Dear Rabbi

I am appreciative of all the online opportunities that are out there and I have been joining my Rabbi daily for a virtual service. My frustration is that I am in my year after the loss of my father. I very much want to say kaddish but my Rabbi says it is not an option. If ten of us men are assembled online why can’t I say kaddish?


Dear Rick

I appreciate the challenge and the difficulty that people feel in being unable to say kaddish. Anyone who has ever had to say kaddish can appreciate the sense of deprivation if you will, by not being able to say kaddish for a loved one. Let alone those who have stared out in this situation in the first instance, losing a loved one, and have never had the opportunity to say it properly altogether.

First, let me explain the spiritual reality. When you have ten different people – builders gathered together, they take their cement and their bricks and they construct whatever it is that they are building. Now imagine these same ten builders are in quarantine. Each is on zoom with their own brick and their own cement. As much as they want they cannot build. The virtual reality doesn’t compensate for the physical reality.

Why do we have shuls – Synagogues? Once upon a time we had a Temple and there was an incredible Divine energy therein – a manifestation of G-dliness. In the absence of the Temple, the ancient Rabbis, men of unique spiritual stature introduced the prayer service and within that they introduced the kaddish prayer as well. They indicated that certain prayers require a particular physical dynamic in order to achieve the spiritual energy if you will, generated through this prayer. A minyan – 10 within immediate physical proximity of one another can achieve this. Their combined physical presence enables them to construct this spiritual dynamic. And as in the physical so too in the spiritual – the virtual reality cannot compensate for the physical.

Kaddish is an incredibly holy prayer. The famous middle line – Yehay shemay raba etc. is made up of 7 words and 28 letters. So is the first verse of the Torah discussing creation. So is the first verse of the Ten Commandments introducing the Torah. Thus the Kaddish links the most fundamental components of Judaism all together – creation – revelation – and thereby gives immense comfort and elevation to the soul of a loved one.

But it has to function within a designed formula in order to achieve that objective.  So whereas one may argue – emotionally – that they want to recite it on their own – or through a virtual minyan – I get it. It’ll placate you – but insofar as the formula is concerned – what the kaddish is intended to achieve for the benefit of a loved one – that won’t happen.

But this brings me to my second point. Like your synagogue, since we went into lockdown one of the myriad things we are doing in Mill Hill shul is assembling together on ZOOM and praying together. In fact, typical of Jews – we have not one but two morning services – no joke. Even in our virtual world everyone needs a service they don’t go to! For the past many weeks, when we get to those parts when Kaddish would normally be recited, I ask everyone who would require kaddish, to take a minute – what we call “Kaddish meditation” – to think about their loved ones. There is a dignified silence and it is very meaningful. In addition, at the end of the morning service and again in the evening, a Mishna is studied in the merit of all those who would otherwise have kaddish recited for them. The Hebrew names are read out and then the Mishna learnt. Mishna has the same words as Neshama meaning soul and this study also gives unique joy and elevation if you will to those souls. This has provided immense comfort for the mourners. I have recently shared this with a number of other Rabbis who are implementing the same.

So it should be less about what works for the mourner – and again, I fully appreciate where one is coming from – and more about what works for the loved one.

As a final point, I would ask that you consider this: It is not the case that we are being denied doing something. It is the case that we are not required to do those things. I have said this before and I believe it absolutely, there are many currently who are unable to have a tahara – the special purification ritual prior to being laid to rest. One young man, whose mother was in the chevra kaddisha, performing this tahara process on so many for so many years – was distraught on account of his own mother not being able to have a tahara. And as I said to him – it’s not that your mother can’t have a tahara. If circumstances have dictated this – then your mother is a special soul – she doesn’t require a tahara.

It’s not that you cannot say kaddish for your loved one. It’s that, at the moment, the alternatives are all that is required and necessary to give their special souls the special elevation and nachat they require. Wishing you and others comfort and a long life.



Dear Rabbi

There is this “unity Sefer Torah” that I have heard various people speak about. Can you enlighten what it is all about and what it has to do with the current pandemic?



Dear Isabelle

Our Sages tell us very categorically that the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple was on account of baseless hatred – people consciously choosing to isolate one another. 2000 years of exile I think it is fair to say that we have redressed much of that balance. Sure there’s a farible here and a broiges there. But by and large we tend to be getting along with one another. Comes along the evil inclination in the guise of COVID-19 and seeks to force that isolation upon us. To separate parents from children, friends from one another – even as we are no longer looking to isolate others, we are now being forced to self-isolate.

But he’s losing. He’s losing because we are connecting in ways like never before. For twenty years we have been preparing for this with the advancement of technology. People are reaching out to one another, helping one another in ways previously unimaginable.

But there is something else, something so incredibly powerful that we can all do as well. UnitedforProtection.com was set up to include as many people as possible in the writing of a Torah scroll. We are called “Am Yisroel” and the word Yisroel is an acronym for yesh shishim ribu oisiyois laTorah meaning “There are 600,000 letters in a Torah scroll.” By definition, a Torah scroll has a compelling unifying ability – it brings people together in one common spiritual cause. This is needed now more than ever. Historically there is precedent for the writing of a Torah that has helped in a pandemic. It costs a mere 2 dollars, or nothing at all if you so choose – to purchase a letter for each of your loved ones. It helps unite you with thousands of others who are doing the same from across the Jewish world. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. In fact since you raise it, I would encourage everyone to join in this beautiful campaign – go to UnitedforProection.com today. We can all do with the added unity and all the blessings it can bring.