December 28, 2014 – 6 Teves 5775

I returned late from Columbus on Tuesday night only to get ready to leave for New Jersey where we were going to pack up my mother’s house. Wednesday morning I davened at my regular Shachris minyan and then went to the office. Thankfully, there was a mincha minyan at Agudah which meant that we could leave in the afternoon and I would be able to catch a late maariv minyan in New Jersey. We arrived at 8:00 pm in New Jersey and I was able to easily make maariv in Ahavas Torah in Englewood.

Thursday morning I drove to Forest Hills (where I grew up) to daven shachris at the shiva house where my father-in-law was sitting shiva for his older brother. As a brother he must sit shiva and observe thirty days of morning but he does not recite kaddish which is reserved for the children of the departed; another reminder of the unique responsibility placed on a child to bring honor and respect to his parents not only during their lifetime but after they have passed away, as well. This obligation begins with the saying of kaddish for eleven months but continues well after the saying of kaddish ends.

Upon my rerun to New Jersey we made our way to my mother’s house in Teaneck; more about that later. Mincha maariv was at Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck and then back to my mother’s house.

Shabbos we were in Englewood. Today I made the 7:00 am shachris minyan in Englewood and will likely go to a 1:45 pm mincha in Teaneck, drive home and make the 10:00 pm maariv at the Yeshiva.

So much for my travel minyan logistics.

Three days of packing up my mother’s house have been a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions. The experience can best be summarized as “the inherent worthlessness of things“. Once again aveilus has underscored the finite value of so much that we, in our daily lives, regard as valuable. Ninety plus years of my mother’s things are now boxed up to be given away or thrown out. A relatively small selection of items have been chosen by or distributed to family members either for their sentimental value or for use; but the vast majority of my mother’s possessions simply have no use or place in the lives of her children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.

Can there be a more powerful lesson in the finite “value” of things in one’s life?

Can it be any more obvious that for one’s life to have true fulfillment and purpose it must be centered on that which is eternal and not on the temporal?

This lesson was brought home to me rather dramatically when I took a break Thursday night to go with my friend Rabbi Heshy Turner to Monsey to hear a late night Parshas Hasahavoua shiur (Torah lecture) by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Shlesinger shlita. The shiur began at 10:30 pm and ended after midnight and was attended by several hundred people. Rav Shlesinger is a brilliant Torah scholar, extraordinary orator; and a mayan hamsigaber (an overflowing wellspring). For a spellbinding hour and a half he lifted his listeners up and away to a higher place where only the eternal exists and things cannot be found.

Driving back to New Jersey I thought to myself, “This hour and half will stay with me forever; long after my things are packed up.”

December 24, 2014 -2 Teves 5775

My trip to Columbus was intense work-wise but rather uneventful from a saying kaddish perspective, thanks to very understanding clients. I arrived to Columbus at midnight Sunday night so that I would be able to make a 6:35 am shachris minyan. Monday morning went off without a hitch and after davening shachris( Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh) I was able to make my 8:30 am meeting easily. My concern during the day was whether I would be able to leave my client meeting at 4:15 pm to make a mincha/maariv at 4:50pm. Luckily for me the people at AMP are very respectful and understanding and ended the meeting based on my need to say kaddish. Quite amazing!. With light holiday traffic I was sure to make the minyan with time to spare….that is – until the police blocked off a key avenue near the shul. Waze came to the rescue and identified another route and I arrived just as the minyan was starting.

Tuesday morning was the same schedule except that the davening (Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh) that morning took more than an hour. My client meeting was starting at 8:00 am (and included the CEO) and at 7:45 am I emailed my client to say that I was running late. With little traffic and a lot of speed I arrived 5 minutes late. Once again everyone was very understanding.

My afternoon meeting ended with time to spare and but for having to say kaddish I could have made an earlier flight. However, in order to make both mincha and maariv I booked a 7:50 pm flight which allowed me to make the 4:50 pm minyan in Columbus.

Late this afternoon we left for New Jersey for the unpleasant task of packing up my mother’s house. I was able to daven mincha at the Washington DC Agudah before we left and made a 9:00 pm maariv in Englewood.


I cannot say that I am looking forward to the next few days. Throwing things out, giving things away and choosing items for family members to keep all has an eerie finality to it.

December 21, 2014 – 29 Kislev 5775

Chanukah is a strong reminder of one’s aveiulus. You stop serving as the chazzan; you do not partake in all the Chanukah festivities and parties; and you watch as everyone else rushes off to their Chanukah celebration. Of course, that is precisely the way it is supposed to be. Mourning means stepping out of the “normal” way of life and pausing for a year to contemplate the meaning of the loss of a parent.

It is easy to think of my mother on Chanukah. She loved dreidels; so much so that at some point in her life she began collecting them. Over the years she amassed quite a collection; large ones and small ones, silver ones and enamel ones, and many other types and sizes, as well.

Later this week I will have a chance to study her collection and spin her dreidels. We have signed a contract for the sale of her house and we will make our way up to New Jersey on Wednesday night to spend several days packing her house up so that we can close at the end of January. It is a relief to have the house sold, but painful to think of disposing of all her material possessions. Not that the vast majority of her belongings have any particular significance but disposing of everything is a rather bold statement on the finality of death. Surely various of her possessions that will be distributed to family members, but the vast majority of her belongings will simply be given away of or disposed of. So many items which had a place on my mother’s daily life have no use or place in ours. Another reminder of the meaning of life and death.

Before I get to New Jersey I have to travel to Columbus tonight for a two day meeting. I normally try to avoid travel on Chanukah but I had no choice this time. Saying kaddish means that I have to leave late tonight so that I can make shachris tomorrow and return late Tuesday night so that I can make mincha/maariv in Columbus.

Four more months to go of saying kaddish.

December 17, 2014 – 25 Kislev 5775

I recently had the pleasure of working with an Orthodox lawyer in New York. He was very helpful in assisting me to make a mid-day mincha minyan near his office and that got us talking about saying kaddish etc. He started following this blog and this week sent me the following series of emails – right on point!

The first email

Hi Judd: 

As you know, all the planning or as we say “Man tracht and got lacht” (man plans and G-D laughs). 

So, we came to Israel, a makeup trip from the summer. 

I have Yartzheit for my mother the first night of Chanukah and for my father, the second night. Since I had to be back before Chanukah, for other reasons, I made sure to plan my trip and flights. We planned a 9:40 am flight back today from Ben Gurion, arriving in New York at 3:40 pm New York time. We checked out of the King David at 7:00 am and arrived at Ben Gurion at 7:40. We have VIP service, so check in is a breeze. At check in we were informed our flight is delayed 6 hours. We will not get to New York until 8:30 pm tonight. In the event I do not make maariv, please say kaddish for my mother (Rochel Bat Zvi). 

It’s funny; your blog discusses the craziness during the 11 months. Believe me, it continues forever. Since the Yartzheits are on Chanukah, I had to visit the cemetery before we left.  

It’s a good thing because we keep the memories of our parents and what we must and want to continue to do for them. 

Thank you.


The second email

So, after all of the agitah and planning, there was no minyan on the plane. No minyan at JFK. However, we landed at JFK at 7:30. We were off the plane and through Global Entry by 8:00, retrieved our luggage and went through final customs in 5 minutes. My son picked us up. We live 20 minutes from JFK. There was no traffic and we unloaded the car, light a Yartzheit candle as well as Chanukah candles with enough time for me to go to shul and say kaddish myself. 

The Halacha requires only one kaddish a day. It can easily be accomplished by one minyan. However, there are many people who want to obligate themselves to all three minyanim a day. It’s certainly not easy. And once again, it doesn’t end after eleven months. The Yartzheit is only one day every year. Making it should not be difficult. Yet, as you can see from my experience, this year posed a problem for me. 

I asked a few people to “cover” for me, just in case I didn’t make it. And for all of you, Yasher Koach.  

May your Mother’s Neshoma continue to have an alyiah in Shmayim.



Of course, I had Kenny’s mother in mind as I recited kaddish and I am confident that the others he asked did as well.

What an appropriate way to start Chanukah – the holiday that reminds us that even in the most difficult of times there is a heavenly light that guides us through the darkness. It applies to saying kaddish too.



December 15, 2014 – 23 Kislev 5775

edited-4994Tomorrow night, Chanukah, the holiday of lights, begins. Candles play an important role in Jewish life.

Each week Shabbos begins with the lighting of Shabbos candles.

Each holiday begins with the lighting of candles, as well.

Candles also play an important role in death and morning. The verse in Tehilim (Proverbs) compares the soul of a person to a candle. Therefore, during shiva a seven day candle burns in memory of the departed. On the departed’s yarztiet and on holidays when Yizkor is recited we light a twenty four hour candle in memory of the departed.

Chanuka is all about the lighting of lights to commemorate the rekindling of the menorah in the second Beis Hamikdash (Temple) by the Hashmonaim after they defeated the Greeks.

Our tradition teaches that it is not by accident that Chanukah falls during the winter; the darkest and harshest of all the seasons; a season of short days, long nights, cold temperatures and severe weather. For winter represents the long exile of the Jewish people which began thousands of years ago after the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash, continues through the present, and will end with the coming of Moshiach. Chanukah and its eight days of lights remind the Jew that no matter how dark his existence, the Almighty is with him to light his way through the darkness. “For even as I sit in darkness Hashem is my light”, says the prophet.

Perhaps, the same is true of the candles which we light when we are in mourning. At our saddest moments, when we mourn the passing of a loved one we light a candle – as if to say – “Hashem I am in such pain, but I take comfort in knowing that You will light my way through the darkness of the valley death and return me to brighter days.”

May we merit lighting the candles of our faith together in Jerusalem – soon and in our days.

A lichtigin Chanukah to all.

December 10, 2014 – 18 Kislev 5775

This past weekend I visited two shiva homes. At one shortly after I arrived the family conducted a reform maariv service which ended in the saying of kaddish. I watched as tears streamed down the faces of the surviving spouse and the adult children as they recited “Ysigadal veyiskadash …” The loss was fresh and the pain raw as they emotionally recited each syllable of the words of kaddish. They will likely recite kaddish only during their three day observance of “shiva”. Then they will struggle to resume their “normal lives”.

For me and others like me the observance of a year of mourning softened the shock of an immediate return to the pre-death daily regimen. Nonetheless, without question, for those who do recite kaddish during the entire period of mourning it is a challenge to say kaddish day in day out, multiple times each day for eleven months with the requisite level of thought, intent and emotion. It is only natural for the recitation of kaddish to become a mere habit performed by rote. To combat that natural tendency I intentionally say kaddish slowly, with my eyes closed and my mind focused on my mother and the other holy Jews who have given their lives this year in defense of the Jewish People. As a result, I am always the last of the mourners to finish saying each kaddish. While the time difference between me and my fellow mourners is measured in parts of a minute, those seconds make all the difference in the world to me …and I pray for my mother’s neshoma (soul), as well.

December 8, 2014 – 16 Kislev 5775

As an aveil I am not supposed to receive gifts or presents.

Not that I really “need” anything…. I don’t.

So you can only imagine how surprised I was this morning when I opened an anniversary card (today is our 40th wedding anniversary) from my wife. My wife found the perfect “gift” befitting a mourner and deeply meaningful to me. She gave me the most extraordinary present – a day of Torah study dedicated to me in each of the schools attended by our grandchildren.

When you are saying kaddish life does not get any better than it is today – thanks to my beloved wife Marilyn.

December 3, 2014 – 11 Kislev 5775

Before traveling I always do what some might consider extensive research regarding minyanim. My research includes identifying local synagogues and minyanim, checking times of services, and downloading driving directions. I go so far as to enter the address in WAZE before I leave so that I do not have an issue early in the morning when I need to drive to the minyan.

My one day trip Denver was no different. I decided to daven shachris at a Chabad minyan which started 15 minutes earlier than other shuls and was closer to where I was staying and working. Chabad says two extra kaddish at the end of davening which was also an important consideration since I knew that I would not be able to daven mincha/maariv with a minyan or to recite kaddish at mincha/maariv given flight schedules.

This morning I left my hotel at 5:45 am for what according to WAZE was a 17 minutes drive; plenty of time to make the 6:30 am minyan. WAZE delivered me on schedule to the address. There was only one problem. It was pitch dark and I could not find the minyan. This Chabad “shul” must be a new outpost and is obviously housed in some other facility with no signage on the outside. I could not find it.

A bit of panic set in.

I looked at my watch and determined that I might have enough time to make a 6:45 am minyan in another neighborhood. I searched Go Daven, got the name and address of another Denver shul, input the address into my GPS and set off for that shul. When I arrived at the address once again I was unable to locate the shul. OMG! Was I really going to miss shachris? Was I really not going to be able to say kaddish at all today?

Then, luckily, I realized that I had passed along the route a Chabad shul with an illuminated sign. I recalled the name – Beis Menachem. I input the name into WAZE, drove to Beis Menachem, and arrived just in time for shachris. The stress of possibly missing kaddish was immediately replaced by the relief of knowing that I would be able to say kaddish.


December 1, 2014 – 9 Kislev 5775

After a week of no travel, I am on the road again. Today is New York City and tomorrow night I travel to Denver for a day trip returning Wednesday night. Since this is my third trip to New York City in a month I have my routine down pat. Shachris at my regular minyan in Silver Spring, Amtrak to New York, mincha most likely at Aderet Beth El and return in time for the 10:00 pm maariv at the Yeshiva.

To prepare for my trip to Denver I have to go to Dulles airport at 11:00 pm to walk a construction job for my new client in Denver. I should be there until about 2:00 am. I still have to make my regular shachris minyan tomorrow because of a client conference call set for 8:00 am. I plan on davening mincha/maariv at YISE tomorrow at 4:30 pm and then go to BWI for my flight to Denver. I have researched minyan possibilities in Denver and have not fully decided where I will daven. I am leaning towards going to a Chabad shachris minyan instead of the other shuls in the heart of the jewish community because this minyan is about ten minutes closer to my client and to where I will be staying. Another advantage is that Chabad has two extra recitations of kaddish at the end of the service which will come in handy for me given that I do not know if I will be able to make mincha/maariv on Wednesday afternoon. Mincha/maariv in Denver is at approximately 4:30 pm, I am flying back on a 6:00 pm flight and I have to get to the airport, return a rental car and get through security etc..

My trip to Denver is for a new client to whom I had to explain that I could not start our Wednesday meeting until 8:30 am because my mother passed away in May and I have to attend services in her memory for a year. I simply could not bring myself to tell him that I also have to leave early to make mincha/maariv. I am hoping that things will just work out that way and I will be able to go daven, say kaddish and then rush to the airport for my return flight. Time will tell.