Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Moshe Has Semicha!

A great big mazel tov to Rabbi Moshe Silver on completing two years immersed in a private study program with a group of Rabbeim and other Chevra, primarily from Lakewood. In August, in the thick of the Lebanon crisis, Moshe and his wife flew to Yerushalayim where he wrote his final Bechinah (exam). On 20 Av (14 August) he received his Semichah. Moshe's blog ToratMoshe is a wonderful collection of over a year of Torah commentary.

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?