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Making Peace: Learning from the Kaddish Prayer
By Larry Fine
Perhaps the most recited prayer that is recited in all synagogues is not S'hma but rather Kaddish. Kaddish is said by all mourners during the eleven month mourning phase. It is also said between various parts of the prayer service by the person who leads the prayer service.
As the person reciting the mourner's Kaddish gets to the last sentence in the Kaddish, he says: "Oseh shalom b'm'romah, hu ya'aseh shalom alenu v'al kol yisroel, v'imru amen" which means "He who make shalom up high in heaven, he shall make peace for us and for all of Israel, and say 'amen'". When the reader recites this last sentence the custom is that he takes three steps backwards, bows turning to the left, bows turning to the right and then bows a third time and final time to the center.
The reason for the backing up three steps is that when we pray we must remember that we are in front of a king, and when one takes leave from a king he does not just turn around and walk to the door, but rather he backs up facing the king until he is out of sight. Therefore when we take our leave from our King, we do not turn around to leave for that would show disrespect, rather we walk backwards, always facing the King. We bow to the various directions as a show of respect.
Now remember that this is a request to G-d who make peace in the heavenly worlds between the various angelic factions (and you thought that fights take place only down on earth) since up there in heaven there is also fighting and competition between the angels. Since only G-d has the ability to make peace up there between the angels that they should work together, and He does it, we ask Him to make peace down here too between our various argumentative factors and factions.
Notice that part of this request for peace requires taking three steps backwards. We can learn from this that the first thing that must be done for peace down here is to back off. This teaches us that although we have made many assumptions that lead us to conclusions that are not always totally correct, even worse, sometimes our assumptions are just plain wrong. When you find the need to confront some one, first back off before the confrontation, verify is what you think the situation is, is it indeed correct? The next time some one comes to you in a fit of anger, and your gut reaction is to give it back to them with just as much anger, try backing off a bit perhaps they have a valid point. Remember take three steps backward from your stance, get a fresh view of the situation and be prepared to retreat a bit from your original thinking. Try to give the other person a bit of time to express himself; you will find that he/she has a valid point. Try to see the situation from their view point. Once you can see their view point, then tell them their view point and ask them in a calm and logical voice is this what they think? Clarify their point and only then point out any difficulties or errors in their thinking by showing them the pitfalls of this view. But you must be intellectually honest and emotionally detached to do this. If you can do this, then you will take away their anger and bring two divergent views into one.
Backing up three steps means that you are showing respect for the other person and not ready to cram your idea down his/her throat. Give them the benefit of the doubt; maybe they are actually correct or see the situation in a different light. Every person is different and their perceptions are made according to their educational and cultural background, their different inherent personality, and their personal feelings at the time. Show respect for another person's differences and accept the fact that other people can see things different and still be fine people.
After backing off, we bow to the left, bow to the right and bow to the center. We bow down to everyone. This is important. Don't behave as if you know everything and that you have a superior intellect and knowledge. Contrite yourself to hear what the other person is saying. Bowing down is a form of giving honor to the other person. It is important to treat the other person with respect. Don't let it bother you that they do not give you the same respect; making peace is not easy.
Remember to make peace you must be prepared to back off from your own stand and make changes if necessary plus you must be willing to treat the other person with respect. Although it might seem difficult at first, it really is not difficult to do. Once you try it you will find it really easy to do and although you may feel like you are giving up your own egoistic image of yourself, you will be quickly compensated by enjoying peaceful relationships with all of those around you, your spouse, your children, your boss and co-workers and even the people that you meet in the shops and street.
Try it, you'll buy it.
from the May 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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