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Question: In the many shuls that I’ve attended I observe that there are people who recite the Kaddish silently. Is this correct? I’ve also seen Kaddish recited by some at a cemetery without a minyan is there any reason to sanction this?

Charles Rosen
Via email



Synopsis: We discussed the possibility that the Kaddish of those in the congregation who are reciting the Kaddish along with the chazzan should indeed correctly be recited in an undertone as more than one voice at the same time is not heard. We duly noted the exception of the Megillah reading where two voices may be heard. However, we noted that Modim in the reader’s repetition – Chazarat HaShatz is always to be recited in an undertone. We also noted that the Kaddish is a means of Sanctifying Hashem’s Holy Name – Kiddush Hashem, which was instituted to rectify the destruction of the Holy Temple. We also cited the Gemara (Shabbos 119b) that it is to be recited ‘with all ones might’ and the two views as to what that means; Rashi – all one’s concentration – kavana; Tosafot – in a loud voice. We then cited the encounter of R’Yosi and Eliyahu (Berachot 3a) where he learned three things from Eliyahu; one must not enter a ruin; lone may recite a prayer at the side of a road; and if so he recites a Tefillah ketzara – a short tefillah. Eliyahu revealed to him Hashem’s reaction to our recitation of the Kaddish, how pleased He is and how it invokes regret on His part for having exiled us. Yet it was our sins that brought that upon us.

We then reflected on the anomaly of this prayer being recited in Aramaic as opposed to Hebrew – the Holy Tongue. We explained that at the time of its composition, the masses were not fluent in Hebrew as they all spoke Aramaic, and the importance of this one prayer was such that one reciting should be able to truly express and comprehend the message of the Kaddish. To facilitate this, we thus translated the entire text of the Kaddish Shalem into English. We also noted that the Sages left us with ten Kaddish recitals daily. We also noted two unique aspects of Kaddish: that the prayer that seems to most sanctify Hashem’s Name, is not recited in the Holy Tongue, Hebrew, but in Aramaic, the language most spoken in the time of the Sages; and that not a single one of Hashem’s Holy Names is contained therein. We also noted the different Kaddish recitals: Kaddish Derabbanan; Kaddish Shalem; Chatzi Kaddish; Kaddish Titkabel. We also noted various differing practices regarding bowing during the Kaddish. We also discussed the various praises contained in the Kaddish and these (though the Kaddish is in Aramaic are specifically in Hebrew). These ten praises are juxtaposed with the ten words G-d used when He created the world and to the Aseret Hadibrot – the Ten Commandments. We also noted that we stand for every davar she’bik’dusha – which we learn from Eglon, king of Moab, who stood when Ehud ben Gerah told him he had a message from G-d. He thus merited a special reward that the Davidic dynasty comes [in part] from him. We noted that responding to Amen Yehei Shmei Rabba serves the living on their day of judgment and relieves the punishment due the departed. Now, if Kaddish reflects the punishment due to the departed, how dare we recite Kaddish for one who is truly righteous?

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Answer: The Wisest of all men, King Solomon, in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes 7:20) states: “There is no man who is righteous on this earth who does good and sins not.” The Targum translates to Aramaic – (and we to English): There is no man who is so righteous on the earth who does good all the days of his life and who does not bear guilt before Hashem, but a man who sins before Hashem should guard himself to repent before he dies.

Rashbam explains as follows: There is no man who is righteous on this earth – and now I tell you that there is nothing of value in this world as chochma, wisdom, and over this set your heart to understand, for there is no wise man on this earth who shall do good all the days of his life that he does not come to sin. Therefore, you have to take great precautions that you not come to sin with a kal va’chomer (a fortiori) from the wise man: “There is no righteous man like there is no wise man, the wise man is called a righteous man just as is stated earlier (7:16) ” Do make yourself overly righteous nor overly wise…”

Thus we see that the greatest of people, no matter how righteous, will sometimes slip in their time on this earth. The Sage, Rava (Shabbos 31a), states: “At the time that a person is brought before the heavenly tribunal they say to [ask] him have you been truthful in your business dealings, have you set aside time for your Torah studies, have you been involved in procreation and have you been anxious for the deliverance?”

We find in the Zohar (Vol 2 58b) the following: “R. Yehudah was sitting before R. Shimon and he raised the following question (Isaiah 52:8) “The voice of your lookouts, they raise their voice, they sing glad song in unison, with their own eyes they will see that Hashem returns to Zion.” He asked: “Who are these lookouts? Rather they are the ones who anxiously hope and question, ‘When will Hashem have mercy and rebuild his Holy Temple?’ And how is this lookout done? The Zohar continues, ‘They raise their voice; it should say, they will raise their voice, what does it mean they raise their voice? Rather it teaches that everyone who cries and raises his voice over the destruction of Hashem’s house will merit for that which it states; ‘They will sing glad song in unison, they will merit to enjoy the pleasure as Hashem returns to Zion.’”

We thus see that awaiting our deliverance is the cause of that deliverance; therefore, the one who awaits is the one who merits to experience the deliverance.

Of interest is that Rava says that [when one returns his soul] the person will be interrogated and asked four questions [as cited above]: Have you been truthful in your business dealings, have you set aside time for your Torah studies, have you been involved in procreation and have you been anxious for the deliverance? As for the first three one can give a definitive answer, but the last, can anyone ever give a definitive answer?

In truth, what is the degree considered to be a proper and satisfactory anxiety over such an enduring loss? While it is true that we mourn the loss, that fact is that we repeat our anxieties in the Shemoneh Esreh three times a day with two blessings that clearly express that anxiety: “V’liyrushalayim ircha b’rachamin tashuv v’tishkon b’tocha ka’asher dibarta u’vnei ota b’karov b’yameinu binyan olam – And to Jerusalem Your city with [Your] mercy may we return and may You rest within it as You have spoken and may You soon rebuild [the Temple] an eternal edifice.” Followed by: “Et tzemach David avdecha meheira taztmiach v’karno tarum biyshu atcha ki liyshuatcha kivinu kol hayom – May You cause the offspring of your servant [King] David to flourish and enhance his pride through Your salvation, for we hope for your salvation. Perhaps these two blessings, with our full kavana, concentration, suffice to demonstrate our anxiety over such enduring loss?

(To be continued)


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.