This past Yom Kippur, my grandmother Miriam Weinstein passed away in her sleep at the age of 97. She was an amazing woman who lived a full life and invested great efforts to instill a love of Judaism in her family and students. Since I am her closest male descendant, I have been saying Kaddish for her. After everything she did for me, it is a privilege for me to do something in return.

Kaddish is many people’s most emotional—and sometimes last—connection to Judaism. But, as with many aspects of Jewish observance, although we may feel the significance of what we are doing, it can be hard to verbalize it to ourselves or others.

After I’d been saying Kaddish for several months, it occured to me that I did not understand how the prayer related to my grandmother. With study and research I uncovered some insights that have made it more meaningful for me, and hopefully will help make the experience more meaningful to others as well.

1. Fulfilling the Mission

The primary message of Kaddish is encapsulated in the sentence said by the mourner and repeated by the congregation: “May His [G‑d’s] great name be blessed forever and ever.” Glorifying G‑d’s name is the goal of every Jew. When the deceased’s descendant asks the congregants to bless G‑d’s name eternally, he is doing so on behalf of his loved one and enabling a completion of their mission. Doing so reminds us to live lives that glorify the memory of our loved ones and G‑d’s name.

Further Reading: What’s the Main Point of Kaddish?

2. Lifting Spirits

One of the primary sources for the Mourner’s Kaddish is a story demonstrating how the positive actions of a person’s descendants can bring forgiveness and spiritual reprieve to the deceased:

The great sage Rabbi Akiva met an anguished man collecting firewood, for a fire upon which he was burned every night. He was, in fact, the spirit of an evil tax collector being punished for his misdeeds.

“How can I help?” asked Rabbi Akiva.

“If my son leads the congregation in saying, ‘May His (G‑d’s) great name be blessed forever and ever,’ my sins will be forgiven.”

Against all odds, Rabbi Akiva found the man’s son and taught him the prayer, which he said in public, thereby releasing his father from punishment.

Read the full story: Rabbi Akiva and the Orphan

3. Benefit of the Doubt

In the World to Come, the maximum time of punishment for the truly wicked is 12 months. To prevent giving the impression that the deceased was a wicked person, in most instances Kaddish is recited for only 11 months. (The mourning period, however, extends for a full 12 months.)

4. Coming to Terms with Mortality

Mortality is frustrating and can lead to anger and resentment. In Kaddish we affirm, “May G‑d’s great name be glorified throughout the world, which He created according to His will.” We do not know why G‑d chooses when and how a person should leave this world, but we know that everything that happens, even death, is based on His will. By repeating and internalizing the Kaddish prayer, we reaffirm and strengthen our belief in His benevolence and omniscience.

Read: Kaddish, a Testament of Faith

5. Why Not Hebrew?

Historically Kaddish was said in Aramaic, the language of the common people, because the sages wanted the congregation to understand and appreciate the prayer. Today we continue to say this powerful prayer in Aramaic to avoid any potential jealousy and animosity of the heavenly angels (who do not understand Aramaic).

A Deeper Exploration: Why Is Kaddish Said in Aramaic?

6. Spotlight

Shiva is an intense experience where the spotlight is on the mourners, and it can be challenging to transition back to regular life. Saying Kaddish with a minyan after the shiva brings the mourner back into focus. People may enquire whom you are saying Kaddish for and ask about the deceased. This enables the mourner to continue to discuss their loved ones with others. It may also provide an opportunity to commiserate with others who are also saying Kaddish for a loved one.

7. Connecting

Death of a loved one brings loneliness into our lives. Saying Kaddish with a group three times a day can help to alleviate that feeling. For those who do not usually pray daily with a minyan, it is an opportunity provided to us by our loved ones to reconnect with G‑d, Jewish traditions, and our local Jewish communities.

8. Doing Something

Death makes us feel powerless. When our loved ones were alive, we could do something for them. After they pass on, it takes time to realize that although we can no longer help them physically, we can definitely assist them spiritually. Kaddish serves as a daily reminder that we can help our loved ones fulfill their mission by doing positive acts on their behalf and becoming the people they would want us to become.

Read: Soul Talk