Saying kaddish and serving as the chazzan during weekday services is all about glorifying the Almighty and thereby providing comfort and solace to the departed’s soul. However, as one codifier of the halachos (laws) of aveiuls has commented, even though the saying of kaddish and leading the service as the chazzen is very important for the soul of the departed, these practices in and of themselves are not the essence. Rather, what is most important is that the children of the deceased lead lives that bring honor to their deceased parent.
In this regard, much has been written on the importance of avoiding disputes regarding who has the right to be the chazzan on any given day. Ever ince I began my aveilus at the end of May, I have encountered many a time when someone who halachically is subsidiary to me in priority among mourners has insisted on serving as the chazzan. In these instances I have uniformly deferred rather than assert that my superior halachic status as a mourner for a parent.
Yesterday I learned before coming to shul that an older gentleman had yartzieght for his wife. Halachically, such a status did not grant this gentleman priority over me. When the gabbai approached me and indicated that I was to be the chazzan I asked him about this gentlemen. He responded that a yartzieght for a wife was subsidiary to me. I then told the gabbai that I would be willing to defer and he should ask this gentleman if he would like to daven by the amud. The man walked over to me on his way up to the amud to thank me for stepping aside. I responded of course I was stepping aside – my mother would be very disappointed if I did not allow a surviving husband to memorialize his deceased wife on her yartzieght. To my great surprise he confided in me that over the many years since his wife had passed away that he has often not been able to serve as the chazzan because an aveil with priority asserted his halachic status to deny him the amud. He proceeded to lead the service until yishtabach and then turned the amud over to me.
And we wonder why Moishiach does not come.
This past week saw me return to cities previously traveled and for which I had “figured out” minyanim. So when I returned to New York City last Tuesday for a meeting I knew the train schedule which I had to make in order to make all my minyanim; an after 8:00 am Acella to NY from the BWI train station and a 6:00 pm Acella back. One of the lawyers with whom I was meeting advised me of a shul very close to his office with a 1:00 pm mincha minyan. The shul, known as Congregation Talmud Torah Aderet El, is located on 29th Street between Lexington Ave and 3rd Avenue in the Murray Hill section of New York. Though I grew up in New York I never knew this shul existed. Interestingly, it was established after the Civil War in 1857 and has the distinction of being New York’s oldest synagogue in its original location with continuous services. It is a beautiful shul which is now experiencing a revival. As promised the minyan began exactly at 1:00 pm and concluded in time for me to make my meeting a few blocks away.
Sunday I was in Saint Louis and was returning on the same 3:00pm Southwest flight to DCA as we had done a few weeks ago. That meant I had to daven mincha with the high school at MTI, Missouri Torah Institute. The minyan was at 12:45 pm and even though it was Rosh Chodesh they still davened a “heicha kedusha”. I was done by 1:00 pm – plenty of time to make my return flight home.
Next week my travels will take me back to New York City and then to Denver. My planning for Denver has already begun. Stay tuned!
Ever since this past Tuesday saying kaddish has not been the same. It will never be as it once was, for now there are twenty four orphans who must recite kaddish as I do. Twenty four children, sons and daughters, of five holy men slaughtered as they were praying to the Almighty; butchered simply and only because they were Jews. I hear their voices each and every time I recite kaddish and as I say yisgadal veyiskadaash I shed tears, sometimes real and sometimes in my mind, for each of these orphans and their families.
When I began saying kaddish in May I never thought that my kaddish would be in memory of anyone other than my mother a”h. But it has become much more. It has to be. My saying kaddish cannot be just for my mother. It must be recited for the three kidnapped and murdered teenagers. It must memorialize all the fallen soldiers who died defending the Jewish People this summer. It must include all of the too many recent victims of terror. And it must encompass the five holy men murdered so viscously as they davened Shachris on Tuesday morning. May we soon see the day when our unity is not based on saying kaddish.
I write this blog from St. Louis where we and all of our children and grandchildren have gathered to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary. It is a great blessing from the Almighty that He has enabled us to reach this milestone in our lives and to celebrate it with our children and grandchildren. Yet, just like our wedding ceremony under the chuppah forty years ago ended with a focus on the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (the temple in Jerusalem) our celebration this Shabbos will be dimmed as our hearts and minds are with the grieving families in Har Nof.
TAKE THIS CHALLENGE –PASS THIS ALONG
Jews slaughtered in a quiet Jerusalem neighborhood as they davened shachris and recited kaddish in a neighborhood shul.
Men wrapped in talaissim and adorned in tefillin brutally massacred in a modern day pogrom.
Twenty four children orphaned in a minute.
We have no answers.
It is not for us to question the ways and decrees of the Almighty.
But we can do something.
We can take serious note of yesterday’s events.
We can recognize that the death of five holy men as they davened in a Jerusalem shul was no mere “accident”.
We can decide not to stand idly by.
We can do more than say tehilim for a few days.
We can and must make a real change.
TAKE THIS CHALLENGE
Let each and every one of us, every shul, every minyan, every Jew, permanently add five minutes – one minute for each of the kedoshim who were murdered yesterday – to our daily davening.
Five minutes of genuine kavanah (concentration).
Five minutes every day in which we beseech the Almighty “Save us from all evil and cruel decrees.”
PLEASE PASS THIS CHALLENGE ALONG TO OTHERS
Almighty Creator of the Universe,
I awoke this morning to the horrific news of Jews slaughtered in a Jerusalem synagogue as they recited kaddish at the conclusion of an early shachris minyan.
Dear G-d – only you know exactly how many of us are saying kaddish and extolling your greatness day in and day out in memory of our beloved departed. Aren’t there enough mourners saying kaddish? Help me understand why must there be more children grieving for parents? Why must more Jews be brutally murdered? Why are more parents, children and spouses of terror victims needed to recite kaddish?
I do not question Your greatness. Nor do I doubt Your reasons.
I just do not understand.
Is there no end to Your people’s suffering?
As important as saying kaddish is, serving as the chazzan (during weekday services) is even more important for the soul of the departed. Thus, in most synagogues a mourner or someone observing a yahrtziet (anniversary of the passing of a parent or close relative) serves as the chazzan.
This morning I davened at the 6:40 am minyan at Yeshiva of Greater Washington as I was learning for an hour with a chevrusah (study partner) before starting my work day. As I was finishing putting on my tefillin, a friend, a regular at this minyan, approached me and asked if I wanted to be the chazzan. I responded yes, if there was no one else with a higher priority. He said there was not and then informed me of the pace and timing practices of the minyan; 15 minutes for pezukai dezimrah, 8 minutes for berchos krias shema etc. I listened, became a little “nervous”, and responded, “I will follow your lead.”
Traveling as much as I do I am often faced with leading the service in a synagogue which I have never before attended. It requires that I determine the nussach of that shul and ask questions before and during the service to make sure that I “get it right”. Luckily for me, I am used to being a chazzan and the challenge of a strange minyan typically does not intimidate me to the point where I decline the amud. Though truth be told in Israel I regularly did not seek the amud because I was “intimidated” by the ever changing nussach and customs. It was easier to say no then to try and figure out what to say and when to say it.
Both at home and in my travels I often encounter mourners who refuse to serve as the chazzan. They are just too uncomfortable to accept what for them is a significant challenge of leading the service. I understand how they feel but regret that they cannot take advantage of the opportunity to observe this practice of aveilus. Over the last few weeks I have concluded that it is my obligation to “do it for them”; to have them and their departed in mind when I take the amud. Another aveilus inspired opportunity to do for others.
Thank G-d this week I have been able to return to my “normal” at home schedule and minyan routine. With the absence of the “saying kaddish stress” of the past few travel weeks I have had the opportunity to focus on the other constant reminders of my aveilus status and my mother’s a”h passing.
While without question the saying of kaddish multiple times a day every day for eleven months is by far the central focus of my year of mourning it is by no means the only significant change which affects my daily life. Like saying kaddish these other aspects of mourning impact me from the moment I awake in the morning to when I retire late at night.
Take for example the year-long prohibitions on: (i) wearing new clothes; (ii) listening to music, whether live or recorded; and (iii) attending social gatherings, dinner parties and events to name a few. Each of these and other prohibitions and customs cause me to be uniquely aware that I am in a year- long state of mourning, to remember my mother daily, and to contemplate her life and her loss. It really is incredible that our tradition “forces” a child to spend every day for an entire year thinking about and honoring the memory of a parent. Surely, it is intended in no small measure to impress upon the child just how much the child “owes” the parent for bringing the child into this world, for raising him, and caring for him.
Of course, no child-parent relationship is “perfect” and I find that the emphasis on honor and respect during this year of mourning causes me to think of and remember the positive and push aside the negative. An unexpected “benefit” of aveilus.
My twenty four hour stay in San Francisco can be summarized in a single word – Chabad. Chabad made it happen for me. In unusual locations Chabad conducts both a regular shachris minyan and a regular mincha minyan in downtown San Francisco. Without these unusual minyanim I would never have been able to say kaddish.
Every weekday a young Chabad rabbi conducts a shachris minyan in a movie/art production facility located in the San Francisco Chronicle building at 925 Mission Street. The minyan I was advised is “99% reliable”. Its core participants are Russian men with a smattering of other locals and visitors. Shachris ends with tehilim, first in Russian then in Hebrew, and a mishna. That was particularly useful for me as they say kaddish after each – thereby giving me two extra, “insurance” kaddish recitations.
At the end of the davening the young Chabad rabbi announced that there would be a minyan for mincha at 3:30pm in Sacremento Alley near 1 Market Street. Great! If my meeting in Hayward ended early enough I could drive back to San Francisco in time to not only make my 4 pm meeting at PGE but first daven mincha at the Sacremento Alley minyan. These logistics were in fact critical because the only other mincha/maariv minyan possiblity was in the Richmond area at 5pm. That minyan would be impossible for me to attend because my 4pm meeting at PGE would not end in time for me to drive the haf hour to get to the Richmond area.
As things turned out the Almighty was looking out for me. My meeting in Hayward ended at about 1pm; plenty of time for me to get back to downtown San Fransisco. When I googled Sacremento Alley I found out that it was literally one block away from PGE’s offices. How lucky could I get! I drove back to San Francisco, parked my car and set out to find Sacremento Alley. Sacremento Alley is an outdoor shopping arcade next to the Hyatt hotel. At 3 pm I went to the appointed location and waited. As 3:30pm neared men began to converge at a table and chairs in the arcade; some in yarmulkas, others in hats and others heads uncovered. At 3:30 pm a Chabadnick appeared with siddurim and tefilin in hand and arranged the minyan. There we stood in the middile of this acrade, davened mincha, learned a mishna and said kaddish.
While I was unable to find a minyan for maariv I was able once again to recite an extra kaddish after learning the mishna. The minyan concluded and I walked the one block to my meeting where I arrived with ten minuted to spare.
I red-eyed back home; drove home, showered and went to the 8:30 minyan to daven and start another day of saying kaddish.
It is 9 pm Monday night and I am on a United Airlines flight to San Francisco for the final trip of the last nine days. I will be glad when this whirlwind of 5 trips (New York, Columbus, New York, Saint Louis and San Francisco) finally comes to end. The planning has been stressful, but so far things have worked out fairly well.
On Thursday I had to daven shachris at the local “rocket minyan” in order to make an 8:15 am train to New York. I davened mincha at a 2 pm minyan in a friend’s office in mid-town Manhattan. This enabled me to make an important 4 pm meeting in the Penn Station area. I ended my 4 pm meeting at 5:30 pm so that I could make 6 pm return train which arrived at the BWI rail station in time for me to attend the 10 pm maariv minyan at the Yeshiva.
Friday I davened shachris in Silver Spring. I took a twelve noon flight to Saint Louis which got me into Saint Louis several hours before Shabbos. Alas an easy travel day!
On Saturday night the clock was set back an hour. This means that during the winter months mincha and maariv will often become a challenge for me; for example, on days when I am unable to make either a mid-day mincha and/or a late night maariv and need a combined minyan which will be in the late afternoon very early evening – right smack in the middle of my business day!
Given the time change, Sunday required careful planning. I davened mincha at MTI, the local Chofetz Chaim yeshiva affiliate, in the very early afternoon. I returned on a 3:30 pm flight instead of an evening flight so that I would be back in time to make the 10 pm maariv. As things turned out I couldn’t fly to San Francisco from Saint Louis because the only available flights would have caused me either to miss either shachris or both mincha and maariv. So instead I decided to return Sunday night to Washington DC where I was able to daven maariv Sunday night, shachris Monday morning and mincha mid-day in the Agudah minyan downtown before leaving for the airport. Maariv on Monday was not possible due to the flight schedule so I learned a mishna at the end of mincha and recited an extra kaddish at that time.
Tuesday in San Francisco will clearly be a challenge. I found a downtown Chabad shachris minyan which I am told is 99% “reliable”. I sure hope so. I have only one chance for a mincha minyan and my ability to make it is totally dependent on finishing a business meeting early and driving back (a 1 hour drive) to San Francisco from Dublin, California in time to make this “Cable Car” (yes, that is what it is called!) minyan at 3:30 pm in downtown SF. I still have not been able to locate a maariv minyan. I am taking a red eye back to IAD tonight and that should make it possible for me to say kaddish at the 8:30 am minyan at YISE.