| Magazine Feature |

The Power of Kaddish

Stories of Kaddish around the world

Even Jews who may not keep many mitzvos or frequent a shul want to say Kaddish, but the meaning and the symbolism of the tefillah a mourner says three times a day for eleven months is often shrouded in confusion.
Rabbi Gedalia Zweig is determined to bring clarity and comfort to mourners straddling the interface between This World and the Next


It’s the mitzvah nobody wants to be in the position of doing, yet the one that requires full, daily commitment for eleven months. Saying Kaddish for a loved one is not a one-and-done, and for some mourners, it can be a heavy burden.

Eighteen years ago, Rabbi Gedalia Zweig of Toronto, Canada, entered the scene with his book Living Kaddish (Targum Press/Feldheim-distributed). A few weeks after his mother passed away, Rabbi Zweig was visiting Orlando with his family.

“I discovered that all minyans begin after Disneyworld closes for the day,” he says wryly. “I needed a minyan. I needed to recite Kaddish.”

He found his minyan in the end, but Rabbi Zweig had also uncovered an issue, a hole in the tapestry of Jewish life: The urgency of Kaddish wasn’t resonating with people. And that needed to change.

Rabbi Zweig sat down to write, and his book, which contains beautiful vignettes and anecdotes about this 11-month mitzvah, struck a chord. More than 5,000 copies of Living Kaddish were sold. The Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario had it translated to Russian and distributed 4,000 copies, and another 1,000 were printed in Spanish. Funeral homes stocked up, as did Chabad houses.

With time, Rabbi Zweig gained the reputation of a Kaddish expert who would travel to talk about this mitzvah.

“I’ll fly anywhere for a Shabbos, speak on the importance of Kaddish, and leave right afterward,” he says, remembering times he’s traveled to places as far as Barbados, Sweden, Mexico, and Curacao to lead minyanim, Kaddish, and programs.

To Move the Tree

When Covid struck in 2020, it brought about a serious lag in shul attendance. Living rooms transformed into batei knesset, dining rooms into batei midrash. But for the thousands who required a minyan to recite Kaddish, a den davening wasn’t going to cut it. Rabbi Zweig saw this and took note. Then his father passed away at the age of 101 on the first day of Succos that year.

“There was an old apricot tree in my backyard that had begun to wither several years before,” Rabbi Zweig says. “It was taking up space and no longer producing healthy fruit, so I called a gardener to cut it down. The non-Jewish man chastised me, ‘You Jews don’t cut down fruit trees!’

“But he did come and put it in a brace to ensure our safety,” Rabbi Zweig remembers. “And then Dad died. His funeral was on a clear day — no rain or wind — but we returned from the cemetery to find that tree had split right in half. If not for our succah, our home would have been damaged.”

Of course, there was now half a tree on the Zweigs’ succah, which the gardener came to remove.

“And just like that, there was suddenly room in our garden for a Covid minyan,” Rabbi Zweig recounts. “I could imagine telling Dad I want to have a minyan in the backyard so I can recite Kaddish for him, but there’s no room. Dad would say, ‘So move the tree.’ And I’d answer, ‘Dad, you can’t move a tree.’ Well, he showed me.”

Rabbi Zweig laughs. “It’s become something of a mantra in our house: Who says you can’t move a tree?”

After Yom Tov, Rabbi Zweig sat down to write his second book about the special, difficult mitzvah that was now once again his. He understood that people the world over were davening at home, but they needed to return to a minyan and recite the age-old mourner’s prayer.

The manuscript for his second book, Kaddish Around the World, was originally too short, so Rabbi Zweig sent out feelers for more stories. Longtime mohel and lecturer Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Rabbi Steven Burg from Aish HaTorah (where Rabbi Zweig learned), and others wrote in to provide additional material, and the final draft includes stories like “Kaddish in Bahrain,” “Turkish Delight at Ataturk Airport,” and “Kaddish at the Super Bowl.” He writes about pulling together a minyan to say Kaddish at the shul in Cordova, Spain — the Rambam’s birthplace — which hadn’t been used in hundreds of years; and one in Liverpool, where he attended the nursing home lunch-hour minyan.

Rabbi Zweig’s primary goal in writing his second book was that it should have an impact: to change the entire attitude surrounding the mitzvah of Kaddish. He formatted it as a self-help book and included the three versions of Kaddish — Sefard, Ashkenaz, and Eidut Hamizrach — the tefillah of Yizkor, and a 12-month calendar.

Flipping to the back reveals the one-year outline, divided by month: Month 1: Shloshim; Month 2: Photos; Month 3: Remembering; Month 4: Plant a tree in Israel. Skipping to Month 11: Make a l’chayim; Month 12: First yahrtzeit.

“I created the Kaddish calendar based on my own experiences of mourning, the things that meant so much to me during that time that I wanted to share with my readers,” Rabbi Zweig explains. “Mainly, that they should slow down, appreciate the Kaddish journey. To, well, live it.”

For Those Taken Too Soon

After the massacre on October 7, Rabbi Zweig posted an offer in this magazine: to recite Kaddish for any of the victims. He is currently reciting Kaddish for four victims from Kibbutz Be’eri. Shortly afterward, he and his wife Grace flew to Israel to be mechazek their brothers and sisters there.

“I had to come,” he says with emotion. “I visited Kfar Azah and soldiers near Gaza, and the mitzvah of Kaddish, which I had taken upon myself for the victims, came alive as I saw the site of the massacre.”

Rabbi Zweig has witnessed so many in the throes of grief, both in funeral homes and in the week of shivah, who are sobbing as they recite Kaddish.

“They have so much they want to say to those they’ve lost — one last ‘I love you,’ or ‘I always wanted to tell you’ — but now communication with their loved one is reduced to Yisgadel v’yiskadeish for the next 11 months.

“Tell your loved ones today how much they mean to you,” advises Rabbi Zweig. “And then, when the unfortunate time comes, reciting Kaddish won’t be filled with what’s been left unsaid.

“Kaddish does not mention the deceased, nor does it speak about death. Rabbi Pynchas Brener, former Chief Rabbi of Venezuela, told me that the famous Israeli poet Shai Agnon wrote that since we proclaim Avinu Malkenu (Our Father, Our King), we are all G-d’s children. When a human dies, G-d loses a child. Therefore, we say Kaddish as words of consolation to G-d because of His loss, by saying, ‘You are still Great and Exalted!’

“The most poignant thought I heard was from Rabbi Yosef Kelman z”l of Toronto, Canada, who told me, “Two things saved North American Jews, the maftir and the niftar.” The maftir means the bar mitzvah boy reading from the Torah, and the niftar means someone passing away and the family coming to shul to say Kaddish.

In the following pages, Rabbi Zweig shares a collection of excerpts from his second book, Kaddish vignettes that will inspire, uplift, and soothe tired souls.


Full Court Prayer: A Tale of Jewish Unity
Brooklyn, New York | By Barry A. Walder


ver the past few weeks, we in Bergen County have heard a lot about issues that divide our Jewish community. It inspired me to tell this true story of Jewish unity.

I am an attorney. In the past few years, on several different cases, I have appeared before Judge David Schmidt of the New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. Judge Schmidt is an Orthodox Jew, a respected jurist, and a brilliant man with an incredible memory. With his big gray beard, pleasant manner, and yarmulke, he looks more like a grandfather than a judge sitting on the bench.

This past year, I was one of the attorneys on one side of a hard-fought case that was assigned to Judge Schmidt. Our client was a major landowner in Brooklyn. On the other side was a business run by a group of Orthodox Jews, whose religious observance ranged from modern Orthodox to chassidic. Interestingly, my adversary on the case was another lawyer whom I already knew —like myself, a member of a congregation in Teaneck.

Eventually, as usually happens, both sides got to the point where they wanted to resolve the matter amicably, but settling the case would still require months of detailed negotiations. Judge Schmidt, with his endless patience, devoted countless hours to courtroom conferences, with up to a dozen lawyers and clients sitting across from him at the table. By that stage of the case, the two sides were still adversaries; but we all had a common interest in maintaining good relations and working things out.

My father died in February. A couple of weeks after shivah ended for me, we all came down to court for yet another settlement conference in that case. I was still in shloshim, the 30-day mourning period, in which it is customary not to shave. They all noticed my mourning beard, and everyone on both sides, including the judge, expressed their sympathy on my recent loss.

Well, the conference with Judge Schmidt lasted that entire afternoon, and the session wrapped up just before 5 p.m. As the judge was getting ready to leave, one of the other clients, who always wore a long black coat and a black hat, leaned over and quietly asked me if I had prayed Minchah. I admitted that I had not.

This man — one of the men I was suing — then called out to the judge, who was leaving. “Your Honor, he needs to say Kaddish.”

Without hesitation, Judge Schmidt turned and looked at the group, mentally tallied the number of Jewish lawyers and clients, and said, “We have a minyan right here.”

Most of the men pulled out their iPhones or Blackberries and had the prayers on their screens in seconds. Someone pulled a yarmulke from under his black hat and handed it to me.

Another agreed to lead the prayer, but first asked, “Judge, which direction do we face?”

The judge replied with a smile, “You pray. Don’t worry, G-d will hear you.”

So on that afternoon last March, while I was in shloshim, I stood in a courtroom in the Supreme Court in Brooklyn wearing a borrowed black velvet yarmulke and recited Minchah and Kaddish together with my client, my adversary, the opposing clients, and His Honor — a group consisting of Reform, Conservative, modern Orthodox, and chassidic Jews — all joining together to help me fulfill a mitzvah.


Medina’s First Kaddish in 1,300 Years
Rabbi Steven Burg, CEO Aish Global

MY father passed away last Rosh Hashanah. With his passing, I began a journey that lasted 11 months and ended this past Sunday.

My father was the “King of Minyan.” I recall from my boyhood many times my father stood on the street in front of his shul trying to find a tenth man. As a congregational rabbi, he felt a shul was defined by its minyan (quorum.) There always had to be a daily minyan, no matter what the weather or circumstances. He would never shy away from asking any passersby if they were Jewish and if they could complete the minyan. When we would get nine, he would send us across the street to the Shell gas station to get Jordan, the owner, to complete the minyan.

On Yom Kippur, during the closing prayers of Ne’ilah, he would ask the various members of the daily minyan to take turns standing by the ark, because it was in their merit that the shul would be judged by the Al-mighty for a good year.

It was in this context that I felt the ultimate tribute I could give my father would be to make sure to say Kaddish three times a day with a minyan. This was easier said than done, given my travel schedule.

Many rabbis informed me that due to my work on behalf of the Jewish community, it would be okay to miss if necessary. I am also blessed to have an amazing brother who would never miss a Kaddish.

I had no doubt that I could rely on an exemption from time to time. But in my heart and soul, I knew that, because this was the last concrete task I could do for my father, I couldn’t take the easy way out.

Flying to Israel turned into an anxiety-filled mission every few weeks. It is impossible to travel to Israel from the US without praying on the plane. The minyanim on the plane are not without some controversy. Many just pray from their seats; either they find it very hard to participate in a minyan in flight, or they think it disturbs the other passengers. I decided on a plan: I would have others say Kaddish for me at regular minyanim, as insurance; but on each flight, I would look for opportunities to say Kaddish myself.

Thankfully, one way or another, I was able to say Kaddish on every flight to Israel.

Once, I rushed to the airport right after Shabbos and it didn’t look like there were enough people to make a minyan. I had just resolved to accept my fate, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. He told me that he was saying Kaddish, and asked if I would mind helping him make a minyan. Truly an emissary from above!

I resolved not to travel internationally, with the exception of Israel, until I was finished with Kaddish. This meant that places like South Africa (where I am now writing this) and Latin America would have to wait.

Then I received a call from my close friend Avi Jorisch. He was leading a mission to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and he asked me to join so there would be a rabbinic presence on the trip.

I told Avi my predicament regarding Kaddish. I will never forget Avi telling me, “Rabbi Burg, we will get you Kaddish. I don’t know how exactly, but we will make it happen.”

With Avi’s encouragement, and the knowledge that this mission was important for Israel and the Jewish nation, I went. And that is how I found myself in Medina, Saudi Arabia

The first mention of Jews in Medina dates from the First Temple period. By the 7th century CE, there was a large population of Jews in the area who were respected by local Arabian tribes. In 622, Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is said to have fled to Medina from Mecca. In 624, the Jews of Medina were expelled.

Saudi Arabia has only recently started to permit non-Muslims into the city. We went as a group, meeting with local representatives to get a better understanding of the Saudi people. After lunch in the hotel, we gathered to pray Minchah. At the end, I said Kaddish with my two close friends Avi Levy and Josh Malkin, who had also recently lost relatives.

We realized that this was probably the first Kaddish being said in Medina since the Jews were expelled 1,300 years ago. We were all visibly moved. I just kept thinking how much my father would have loved it.


A Minyan by Taxi
Jerusalem, Israel | (With permission of Rabbi Paysach Krohn)

More than 30 years ago, Rav Yosef Gutfarb of Jerusalem undertook to never miss davening with a minyan. Rain, snow, sleet, or slush would not keep him from getting to a minyan. Of course, at home in Jerusalem, things were much easier, but when he traveled, he put in the extra effort necessary to check when and where the minyanim would be and plan his trips around them.

One night, Rav Yosef arrived home at 3 a.m. and still had not davened Maariv. In his neighborhood, the last minyan was at 11 p.m. He began looking elsewhere. He decided the most likely place to find a minyan was at the main shul in Zichron Moshe, near Geula. This “minyan factory” has tefillos taking place at almost all hours of the day.

To his surprise, when he arrived there at 3:15 a.m., the building was almost empty. He had never seen it so quiet. He looked around and saw the prospects did not look good.

“Do you think anyone else will come in?” he anxiously asked the one person who was there.

“I doubt it. It’s kind of late. The first Shacharis minyan will be starting in an hour and a half.”

“Well, I need a minyan,” Rav Yosef explained.

“Why? Are you saying Kaddish?” the gentleman asked sympathetically.

“No, no. I just have this kabbalah that I always daven with a minyan. I haven’t missed a minyan in decades.”

Unable to think of any other option, he called a local taxi company and asked if eight drivers could come to the Zichron Moshe shul.

“Only Jewish drivers,” he emphasized.

“Who has eight cabs at this hour?!”

“How many do you have?” Rav Yosef asked.

“Only five.”

“Okay. Send them all.”

Rav Yosef then called another taxi company and ordered three more Jewish drivers. Both companies were sure that there was a wedding or some other celebration that ended late and people wanted to get home.

One can only imagine the surprise of the drivers when they arrived at the empty shul and were told by Rav Yosef, “Gentlemen, start your meters and then follow me into the shul.”

He went on to explain that he had not missed a minyan in years, and that they would now daven together. All could read Hebrew, but not all were familiar with the protocol of davening. Some had to retrieve their yarmulkes from their cars, and some had to be shown where Maariv was in the siddur. But they all managed to daven together.

After they finished, an ecstatic Rav Yosef approached Moshe, the first driver, and took out his wallet to pay him.

“Oh, no,” replied Moshe, a religious man. “It was an honor to pray with a holy man like you. I couldn’t take money from you.”

Rav Yosef then approached Arik, a secular Jew. “No, I won’t take money from you. This is the first time I’ve prayed in a long time. It was an honor to be here. I won’t take any money from you.”

So it was with the other six. Not one would take any money from Rav Yosef. With no other choice, Rav Yosef thanked them profusely and wished them well.

No one would have faulted Rav Yosef for davening without a minyan this one time. It was admirable enough that after getting home so late, he took the trouble to travel to Zichron Moshe to try to find a minyan. But his craving for the mitzvah pushed him to try.

All the more so should one who is obligated to say Kaddish strive to pray with a minyan.


The Power of Saying “Good Shabbos
Johannesburg, South Africa | By Rabbi Mordechai Rodal


route to and from shul each Shabbos took me past a long row of restaurants lining the main avenue of Norwood, a suburb of Johannesburg. Every week, on my way home after the kiddush, I would wish a warm “Good Shabbos” to anyone I thought might be Jewish. Baruch Hashem, this “minhag” led to many interesting and inspirational encounters with Yidden who possibly would never have interacted with a rabbi otherwise.

One such episode involved a woman I would see in the same restaurant each week. After a couple of weeks, the “Good Shabbos” evolved into a short chat with the woman and the Jewish proprietors of the restaurant. I would inquire after their welfare, and, if the weather allowed, share a vort or two on the parshah, and engage in light, pleasant conversation while we all stood outside.

One Shabbos, the woman, whose name I had learned was Kim, confided in me that her husband’s health was deteriorating rapidly. He was in hospital battling a terminal illness, and he wanted to speak to a rabbi. We arranged that she would phone me during the week to give me his details. She didn’t.

Each Shabbos, she would promise to call me during the week, but each week passed with no contact. Calling a rabbi to her husband’s bedside would make his inevitable passing a concrete reality for her, and she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Knowing how traumatic this was for her, I patiently waited until she was emotionally ready to take the big step, praying that she would do so before it was too late.

One evening, I was at the hospital, visiting a congregant who was ill. As I was leaving, I noticed a frum family in the hallway who looked agitated. I approached them to see if there was any way I could be of assistance.

They explained that their ten-year-old son had been in an accident earlier in the day, and they were waiting for him to come out of surgery. The boy’s father had recently lost a parent, and that afternoon was the first time he had missed saying Kaddish. While this was understandable, he didn’t want to miss another opportunity, and so they were desperately trying to find ten men to make a minyan for Maariv. Unfortunately, they had only managed to find seven men.

I assured them I would stay with them until we had ten. I went back to the patient I had just visited to enlist his help. So now we were just one man short.

We went to the front desk to ask if there were perhaps any Jewish doctors on duty, but unfortunately there were none. After a short while, one of the nurses who had overheard this exchange came to tell us that there was a Jewish man in a private room who could help make the minyan. He was immobile, so we would have to daven in his room. Happily, we agreed.

After the final Kaddish, I thanking the immobile patient, and I asked him for his name and that of his mother so that I could daven for him. When he told me, I exclaimed in a shock that I’d been davening for him for the previous few weeks, and that his name was written on the Mi Shebeirach list on the bimah in my shul.

He, in turn, exclaimed, “You must be Rabbi Rodal! My wife Kim told me about you, and ever since, I’ve been asking her to give you my details.”

I assured him I would come again the next day. The following day we had a long discussion, and baruch Hashem, I was able to alleviate some of the worries that had been bothering him as he contemplated his impending passing. I managed to visit him a few more times before he passed away shortly thereafter.


All-Star Kaddish
St. Louis, Missouri  | By Lonnie Ostrow

The year was 2009. The place: Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. Some 47,000 people were on hand for the 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game. My cousin’s husband Daniel and his family had been season-ticket holders for the St. Louis Cardinals for decades. However, this was his first opportunity to witness the midseason classic in person.

Sadly, Daniel’s father had passed away only months earlier. Ever devoted, Daniel was diligent about reciting Kaddish three times each day. Between his hectic work schedule and his reliance on finding an evening minyan, Daniel found himself giving away most of his Cardinals game tickets that summer. But the All-Star Game was a unique event. He and his boys were not going to miss it.

Daniel had heard much about a minyan for Maariv that gathered at a designated place in the stadium during the seventh inning stretch. When the top of the seventh rolled around, he and two of his sons headed to that vending area, hoping to assemble a group of ten men.

Unfortunately, many of the regular attendees of this minyan were no-shows that evening. Many had sold their tickets for a premium. Only six were on hand to be counted by the middle of the seventh inning. The men stood waiting for almost 15 minutes. They found a seventh, but not the required ten.

We looked at the players on the field. Amazingly, we counted three Jewish players.

More for the minyan! Jason Marquis was a pitcher from the Colorado Rockies who had actually hit a grand slam home run. Ryan Braun would go on to become the National League MVP in 2011, and Kevin Youklis was from the Boston Red Sox.

Maybe seeing three Jewish men on the playing field below inspired us.

I had already had a similar experience some ten years earlier, when I attended the 1998 Super Bowl. I hit upon the solution then of having the public address system put out a page, “Minchah Service to lost and found.” Daniel decided to pull a trick out of the same bag. He headed to the lost and found and told stadium personnel at the security window that he was looking for his missing sister. Her name: Anita Minyan.

Once the bottom of the seventh inning had been completed, an announcement went out over the stadium PA system: “Anita Minyan, please report to the lost and found on Level Two. Anita Minyan.”

It wasn’t long before the group of seven became ten, and then 14.

The men hurriedly huddled next to a concession stand and recited the evening prayer. Daniel managed to fulfill his Kaddish requirement for the night in grand family tradition — with a bit of improvisation and ingenuity. Anita Minyan was happily discovered, a distant relative of Mr. Minchah Service.


Yahrtzeit in the Big Apple
Manhattan, New York | By Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

AS a rabbi, I am used to being approached at the pharmacy and at the bank by people asking me questions about Judaism. However, I was totally unprepared for an experience I had at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City in December 2013.

If you have no idea what Port Authority is, let me educate you. It’s the largest bus terminal in the United States and the busiest in the world, serving 225,000 people on an average weekday and more than 65 million people a year. With human traffic so intense, the one thing people are not doing is idling or dawdling. It is the last place on Earth I would have imagined that anyone would to want to schmooze with me.

But that is exactly what happened as I was minding my own business, waiting to return home after a rare excursion to New York City.

“Excuse me. You are a rabbi, no?”

“Yes, I am a rabbi. Why do you ask?”

“My name is Arthur. However, my mother — may she rest in peace — named me Velvel. I was born in Crown Heights, and my wife and I lived there until the neighborhood began to change, and then we moved to New Jersey. About a year ago, my wife passed away. I know this is not right, but I have yet to get to shul to say Kaddish for her.”

I was looking at Velvel, unsure where this conversation was going.

“Anyway, Rabbi, I was wondering if, when you get back to shul tonight, you could say Kaddish for my beloved wife?”

I readily agreed to this request. I am often asked to say Kaddish for those who have no one to say it for them. After agreeing, I innocently suggested to Velvel, “It would certainly be more fitting if you came to shul to say Kaddish yourself.”

I was content that with my lukewarm offer, I had fulfilled my kiruv obligation. I was not expecting Velvel’s answer.

“I would love to. But I don’t drive anymore, and I cannot get to a shul unless a shul comes to me.”

I looked at Velvel and wondered aloud, “How could a shul come to you?”

“Rabbi, I see you guys sometimes praying near the corners of the building. Couldn’t you organize a minyan for me right here?”

I looked at Velvel and saw he was totally serious.

“If we get a minyan together, you will recite Kaddish for your wife?”

“Rabbi, you get a minyan and I’ll say Kaddish!”

I was suddenly thrust into the not-so-comfortable position of asking men, “Are you Jewish?”

The answers I received were simply not to be believed:

“Um, I’m not sure. Are you?”

“What’s it to you, man?”

“No, but I always wanted to be. Can you help me?”

“Yes, I am, you wanna make something of it?”

By far the most common was, “Why do you ask?”

Soon, though, by counting yarmulkes and convincing some “not-yet-frum Jews” to join us, a minyan materialized.

And suddenly, the words “Yisgadeil v’yiskadeish” were echoing through the cavernous terminal of the Port Authority.

When the emotional service ended, Velvel approached me, teary-eyed and choked up.

“The last time I said the Kaddish was in 1953, when my father died.”

I innocently asked, “When did he die?”

“Come to think of it, it was this time of year, December 9, 1953.”

When I arrived at shul that evening, I glanced at the calendar. It was the 3rd of Teves. I don’t know why, but something pushed me to look up the Hebrew date for December 9, 1953.

I’ll bet you can figure out the rest. It was the 3rd of Teves, 1953.


That Mikveh Is My Kaddish
Johannesburg, South Africa 2003 | By Rabbi Yossy Goldman


any women might be wondering to themselves that if Kaddish is so special, why can’t they say it? The answer is that women are not prohibited from saying Kaddish; rather they are simply exempt from the obligation of saying Kaddish.

Kaddish may only be said in a minyan. It is recited every day, morning and evening. Women, who are the primary caregivers and pillars of the home and family, are exempt from abandoning their kids and running to a 6 a.m. minyan.

But who says a woman cannot do something just as powerful as saying Kaddish? If the reason that Kaddish is effective is that the son is discharging his moral duty and this reflects well on his parents, then by the same token, a daughter doing good deeds can have an equally potent impact.

When I speak to bereaved women, I encourage them to choose a mitzvah. There is no shortage of good deeds to choose from. Take upon yourself a new mitzvah and specify that this is something you are doing in memory of your loved one. Say, “This mitzvah is my Kaddish.”

Here is a true story.

One Friday, I got a call from a woman named Dina Jude. Dina had previously lived in Johannesburg, and was then making her home in a suburb of Boston. She was in town and wanted to see me. Now, Fridays are not great days for rabbis preparing for Shabbos and sermons, and I generally don’t like to schedule appointments then. But she was rather insistent and said she wouldn’t be in the country long, so I consented, and she came by.

I was so glad she did.

She reminded me that some nine years earlier, she had lost a parent, and I had come to pay a shivah call — not for her, because I did not know her then, but for her uncle, Dr. Michael Kusner, a member of our shul.

Living in America, where many temple services are completely egalitarian, Dina asked about her saying Kaddish. I shared with her this same idea. Kaddish is a son’s mitzvah. You take on your own.

Nine years later, Dina was sitting in my office on that Friday morning proudly telling me that in the suburb where she lived, her Chabad rabbi had just completed construction of a brand-new mikveh for the community. She herself was the project manager.

“Rabbi, remember you told me to take on a new mitzvah?” Dina said. “Well, I did. That mikveh is my Kaddish.”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1000)

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