Monday, September 11, 2006

Kaddish and 9/11

A friend forwarded me a text that Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik of Forest Hills Jewish Center had posted on a private list. With Rabbi Skolnik's permission, I will post both his original post and my own response, which I had shared with him. (His permission: "Feel free to post them, with your response. I may or may not agree with you, but time does not allow me to get into it right now, and what you wrote is certainly not offensive to me in any way...")

Here's his post:
(1) Is it OK to say kaddish for a friend killed on 9/11?
Len Linder asked why not; well, the answer is it may not be permissable halachically. In general, kaddish is a responsibility that devolves on those who are halachically obligated to say it (i.e., mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, spouse). It is not, in general, a prayer that one says because one feels grief or sadness, or even an acute sense of loss. If you know that there is no one else saying kaddish for someone who has died, and no arrangements have been made, then you can take the responsibility to say kaddish (usually not undertaken by those whose parents are still alive). Most usually, this is an issue during the year (or 30 days) of mourning, and then, you should understand that taking on that responsibility means taking on that responsibility, morning, afternoon and evening, and not just when you may be in a service. I assume that Jack is referring to his friend who was lost on 9/11; if so, then my immediate answer would be to discourage saying kaddish unless you knew that the family was not. This is, again, a halachic issue, and not about what feels right and/or appropriate (though I most certainly understand and respect the impulse).

(2) Is it OK to say a generic kaddish?
If the entire community/congregation is saying the mourner's kaddish as part of an exercise in memory (like at the end of Yizkor), then it is certainly appropriate. Other than that, I'm not sure I know what a generic kaddish is. By the way, at our minyan this morning, we recited an El Maleh Rachamim for all the victims of 9/11... another Jewish way to remember.

(3) Should said kaddish be said on the secular date, 9/11, or the date on the Hebrew calendar, which is next Shabbat?
I would say that it should be on 9/11; it is a kind of secular yahrzeit, and should be observed as such. Our Jewish days of mourning are structured around the Jewish calendar, but 9/11 was not a Jewish event.

I dare say that all halachah sits on an aggadic foundation (see Heschel's Heavenly Torah) and that the aggadic foundation for saying kaddish on 9/11 includes the inviolable association of the secular date with the reckoning of its yahrzeit as Rabbi Skolnik suggests (aggadically), but, in addition, it also includes the aggadic foundation of why and how we mourn: In this case the "why" is as much for the death of innocence and a world-view firmly rooted in a sense of liberty and justice that our government has all too readily sacrificed, as it is for the death of people; and the "how" is by saying a prayer that affirms that there is but One True Judge in whom we put our faith. Can it ever be halachically unacceptable to affirm the righteousness of the One True Judge?


Anonymous Reed Chopper said...

I kind of side with him, but not for halakhic reasons. Kaddish is powerful stuff, and you need to keep it in reserve for when you experience a great personal loss. If you recite it for the Tsunami, Darfur, World Trade Center and Katrina victims, or for your colleague, your secind cousin, your neighbor or your cat, what are you going to do when your heart is broken?

11:16 AM  
Blogger NeilLitt said...

The litmus test for me is when is the outcome so unbearable that it breaks my heart and tests my faith in the One True Judge. I wouldn't pull out Kaddish for the death of my daughter's hamster, but even Rabbi Skolnik sees 9/11 as a "secular yahrzeit."

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Reed Chopper said...

But it's somebody's else's personal tragedy. As bad as I felt about the 3,000 9/11 victims, I cried a lot more when I lost my mother. It's a lot harder to stand up and sanctify the name of G-d when it's someone who's part of you dies.

5:19 PM  
Blogger NeilLitt said...

In the global village we are all connected. It is human to hurt more when an intimate passes away, but I dare say that the world would be a better place if we allowed ourselves to see the humanity in people we struggle to understand and we train ourselves to say Kaddush for the stranger, opening our hearts for the grief that we must work harder to apprehend.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:53 PM  
Blogger NeilLitt said...

The previous comment was submitted to me in Hebrew by Baruch Rosen. I thought that it had successfully posted with Hebrew characters, but when I returned later, I saw that it had not. Since I do not know how to post in Hebrew, here is an attempt at translation:

"Dear Sir,

"I am late in responding but when Shabbat ended today I was reading your blog about saying Kadish for a Jew or Jews who were murdered on that terrible day. I wanted to say a few things to your excellency that have been written on this subject because people ask these questions in my synagogue, too.

"They ask if it is allowed to add 'God will avenge his (their) blood' and the rabbi replies that it is allowed.

"The issue in the blog is a bit complicated. On this day, people were murdered and there is no one to say Kadish after all of them. The rabbi replies that it is a mitzvah to say kadish to 'met mitzvah' (i.e., for one we find dead and are obligated to bury-- and, by extension, in these cases, too), particularly when the name is unknown. But this should be done according to the Hebrew date, with the intention that it be dedicated to this specific unknown person.

"The person is not named in the Kadish in any event. But for the others, one may dedicate a chapter of Psalms in any open assembly in which there is a minyan, even among non-Jews. There is no halacha against it and it is even a mitzvah.

"As you can see, many have discussed this and many have written of it. Your excellency and his friends are not alone in considering this.

"With much respect and Shavua Tov,

"Baruch Rosen."

5:40 PM  
Blogger عبده العمراوى said...

شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام

4:25 AM  

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