Halacha for Sunday 18 Shevat 5781 January 31 2021

Using One’s Father’s or Mother’s Name for a Hashkava or Prayer

Question: When praying for the speedy recovery of someone ill, should the individual’s name be mentioned in the prayer or not? Likewise, when the ill person’s name is mentioned, should his mother’s or father’s name be mentioned as well? What is the Halacha regarding reciting a Hashkava (memorial prayer for the deceased)?

Answer: Regarding the question about whether or not the name of the ill individual should be mentioned at all, the Torah states that when Moshe Rabbeinu prayed for Hashem to heal his sister, Miriam, from her leprosy, he did not mention her name, as the Torah states, “And Moshe cried out to Hashem saying, ‘Please Hashem, heal her, I beseech you.’” The Poskim explain that when one is praying in the presence of the individual one is praying for (meaning in the same room), one should not mention the individual’s name. However, when one is praying for the individual while not in his presence, one should mention the individual’s name.

This that we have written that when praying in the presence of the individual, one need not mention his name, this does not mean that if one wishes one may still mention the name and this is also fine, for it is actually better not to mention an ill individual’s name when praying for him and thus, when praying in the presence of the individual, one should specifically not mention his name in the prayer. The great Chatam Sofer explains the reason for this based on the words of the Mekubalim is that when one’s name is mentioned, heavenly judgment is aroused upon that person and mentioning the name may cause some harm. However, when praying in the person’s presence without mentioning his name, the prayer will be completely beneficial. The Sefer Iyun Yaakov writes likewise that sometime, an individual’s name is what causes the illness and therefore, when praying in the individual’s presence, his name should not be mentioned. It is for this reason that a sick individual’s name is changed since the current name could be what is causing the illness. Thus, when praying in the presence of the individual and not mentioning his name, there is a greater chance of arousing Heavenly mercy for his speedy recovery.

Regarding our second question about when praying for an ill individual while not in his presence whether his father’s or mother’s name should be used, the Gemara (Shabbat 66b) states explicitly that all prayers should be in the format of “one’s name, son/daughter of, one’s mother’s name.” The Rishonim quote several reasons for why it is always better to use one’s mother’s name. Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l writes in his Responsa Torah Lishmah and in his Sefer Ben Yehoyada (Berachot 55b) that the reason for this is because when mentioning one’s father’s name, there is a possibility of arousing prosecution upon the ill individual, for there is usually more prosecution in Heaven upon men than upon women since men are liable for the grave sin of wasting time from Torah study whereas women are exempt from the Mitzvah of Torah study, it is therefore better to always mention the mother’s name rather than the father’s. Another reason for this is because women usually endure more suffering in this world than men through pregnancy, labor, and raising children (of which the responsibility is primarily upon women who are at home more); thus, many of their sins are atoned for as a result of this suffering as opposed to men and it is therefore better to mention one’s mother’s name as opposed to one’s father’s name. There is another reason for this quoted in the holy Zohar and according to this reason, even if the father of the individual was known to be more of a righteous individual than the mother, the mother’s name should still be mentioned and not the father’s (see Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 2, OC, Chapter 11).

Regarding a Hashkava prayer during which the names of the deceased are mentioned after the Torah reading in the synagogue, there are varying customs and some specifically mention the father’s name. Maran zt”l writes that none of these customs are detrimental in any way and thus, there is no need to change any specific custom and either one is fine. Similarly, if the name of the mother of an ill or deceased individual is unknown, the father’s name may be mentioned and this poses no concern at all.

The Sefer Temim De’im writes that when one prays while crying, those praying do not require the assistance of the Heavenly angels to bring their prayers up to Hashem, for the Gemara (Baba Metzia 59a) states that the gates of tears have not been locked. Similarly, if one prays with intense concentration during perilous times, the prayers are heard even if the angels do not understand the language of the prayer. May Hashem answer all of our prayers for the good, Amen.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Reciting Birkat Hamazon While Walking on One’s Way

Question: If one is eating while walking outdoors, may one recite Birkat Hamazon while continuing to walk? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed that our Sages have enacted that one must recite Birkat Hamazon while sitting in order for the individual to have maximum concentration. ......

Read Halacha

The Significance of Tu Bishvat

The Fifteenth of Shevat or Tu Bishvat is the Rosh Hashanah for trees (Rosh Hashanah 2a). Most people commonly think that just as on the First of Tishrei, which is the day of Rosh Hashanah, all creations are judged for life or death, for wealth or poverty, and the like, so too, on Tu Bishvat, trees a......

Read Halacha

Reciting Birkat Hamazon While Seated

Question: Is one obligated to sit while reciting Birkat Hamazon or is it permissible to recite it while walking as well? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (51b) states that one must recite Birkat Hamazon while seated. The Poskim as well as Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 183) rule li......

Read Halacha

A Dish Comprised of Several Kinds of Food

Question: What is the correct blessing on stuffed peppers? Similarly, what is the correct blessing on a cake which has just a little flour but the primary ingredients of the cake are fruits and nuts? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained that when one eats two different foods requirin......

Read Halacha


Foods Which Contain Flour

During the past few days, we have discussed that when a dish is comprised of several different foods which require different blessings, one should recite the blessing on the primary food in the dish. Thus, if one eats grape leaves stuffed with rice, one should recite the Mezonot blessing, for the ri......

Read Halacha

The Law that the Blessing on a Primary Food Exempts a Secondary Food

Next Sunday night marks Tu Bishvat, a day we customarily recite many blessings. We shall therefore discuss the laws of blessing for the next several days. The Mishnah in Masechet Berachot (44a) states: “The rule is: If there is a primary food and a secondary food along with it, one recites ......

Read Halacha

The Laws of a Primary and Secondary Food Regarding Blessings

Question: If one eats a slice of bread along with fish, is it possible that one only recites a blessing on the fish and the bread will be considered secondary to the fish and exempted by it? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained the basic laws of primary and secondary foods regarding ......

Read Halacha

The Order for Lighting Shabbat and Chanukah Candles

There is a disagreement among the Rishonim as to the order of lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles on Erev Shabbat Chanukah. The Ba’al Halachot Gedolot (commonly referred to as “Behag”) is of the opinion that Chanukah candles must be lit before Shabbat candles because women cu......

Read Halacha