This letter was sent to R. Shmuel Plotkin.

B”H, 26 Tishrei, 5710

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your question regarding your father who passed away on the 8th of Cheshvan. [You write that] his coffin was taken to the ship on the 14th of Cheshvan and he was buried on the 7th of Kislev. You are in doubt as to [the proper time for] the recitation of Kaddish. It is apparent from your letter that [your father] was not [even temporarily] buried between the 8th and the 14th of Cheshvan.1

I have not heard [anything] regarding the customs [appropriate] in such situations. With regard to the published [rulings] in the halachic texts and the customs of the Rabbinic authorities, there are elder Rabbis from the chassidic brotherhood in your community and they should instruct you how to conduct yourself.

You wrote that you began reciting Kaddish on the 14th of Cheshvan. Although this is the opinion of several of the later Torah authorities — as stated in [the glosses to] the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, sec.376:4 — it appears to me that you should have started on the 8th of Cheshvan, according to the ruling of the Alter Rebbe in his Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, sec. 71:1.2

In short, in my humble opinion, [the ruling is as follows]: The recitation of Kaddish [should have] begun on the 8th of Cheshvan as stated above. The beginning of the observance of the laws of mourning (aveilus) should [have been] on the 14th of Cheshvan ([see] Yoreh Deah, sec. 375:2). The conclusion of the recitation of Kaddish should be eleven months after the day of burial.3 In the case at hand, that date is far removed from the day of the death, and [if Kaddish was ceased eleven months after the death,] several weeks would have to be subtracted from the eleven months.

[Although by reciting Kaddish until eleven months after the burial you will have recited Kaddish for more than eleven months,4 that should not be a concern. This ruling is based on] the combination of three opinions:

a) that Kaddish is appropriate only after burial;5

b) there are [those who maintain that] the custom is [always] to recite Kaddish for twelve months minus only a few days (Knesses HaGedolah, Yoreh Deah, sec. 403; Birchei Yosef, Yoreh Deah, sec. 376:8);

c) it is praiseworthy to recite [Kaddish] for twelve months (Chanuch Beis Yehudah; Elef HaMagen).

There is no contradiction between this and the Alter Rebbe’s ruling cited above, because there are several factors involved in the recitation of Kaddish:

the merit of the soul — which is why the recitation of Kaddish is begun before the burial;

the honor of one’s father — therefore it is recited while in a state of acute mourning;6 [and]

that it saves one from the judgment of Gehinnom — this dimension begins after burial.

Therefore the reckoning of the eleven months should begin from the date [of burial]. One should not be concerned that observers will think that your father is wicked,7 because even if they are unaware that the day of burial is removed from the day of death by several days, they will see that you will cease reciting Kaddish before the completion of twelve months from the day of death.

The yahrzeit should be commemorated on the day of [your father’s] death (HaYom Yom, p. 18) even in the present instance when it is far removed [from the day of burial] despite the fact that there is a difference of opinion among the later Rabbinic authorities concerning the matter (as quoted in the text Yalkut Daas VeDin, p. 107). [Support for this decision] can be derived from the opinion that it is preferable to commemorate a yahrzeit earlier than later (Chasam Sofer, Orach Chayim, Responsum 161). As an additional measure, in the first year, you may study Mishnayos8and lead the services on the anniversary of the burial as well.

May it be that speedily in our days we complete the rectification of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge which brought death to the world, as related in this week’s Torah reading. “May death be swallowed up” and may we merit everlasting life and the life of life, as explained in the teachings of Chassidus, in the series of maamarim [beginning] Rosh HaShanah, 5710.

With wishes for life, blessing, and peace,

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson