RRR 14-18

Kaddish When Worshiping Alone

It often happens that an older person no longer can come to the synagogue; or, a sick person is confined to the hospital room or to the home. Such people fre quently read the service in the prayerbook. Occasion ally, when it is the yahrzeit of a parent or another close relative, such worshipers wish to say the Kaddish. Is it permissible to say the Kaddish without a quorum (minyan) of the congregation?

Precisely this question was asked of the Chaplaincy Committee of the Jewish Welfare Board during wartime. Soldiers on lonely duty—for example, coast guardsmen patrolling isolated sections of the coast—wished to say Kaddish on the yahrzeit of their parents. The answer that we gave was based upon an analogy between the Kaddish and the Tefillah. We said: “Just as in the case of the Tefillah, it is preferable to say it with the congregation and yet it is permitted to be said silently alone, so the Kaddish, which is primarily part of the congregational response, may also be recited silently alone.” Because it was wartime, we did not go into the full discussion of the propriety of saying Kaddish in personal worship, but were content with this general analogy. It was for that reason that we felt impelled to add that if the soldier or sailor would write to our Committee, giving the name of the relative and the date of ydhrzeit, we would arrange to have Kaddish said in one of our civilian congregations.

Our answer then was perhaps adequate for the special purpose and circumstance, but now that the question comes up in peacetime, it requires closer analysis.

In general, we can say, as we told the inquiring soldier, that Kaddish can be said for the deceased even in the absence of the mourner. This is true especially in our modern congregations where we recite Kaddish together. We all understand that the Kaddish is in honor not only of those mentioned by name, but of the other deceased whose ydhrzeit is being observed by members of the congregation. In addition, if, as in many of our congregations, the name of the departed is read before the Kaddish, then arrangements can be made to have the name commemorated by being included in the list. But even without this, the Kaddish is meant for all the departed kin of the congrega-tion. If, therefore, this shut-in does not say Kaddish at all, he may take it for granted that the Kaddish recited in the congregation that week is in reference also to those whom he would wish to commemorate.

Nevertheless, the very fact that this inquiry has been made indicates that there are some who would like to say Kaddish themselves, even though they cannot attend the services. May they do so?

The law is clear in the Shulchan Aruch that Kaddish is one of those sacred parts of the ritual (Davar She B ‘Kedusha) which cannot be recited with fewer than ten people present. The Shulchan Aruch, in Orah Hayyim 54 : 1, says that we do not say Kaddish except in the presence of ten adult males and that this applies to the Kedusha and to the Borchu. The importance of the minyan for the saying of the Kaddish and so forth can be seen from the rule in Orah Hayyim 55 : 7: namely, that if a person is praying alone in the synagogue, and the others have prayed in unison, they must wait until he is finished so he can participate in the Kedusha and the Kaddish with them. Of course, there are some minor mitigations of the rule requiring a quorum of ten. If, for example, the relevant part of the service was begun with a full minyan and then somebody left, the incomplete minyan can nevertheless recite the Kaddish and the Kedusha and so on. Also, where people have been praying alone as individuals in the synagogue, they may be joined together for a shortened form of the service (Poreys Al Shema) so that they can hear the Kaddish and the Kedusha (see Orah Hayyim 69).

In fact, what seems to be most important about the Kaddish is not even its recitation but the congregational response to its recitation by the leader. The Talmud tells, in Berachos 3a, that when Israel enters the synagogue and responds to the Kaddish with the phrase, “May His great Name be blessed” (Yhay Sh’may Rahba), God Himself nods approval. (See also die statement of Joshua ben Levi in b. Shabbas If, then, a minyan is required specifically for the Kedusha and the Kaddish, and if an important part of the Kaddish is the congregational response, then it would be clearly contrary to the laws and traditions of the service for an individual to recite it when praying alone. People very often prayed alone at home, but when they did, they omitted the Kedusha and the Kaddish; and when, during the w 119 b.)eek of mourning, the mourners could not go to the synagogue and needed to recite the Kaddish, a minyan of friends gathered to make it possible.

Moreover, from the practical point of view, we certainly should not encourage people to recite the Kaddish at home. The Shulchan Aruch tells us (Orah Hayyim 55 : 22) that it is the duty of members of the community to exert pressure upon each other so that there should always be a minyan in the synagogue. There often has been difficulty gathering a regular minyan, especially in the smaller cities. Great effort was expended to make possible the privilege of pub he worship, and it was a frequent enough practice to hire men for a minyan that the law takes cognizance of it (ibid.). Now in modern times the feeling of piety at the yahrzeit date is one of the justifiable motives which urges people to come to public worship. It would surely not be for the good of Judaism if we weakened this motivation and allowed the spread of the custom of saying Kaddish on the yahrzeit at home.

Nevertheless, there are certainly special cases which deserve consideration, namely, sick people or aged people, to whom it would be of great consolation if they themselves could say Kaddish in their home worship. Is this in any way possible without encouraging the practice? It is noteworthy that the Orphan’s Kaddish is not the only form of Kaddish recited. The cantor himself recites four forms of Kaddish in the regular traditional worship. Then there is a Kaddish which is not at all part of the public worship, the Kaddish of Scholars (Kaddish di Rabbanon). After the day’s study was completed, the scholars present recited the Kaddish.

How many scholars need to be present to permit the recitation of this Scholar’s Kaddish? Originally it is presumed that it required ten, as with the Kaddish in the services. But soon it was taken for granted that fewer than ten could recite it after their study. Abraham Abele Gom biner (Magen Avraham to Orah Hayyim 69, end of para-graph 4) says that even if two or three have completed their study, they may recite the Kaddish. Judah Greenwald, in his responsa “Zichron Judah” (vol. I, no. 24), cites this with approbation and tells of the famous Hungarian rabbi, Maharam Moses Schick, who, when asked by a single student who had finished his studies whether he might not recite Kaddish alone, insisted that there should be at least two students present.

At all events, it is clear that the requirement of a minyan of ten does not apply to the Kaddish recited after study. If the person in whose behalf the inquiry is made is eager to recite the Kaddish and cannot come to the synagogue, which would be preferable, then let him study a chapter in the Bible and recite the Kaddish after it. Of course, the title Rabbi’s Kaddish indicates that this was meant to follow the study of rabbinical literature, but we need not be quite so strict about it. Incidentally, the form of Kaddish which we use in our Reform service is much closer in text to the Scholar’s Kaddish than to any of the others. Note also that Eliezer Deutsch, of Bonyhad, an authority especially on matters of mourning, says that the Yiskor (memorial prayer on holidays) may be recited by an individual without a minyan (“Duda’ye Ha-Sodeh” 12).