it. A blessing we wish at such times is that the departed individual should be a good Advocate On High; that they put in a good word for us, up there in head office, where the important decisions are made. Now, if we can do for them and they can reciprocate for us, I would most certainly describe that as a relationship...