Wandering Soul

There is a story told that happened not that long ago.A respected woman in a Hungarian city adopted the custom of giving a donation every so often to the local yeshiva so that someone would recite Kaddish for those that have noone to say Kaddish for them. After a while the woman’s husband passed away and her finacial situation became difficult, however she always managed to find the money for the donation for the yeshiva trusting in Hashem that he would help her find the money for her two daughters wedding expenses.

At one stage when she had no money to cover the donation for the Kaddish the Rosh Yeshiva accepted her pleas and they carried on saying Kaddish in her honour.

One day as the woman was out in the street an elderly Jew approached her. With a full white beard his face was radiant like the sun. He started talking to her with warmth and sincerity, asking her questions about her situation. The woman opened her heart and poured out her anguish and hardships to the old man. How much do you need for your daughter wedding expenses he asked. Taken aback with the question she enquired why was he asking. The man pressed her for an answer until she gave in and gave him a sum.

Immediatly the man took out a piece of paper and drew up instructions to the bank to give this woman the monies stated. As he had written a large amount he requested that she bring two witnesses to sign on the document. The widow went to the Yeshiva and brought two talmidim with her as witnesses. They signed on the document and the old man gave it to the widow instructing her to go to the bank the next morning.
The next morning the woman was at the bank as soon as it opened its doors. She gave the document to the clerk. He stared in amazement and asked the woman to wait. With the document in hand he went to the managers office. The manager took one look at the paper and fainted.

Everyone panicked. After a while the manager was recovering he asked that they bring the woman to him. As she stood before him trembling he asked that she recount everything that had happened. She told him closing with the fact of the two witnesses.

Would you be able to identify the old man if you saw him again the manager asked. Of course and so would the two witnesses the woman replied. The manager reached into a draw at his desk and pulled out a picture. Is this the man he asked. Yes she replied.

Give this woman her money and let her go he instructed the clerk. After the woman had departed he informed his curious staff of what had happened to him the previous night. The man who appeared to that woman was my father – who passed away ten years ago. He appeared to me in a dream and said that being I had strayed from the Jewish path and had married a gentile and therefore had not said Kaddish for him his soul had found no respite. That is until this woman had arranged for someone to say Kaddish for souls that have not got anyone to say Kaddish for them. Tomorrow morning this woman will appear before you in your bank with a cheque from me. When I woke up this morning I told the dream to my wife who just laughed. However as we have just seen it has come true.
Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld – who later would become Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem – would tell this story ending with “And who were the two yehiva boys who witnessed the signature. I was one and the other was Reb Yehudah Greenwald.”
After that the bank managers life changed. He repented and found his way back in to Judaism and his wife became a sincere convert and together they built a proper Jewish home.

Different versions of Kaddish

There are 5 different versions of Kaddish that we say today.

The first is Kaddish D’Rabanan – The Rabbi’s Kaddish. This Kaddish is probably the most original of the different versions predating the destruction of the Second Temple. It used to be said by the Rabbi’s and scholars at the conclusion of their studies. Its setup is very similar to the Kaddish Shalem (see below).

The second Kaddish is the Chatzi Kaddish – the Half Kaddish. This Kaddish is said at the end of a section of prayers and is built up from 2 main paragraphs.

The third Kaddish is the Kaddish Shalem – the Full Kaddish. This is made up of the Chatzi Kaddish and another three lines added on at the end. The first of the additional lines asks for our prayers to be received and accepted and the last two ask for peace. The Kaddish Shalem is said at the closing of the service.

The forth Kaddish is called Kaddish Yatom – The Mourner’s Kaddish. The build of this Kaddish is exactly the same as the Kaddish Shalem with the exception of the first of the extra three lines mentioned in the previous paragraph being removed.
This Kaddish is said for the duration of the first eleven months after death and on the yahrzeit in each year.

The fifth Kaddish is Kaddish L’chad’ta. This is said by a person or persons upon completion of a tractate of Mishna or Talmud. The main difference with this Kaddish is that the first paragraph is changed to include a long statement with a request for the resurrection of the dead and the rebuilding of Zion.

Each of the different types of Kaddish have to be said with a quorum of ten men over the age of Barmitzvah (thirteen years old).

Bridge of Life

Too most of us at many stages in our lives I’m sure that we have wondered why did G-d let this happen. Why did such a young person suffer & die, why do wicked people benefit etc.
In his book Gesher HaChaim – The Bridge of Life – Rabbi Yechiel Tucazinsky says just this, that the world plan looks totally upside down
to us, with what we think is bad maybe being for the good and vice versa. Man with his capacity for going both ways – good and evil – would seem to be a perfect case study.
Many people/s past and present think that they could have done a better job – some have tried but all have failed.
Despite our limited human takings on things, we have to understand that G_d made the universe EXACTLY as He wanted it in accordance with His wisdom. This understanding means that from the smallest microbe at the bottom of the ocean up to the furthest star in space was made with purpose in the master plan that is called creation.
Rabbi Yechiel Tucazinsky therefore notes in The Bridge of Life that the above has even more significance in the role that the Kaddish plays as the mourner’s prayer. Even though the deep personal loss that is felt at the time of tragedy the mourner along with others recognises G-ds Hand in the world and that we accept his decisions and that we try to see the good that might be hidden away.
As we say in the last verse of the Kaddish – He who makes the peace in His heights will bless all of us with the insight to accept His decrees with our own peace of mind.

Tu Bishvat – New Year for plants

This Shabbat (15 Shvat – 30 January2010) when we read the Portion of the Torah called Beshalach is also this year Tu Bishvat – The New year for plants and trees. We are told in the Talmud right at the beginning of the tractate of Rosh Hashanna that there are four New Years. One for people, one for Kings, one for cattle and one for plants and trees.

The custom on Tu Bishvat is to eat fruits from the seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised: …a land of wheat and barley and (grape) vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and (date) honey (Deut. 8:8).

There also is a tradition that is becoming popular again in recent years to have a Tu Bishvat Seder. The origin of this is Kabbalistic.

One also tries on Tu Bishvat to eat a fruit that one hasn’t eaten in this season and to say the blessing for a new fruit over it along with its regular blessing.

What is the idea behind all of this? Again as with many things it is to realise where all the goodness comes from. That G_d provides us with everything that we need from nature.

What is nature? We take for granted that the trees with all their abundance of fruits, the plants with all their colours shining forth and everything else we see our our daily travels is just there. Nature in itself is a miracle. Since when does the pip of an apple when put in the ground become a massive tree etc. It is the Hand of G-d. Nature is G_d
playing his role in our everyday life. We just have to be tuned in to realise it when we see it.

Therefore when you partake of a fruit on this Tu Bishvat remember the part that nature takes and that it is not just a background role in our everyday trundle through our lives.

The Power of Kaddish – Rabbi Akiva

There is a story told in the Talmud.
Rabbi Akiva was walking in a forest. He saw a man, darkened with coal dust, carrying a heavy load of fire wood on his shoulders and running as fast as his legs would carry him. Rabbi Akiva commanded the man to stop.
“Why are you running with such a heavy burden? If you are a slave, I shall free you! If you are poor and must exert yourself to such an inhuman extent, let me give you money and make you rich”

“Please,” the man entreated Rabbi Akiva, “Let me go and continue my work!”

“Are you human or are you from the demons?”

“I am neither a poor man nor a slave. I am a soul that is being punished by collecting huge amounts of fire wood for a giant fire into which I am to be thrown.”

“Tell me, what was your occupation when you lived in this world?”
The man answered, “I was a tax collector. I took bribes from the wealthy, and I had the poor killed. Not only that, I had illicit relations with a betrothed girl on the holiest day of the year, on Yom Kippur.”

Rabbi Akiva inquired, “My son, have you not heard that something from the other worlds that could be done to help you and help with your suffering?”

“Please,” he cried, “Allow me to resume my work. My task masters will be angry with me and punish me further. They say that I have no way of being redeemed. Had I had a son who would stand up in front of others and cause others to praise G-d, then they could release me from this punishment. But I left a wife who was pregnant, I don’t know if she had a son or daughter? And if he were a boy, who would teach him Torah for me?”
“What is your name?”

“My name is Akiva, my wife’s name is Shosmira, and I was from the place called Elduka.”
Rabbi Akiva felt extremely bad because of this soul and he searched from village to village until he came to that very place. He asked in the village, “Where is this Akiva’s house?”

The villagers answered in hatred, “May his bones be ground to dust in Hell!”

“Where is this man’s wife?”

The villagers answered with bitterness, “May her name and memory be blotted out from this world!”

“Where is this man’s child?”

“He is uncircumcised, and no one will circumcise him!”

Rabbi Akiva found & grabbed the man’s son and began to teach him Torah. Rabbi Akiva fasted for forty days and then heard a voice from heaven. “Rabbi Akiva, do you fast for this boy?”

Rabbi Akiva answered, “Yes!”

Teach him to read and write. Teach him to say the grace after meals, teach him to say ‘Shema’ and to pray.” When the boy shall pray in public, causing the people to praise G-d’s name, then the punishment shall be lifted from this man soul.”

When this happened, the soul of the man came to Rabbi Akiva in a dream.. “You have spared my soul from the punishments of Hell.”

(This story is from one of the many legends found in the Talmud. In the Zohar Chadash, it is mentioned that the prayer is the Kaddish.)

What is the power that is demonstrated here? What can cause a evil man to be redeemed from a fitting punishment?
The answer is simple. The redemption is not in the mere saying of Kaddish, but in causing others to praise G-d. Children who live lives of doing good, bring credit to their parents.

Judgment is not only on the deeds that are done, judgment is also on the actions that are caused. If a man leaves a child who increases the respect that others have for G-d, then it is a credit for the parents, even if the parent is evil. This is the secret of the greatness of the Kaddish, that the causing of others to acknowledge the greatness of G-d in public can serve to counter balance the evil that was perpetrated by the parent.

The Roots of Belief

At its roots the meaning of the Kaddish prayer is the Jewish people’s belief in the bigger picture. If there ever was a nation that could have been excused for raising up its hands and saying thats it – no more surely they fit the bill. However many years of persucution, all the miles of wandering in exile the belief and yearning that we would one day return to our land never stopped. Next Year in Jerusalem was always on our tounges.

With all the pain that comes at a particular moment in time whether it be when slaves in Egypt or during the recent Holocaust we have always understood that we are part of the makeup of the Jewish people and that we have not been forgotten and that we will always survive and in the end thrive under our own rule.

One expects that the Kaddish prayer would be about the departed and or death. The opposite is the truth. Kaddish is our belief in life and therefore G_d himself.

The loss of a loved one turns the world upside down and plunges one into darkness. However, even when confronted by darkness we see the light that the kaddish brings us at every place and at every time. It is all about G_d and our peoples belief that He is with us in all times, in all places and in all undertakings. However hard this might seem if one looks closely the Hand of G_d can always be found. We might not realise it at the time but if we look back sometimes after a short period of time or sometimes after a historical era His Hand can be seen often with more ease than other occasions.

When we reach every year the yarzheit for a departed one, despite the sadness that one naturally feels one should also feel in an elevation due to all the signs we use: the candle, the kaddish the prayers and study. All these enable us and the soul of the departed to soar higher.

Traditions of Kaddish

Jewish law requires that Kaddish be said on behalf of a person who has died. The seven family members that this applies to are: mother, father, spouse, son, daughter, brother and sister. It is part of the son’s duties to say Kaddish for a parent, however if he cannot, for whatever reason, then one may also hire someone to recite the Kaddish, a practice dating back over 500 years.
There is also a custom to say Kaddish for any Jewish person that there is no-one else to say Kaddish on their behalf.
Kaddish is said for the first time at the burial service and from then for eleven months at the three daily prayers (Ma’ariv in the night, Shacharit in the morning and Mincha in the afternoon). On various days throughout the year that there are additional services, Kaddish is also said then (Shabbat, Festivals and New Moon). The last time that Kaddish is said during the first year is on the Yahrtzeit (anniversary of the Jewish Calendar date of passing or burial – there are different opinions). After this, one should say Kaddish on the aniversary of the date of death.
The general requirement is to say Kaddish in the presence of at least 10 men over the age of Barmitzvah, which is thirteen years old.
If Kaddish was never said for a person in the past , there is no reason why one cannot start to say Kaddish on his behalf now.
This has been written in memory of Alan Green z”l ( Avraham Yitzchak Ben Toiva ) who passed away yesterday in London – 24 Tevet 5670.