Leon Wieseltier

28 February 2011
608 pages


When Leon Wieseltier’s father died in March 1996, he began to observe the rituals of the traditional year of mourning, going daily to the synagogue to recite the Kaddish. Between his prayers and his everyday responsibilities, he sought out ancient, medieval and modern Jewish tests in pursuit of the Kaddish’s history and meaning. And every day he studied, translated and wrote his own reflections on the obscure texts that he found, punctuating his journal with stories about life in his synagogue and his family’s progress through grief. In reflecting upon the fate of his father and of his people, he wrestles with problems of loss and faith, the meaning of tradition, freedom and determinism, and the perplexity of rational religion.

‘Leon Wieseltier’s Kaddish, a poignant book prompted by his year of mourning for a particular death, the death of his father, is a contradictory but illuminating journey . . . a profound quest for the origins of the Kaddish prayer’ Daily Telegraph

‘Much more than a personal memoir . . . he speaks wisely about the most important things: about meaning and loss; about death and life; about the nature of ritual and tradition . . . Submitting oneself to [Kaddish’s] process, one discovers that, like the best novels and poems, it illuminates the world’ Times Literary Supplement