this new era of COVID-19, when virtually all synagogues are closed and almost
no one is able to pray with a minyan (quorum
of 10 men), many are tempted to say the Kaddish (which is chanted in honor of
loved ones who have passed on) even while alone. Why can’t this be done?
The Importance of Kaddish
we get to the minyan aspect, let’s
talk a bit about Kaddish.
cannot overstate the importance and merit there is in both saying Kaddish and
listening attentively and responding appropriately when it is said by another.
This holds true for both for the Kaddeshim said by the chazzan (prayer leader) and the mourners.
addition to bringing merit to the living, reciting Mourner’s Kaddish does
wonders for the souls of the deceased. It not only helps them as they face
judgment in heaven and eases their passage to the World to Come, but also
allows them to continue on to even higher spiritual planes (which is why it is
said every year on the anniversary of passing).
Kaddish=Public Declaration of
underlying theme of the Kaddish prayer is the glorification, magnification and
sanctification of G‑d.
As you can read in Why Are 10 Men
Needed for a Minyan?, anything that is a davar shebikedushah, a declaration of
G‑d’s holiness such as Kaddish,
Barechu or Kedushah, requires at least a minyan present.
In fact, if you look at the very text of
Kaddish, you can see that it is structured to be said in the presence of
others. For example: “In your
lifetime and in your days and in the
lifetime of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.” Thus, much of it doesn’t
make much sense if it is recited alone.
Furthermore, one of the very reasons why
Kaddish is considered such a merit for the departed is because the one who
chants it leads the entire group in prayer.
What to Do When Kaddish Is
The greatest merit for the deceased is
when one of their own sons recites the Kaddish. The next best option is to
arrange for a close relative (e.g., son-in-law) or sibling to recite it (on
condition that their own parents are no longer alive).
If this isn’t feasible, then one can
arrange for anyone who no longer has parents living to recite the Kaddish. In
this case, it is preferable to pay for its recitation, rather than have the
person do it as a favor. This way (a) the person saying it is considered even
more of an emissary (bringing more
merit to the deceased), and (b) there is greater assurance that it will in fact
be recited. This
is especially true when the payment for Kaddish recitation supports an orphan,
the poor or a needy Torah scholar.
In this vein, Chabad.org has partnered
with Colel Chabad (the oldest continuously operating charity of its kind in
Israel) to offer the recitation of Kaddish for the 11 months after the passing
and/or annually on the anniversary of passing.
Arrange Kaddish for a
In the Era of Coronavirus
Due to the extraordinary situation in which we
now find ourselves, Chabad.org has arranged a special (free) service in which
Kaddish is said in a safe and government-approved environment for all those who
cannot do it themselves.
Sign up for the service here.
Even More Important than Kaddish
When the vast majority of us are
precluded from saying Kaddish as usual, it’s normal to feel distressed. Keep in
mind that although saying Kaddish and leading the
prayer services are a source of merit for the departed, it is even more
important for the deceased that their children and descendants follow the path
of righteousness they modeled.
The Zohar says that just as
a son honors his parents with food, drink and clothing during their lifetimes,
he must honor them even more after they pass away! If he walks a bad path, he
brings them disgrace. But if he walks a righteous path, he honors them in This
World and in the World to Come. When this happens, G‑d has mercy on the
deceased and seats them in a place of prominence.
So in our current
situation, mourners are encouraged to add in good deeds and Torah study
(especially Mishnayot) in the merit of their loved ones. And when one can
influence others to do the same, it has an even more powerful impact and merit
for the deceased.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote
a number of telling letters to a Jewish activist and educator who often
traveled in order to strengthen Jewish education and would need to miss the
recital of Kaddish from time to time. In one such letter, the Rebbe writes:
already wrote to you about this situation a number of times. It is simple that
the satisfaction and elevation of the soul cannot come at the expense of a
decrease in Torah and mitzvahs. And after all, Jewish education is the
foundation for this, and the merit of the public is dependent upon this (much
more than Kaddish). From this it is understood that you should not decrease in
your efforts for Jewish education, and on the contrary, you should add in it.
in order that you should not miss (as much as possible) in what was discussed,
there is room, in addition to you saying Kaddish when possible, to hire someone
else to recite it . . .
On the flip side, if
possible, a person should endeavor to recite Kaddish himself rather than have
someone else do it, as it is more meritorious if the descendants themselves
May we merit the day when there will be
no more death and we will once again be reunited with our loved ones, with the
coming of the Moshiach and the resurrection of the dead!