Halacha Date: 27 Iyar 5780 May 21 2020
Question: What is the significance of reciting Kaddish for a deceased individual?
Answer: When an individual departs from this world, his surviving children must make a concerted effort to pray with a Minyan three times a day in order to be able to recite Kaddish for their father or mother. Similarly, if one, G-d-forbid, loses a son, daughter, brother, or sister, one should recite Kaddish to elevate their soul.
If one passes away childless, it is proper to hire a Torah scholar on his behalf so that he may recite Kaddish for the elevation of the deceased individual’s soul. This means that a deal should be made with the Torah scholar that for a certain fee, the Torah scholar agrees to recite Kaddish during every prayer service, as if he were the child of the deceased. This serves as an elevation of the deceased’s soul, for the Torah scholar is reciting Kaddish on his behalf and a Torah scholar is being supported in his merit.
Our Sages recount in the Midrash: Once, Rabbi Akiva saw a naked man, who was blackened like charcoal, carrying a load of thorns on his head and running as fast as a horse. Rabbi Akiva commanded him to halt and asked him, “Why do you work so hard? If you are a salve and your master you to this, I shall free you; if you are poor, I shall make you rich.” The man replied, “Please, do not delay me, lest those in charge of me become angered.” Rabbi Akiva told him, “Tell me about yourself.” The man replied, “I am already deceased and every day they command me to chop wood after which they burn me with it.” Rabbi Akiva inquired, “My son, what was your work in your previous world?” The man replied, “I was a very important tax-collector. I would favor the rich, kill the poor, and transgress many other severe prohibitions.” Rabbi Akiva asked him, “Did you ever hear from those who are in charge of you if there is a way you can rectify your wrongdoings?” The man replied, “Please, do not delay me, lest the masters of punishment become angry at me, for I have no rectification. However, I have heard from them something that can never be, that were this poor man to have a son who would stand among the congregation and exclaim ‘Barechu Et Hashem Ha’Mevorach’ and the congregation would reply ‘Baruch Hashem Ha’Mevorach Le’Olam Va’ed’ or were he to recite Kaddish and the congregation would answer ‘Yehe Shemeh Rabba Mevarach,’ he would immediately be released from his punishment. However, I have not left a son in the world, for I left my wife when she was pregnant and who knows if she gave birth to a boy; who will teach him Torah, for I have no one who likes me in the world?” Rabbi Akiva asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Akiva.” Rabbi Akiva continued, “What is your wife’s name?” He replied, “Shoshniva.” Rabbi Akiva asked, “What is the name of your town?” He replied, “Lodkia.” Rabbi Akiva became very distressed about this man’s plight and he accepted upon himself to find out if this man had had a boy so that he may teach him Torah and stand him up before the congregation. He went to search for him. When he arrived at that place, he inquired about the man. They told him, “May the bones of that wicked person be ground to dust.” Rabbi Akiva asked about his wife and they told him, “May her memory be obliterated from the world.” Rabbi Akiva inquired about the child and was told, “The boy is uncircumcised. They did not even involve themselves in the Mitzvah of Berit Milah.” Immediately, Rabbi Akiva took the boy circumcised him, sat him before him, and taught him Torah. The boy was unreceptive to Torah until Rabbi Akiva fasted forty fasts for him. A Heavenly voice rang out and said, “Rabbi Akiva, go and teach him.” He went and taught him Torah, Keri’at Shema, the Amida prayer, and Birkat Hamazon. He stood him before the congregation and the child recited, “Barechu Et Hashem Ha’Mevorach” and the congregation replied, “Baruch Hashem Ha’Mevorach Le’Olam Va’ed.” The child recited Kaddish and the congregation answered “Yehe Shemeh Rabba.” Rabbi Akiva then taught him Mishnah, Talmud, Halacha, and Aggadah until he eventually became very learned and became Rabbi Nachum Ha’Pakuli (whom many great Torah scholars emerged from). At this time, the deceased man was released from his punishment. He came to Rabbi Akiva in a dream and told him, “May it be Hashem’s will that your soul rest in Gan Eden just as you have let me rest by freeing me from the judgment of Gehinnom. When my son entered the synagogue, they nullified my harsh decree. When he entered the Bet HaMidrash, they nullified all decrees against me. When my son became learned and received the title “Rabbi,” they placed my chair among the righteous and pious in Gan Eden and they adorned me with several crowns. All of this is in your merit.” Immediately, Rabbi Akiva exclaimed, “Hashem, your name is everlasting; Hashem, your memory is for all generations.”
When reciting Kaddish, one should bow at five intervals: When reciting “Yitgadal,” when reciting “Yehe Shemeh Rabba,” when reciting “Yitbarach,” when reciting “Berich Hu,” and finally when reciting “Ve’Imru Amen” (i.e. from the phrase “Da’amiran Be’Alma Ve’Imru Amen”).