USYers Assure Kaddish is Said for Weiss Family for 11 Months

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One of the most well-known prayers in our tradition is the Kaddish, an ancient expression of praise of God originally recited after learning or sermons (later it was added to prayer services to mark the conclusion of major section of the experience).

In the 13th century Kaddish became associated with mourning as a response to the German Jewish community’s severe persecution by the Crusaders.  In the face of loss, when human beings naturally question faith with “Where is God?” or “Why has God done this?” our tradition comforts us and urges us to re-declare our faith in God and hope in the establishment of God’s sovereignty on earth.

The custom of reciting Kaddish for 12 months following the burial of a parent is traced to a midrash of Rabbi Akiva who “rescued a soul from punishment in hell by urging the latter’s son” to recite it.  (EJ 1972)  Today, taking a more optimistic view of parents’ piety we recite Kaddish for 11 months.  When mourning the loss of a child or spouse the halakhah is 30 days (a reason for this distinction is that one may have more than one child or spouse, but one can only have one parent).

Typically, we are of the mind that one should not recite Kaddish for people for whom one does not have a halakhic requirement to do so.  We have special days for those for whom there is no one to say Kaddish, such as Yom Hashoah or Yom Hazikaron and, on days of Yizkor, we recite the prayer for all our departed.  Yet, there are moments that impact us so deeply that we feel compelled to accept an obligation that we otherwise would not have.  The heartbreaking loss on New Year’s Eve of the four members of the Weiss family, zichronam livracha, is such a moment.

Why?  We believe it is for the tragic manner in which they died, the loss of beautiful lives filled with potential never to be realized and the fact that for most of Hannah and Ari’s peers, this is their first confrontation with mortality of someone their age.  

That’s why it is so beautiful to see our USYers starting a document to assure that someone in our community recite Kaddish for Hannah and Ari and their parents Mitchell and Leslie for 11 months.

This effort to sustain a year of Kaddish for this amazing family will allow us in the Jewish community to engage in serious discussion about the precarious nature of life and the power of healing through mourning.  Saying Kaddish for a deceased individual is a catalyst for the bringing of merit and honor to the memory of a loved one.  These four precious souls are deserving of the merit that comes from the recitation of Kaddish on their behalf.  

There is halakhic precedence for accepting an obligation for a mitzvah she-ayno mechuyav, for which one is not obligated.  That our USYers, as a community, are leading us in assuming this mitzvah is a beautiful act of love and redemption.

 To participate follow this link to sign up. 

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Written by Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of USCJ and Morris Allen, rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights, MN. 

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