Will Someone Say Kaddish with Me?

My mother no longer comprehends what is going on around her. She is almost 100 years old. Until recently, she was a vibrant, bustling individual who not only enjoyed life but managed to gladden the hearts of the many who knew her. I can say without question that she has been a wonderful mother — in my eyes the best — but now, she is as helpless as a baby. 

I doubt if she knows that I feed her lunch every day, but I do know at some deep level she understands I will perform the ultimate mitzvah for her. After she has gone on to the next world, I will say Kaddish for her. But I have to qualify that wish – because it would be more accurate to say, I hope I will be able to say Kaddish for her, because it might not be possible.

It is getting harder and harder to find a minyan. Without a bar or bat mitzvah celebrated, our synagogues are never full on Shabbat. What is heartbreaking is struggling to find a minyan for mincha or ma'ariv in the winter. Too many Jewish men no longer make it a practice to go to shul on a regular basis, or to make it part of their schedules to drop in to be part of a minyan.

In order for Kaddish to be said it requires a minyan, a group of ten adult males. It is recited on behalf of all of the Jewish people, emphasizing our common responsibility and our interlinked fates. By saying Kaddish you are first honouring God, and then you are also honouring your father and your mother.

 Over the years, I have often been part of a minyan so this sacred duty can be performed for a friend, a relative, a stranger. It has never been an imposition or a hardship. Rather, it has helped to strengthen me and to assist in my understanding of who I really am – a Jew.

Our synagogues have wonderful members who have fulfilled their responsibilities and have said Kaddish for their parents. But sadly, they now see their own children not fulfilling this obligation and having their children, the grandchildren, witness this lapse.

 What this problem says to me is that somewhere along the way, we may have lost our sense of responsibility for one another. I know we have busy lives. Work demands a lot from us. Most of us consider our families more important than strangers. But in perspective, the Jewish people form such a miniscule percentage of the 6 billion people on this planet, in one way or another, we are all interconnected and are not really “strangers” after all.

Life, we like to say, is “demanding” and “hard” but in the last 60 years life on the whole has been good for those of us fortunate to live in the Western World. We haven’t had to worry about pogroms or closed doors, except for the odd private club. Even that isn’t such a big deal because we have our own. So many times, we don’t feel a need or an urgency to do all the little things that define us Jews. For those of us who are not Orthodox, we don’t look identifiably Jewish. We no longer carry out the 613 commandments, let alone the big 10.

But you have to stop and ask yourself, how many commandments can we violate or not carry out before we are no longer Jews? Can we pick and choose? Maybe yes, maybe no. It seems to me that those commandments associated with the ‘life cycle’ – birth to death – most importantly remind us of who we are: we hold a bris for our baby boys, we help our sons prepare for their bar mitzvahs, we get married under a chuppah and when our parents die, we say Kaddish.

It is a sad day when a parent dies. But if a mourner cannot say Kaddish, imagine how this only adds, unnecessarily, to his distress. It doesn’t have to be like this. To be part of a minyan only takes about 30 minutes out of your day. If you make a commitment to come to shul only one day a month – 1 day – it would make a big difference to your shul. First you would be doing a mitzvah by giving comfort to those who have to say Kaddish. Second you would be teaching your children, by example, the importance of fulfilling the mitzvah. And third, it’s like insurance – you will be increasing the likelihood of someone saying Kaddish for you.

Surely this is a mitzvah you can live with: 30 minutes one day a month, twelve times a year. Or maybe our synagogues will make it a part of your commitment , once becominga member, you must perform ‘’JEWRY DUTY‘’ one week every year.

So help a fellow Jew perform his obligation. He can’t do it alone.

   -  Avron Shore Z"L passed away on July 13th 2012. May his memory serve as a blessing