This week’s portion contains the commandment to sanctify Hashem’s name. The verse states (Leviticus 22:32):
ספר ויקרא פרק כב
לב) וְלֹא תְחַלְּלוּ אֶת שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲנִי יְדֹוָד מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם
You shall not desecrate My holy name; rather, I shall be sanctified in the midst of the Bnai Yisrael. I am Hashem Who sanctifies you.
The קדיש – Kaddish, recited in Shul by the chazzan as part of the prayers, and by the mourner for a departed loved one, provides one way to fulfill this commandment to sanctify Hashem’s name in the midst of the Bnai Yisrael. The Kaddish is a request to Hashem that He reveal His kingdom to the world, and bring the final redemption through the coming of the Mashiach.
The first words of the Kaddish יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא – Yitgadal veyitkadash shmei Rabbah – May Hashem’s great name become exalted and sanctified – is a direct reference to the verse in Ezekiel 38:23, which prophesied the coming of the Mashiach and described what it would be like when he comes. When Mashiach comes,
כג) וְהִתְגַּדִּלְתִּי וְהִתְקַדִּשְׁתִּי וְנוֹדַעְתִּי לְעֵינֵי גּוֹיִם רַבִּים וְיָדְעוּ כִּי אֲנִי יְדֹוָד
23) And I will be exalted and I will be sanctified, and I will make Myself known before the eyes of many nations, then they will know that I am Hashem.
The first words of the Kaddish ask Hashem to bring forth that great day when the whole world will recognize Hashem and realize the truth of what the Jewish nation has been saying all along.
This idea is explicitly expressed in the Sephardic text of the Kaddish in the words וְיַמְלִיךְ מַלְכוּתֵהּ וְיַצְמַח פֻּרְקָנֵהּ וִיקָרֵב מְשִׁיחֵהּ. – And may He establish His Kingdom and may the redemption blossom and bring the Mashiach closer. The Ashkenazic text omits the words about the redemption and the Mashiach, but the very next idea expressed in the Kaddish is that this sanctification of Hashem’s name should occur immediately, in our lifetimes. This will occur when Hashem brings the Mashiach and opens the eyes of all mankind to the reality of Hashem Who was always present, controlling the world behind the scenes, as stated in Ezekiel.
The verse is very specific: the sanctification of Hashem’s name be made “in the midst of the Bnai Yisrael.” What is considered the midst?
Through using one of the 13 ciphers given with the Torah, a גזירה שוה – a like word, the Sages derive that it means among a minimum of 10 men. This interpretive rule compares the ambiguous wordתוך in our verse, which means “the midst,” to a different instance of the word תוך in the Torah where the definition is clear. This creates a “hyperlink” between the two words, though only words that were programmed to be linked can be used, such that the words used for a גזירה שוה were handed down from Moshe, and we are not free to create our own. The other like word מתוך – from the midst, is found in reference to the 10 spies who were killed for giving a negative report about the Land of Israel. (Numbers 16:21): הִבָּדְלוּ מִתּוֹךְ הָעֵדָה הַזֹּאת. Just as there, it was amidst 10 men, so, too, the midst here also means 10 men. Thus, we learn that the name of Hashem may only be sanctified in the presence of 10 men, a minyan.
Interestingly, the Jerusalem Talmud uses a different instance of the word תוך to derive the requirement for 10 men. It seems inappropriate to derive that the sanctification of Hashem’s name may take place only in the presence of 10 men from the 10 evil spies, who died a horrific death for their sin. Therefore, the Jerusalem Talmud uses the word תוך from Genesis (42:5) when the 10 brothers of Joseph went down to purchase food in the midst of other people going to Egypt to purchase food.וַיָּבֹאוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לִשְׁבֹּר בְּתוֹךְ הַבָּאִים . ִIn this case, the 10 brothers of Joseph were righteous, so the lesson is fitting.
This rule applies to all other instances of sanctification of Hashem’s name in the prayers, such as the Kedusha in the repetition of the Amidah, as well as the saying of Barchu and the reading of the Torah. Such a hallowed thing is appropriate only in the presence of 10 men who comprise a minyan.
This public proclamation that we want Hashem to reveal His kingdom and that we want Hashem’s presence more visible in the world, in and of itself, creates a greater awareness of Hashem among those who hear it. Establishing a greater awareness of Hashem in the world is the meaning of sanctifying Hashem’s name. There is no greater deed that one can do than to bring the world to see Hashem. This amazing world, and all its incredible creations, are designed to impress every human being to recognize Hashem and to reap the reward for doing so.
Upon hearing the Kaddish, the congregation answers amen, which means, “I affirm and believe what the reader has just said,” and then adds its own request for the revelation of Hashem’s kingdom.
יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא:
May Hashem’s great name be blessed forever and for all eternity.
The request of the one reciting the Kaddish has already borne fruit. All the assembled have joined him in submitting a fervent plea to Hashem to reveal His kingdom to the world. The Kaddish’s recitation in Shul sets off a chain reaction of sanctification of Hashem’s name in public. This creates much merit for the one reciting the Kaddish and also for those who respond appropriately. This response is so powerful that in the Talmud in Tractate Sabbath 119b says:
אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי כל העונה אמן יהא שמיה רבא מברך בכל כחו קורעין לו גזר דינו של שבעים שנה
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says, “If a person answers ‘May the great name of Hashem …’ with perfect concentration, even if there was an evil decree against him for seventy years (his lifetime) they will tear it up!”
Similarly, the Tosafos brings a teaching from the Psikta (a Midrash) that when the Jewish people gather in the shuls and together proclaim “May the great name of Hashem… “ that nullifies evil decrees.
Appreciating the power of sanctifying Hashem’s name in public gives us an insight as to what one accomplishes when reciting the Kaddish for a deceased loved one.
When a person dies, his soul returns to heaven where it came from, for judgment. The Mishna in Pirkei Avot 3:1 says,
א) עֲקַבְיָא בֶן מַהֲלַלְאֵל אוֹמֵר, הִסְתַּכֵּל בִּשְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים וְאֵין אַתָּה בָא לִידֵי עֲבֵרָה. דַּע, מֵאַיִן בָּאתָ, וּלְאָן אַתָּה הוֹלֵךְ, וְלִפְנֵי מִי אַתָּה עָתִיד לִתֵּן דִּין וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן. מֵאַיִן בָּאתָ, מִטִּפָּה סְרוּחָה, וּלְאָן אַתָּה הוֹלֵךְ, לִמְקוֹם עָפָר רִמָּה וְתוֹלֵעָה. וְלִפְנֵי מִי אַתָּה עָתִיד לִתֵּן דִּין וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן, לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא
Akavya ben Mehalalel says: “If you look at three things, you will never commit a sin: Know where you have come from, where you are going, and in front of Whom you are destined to give judgment and calculation.
The commentaries ponder the double wording – judgment and calculation. In judging whether a person is righteous or evil, isn’t a tabulation of merits and demerits necessary? Why is a “calculation” something separate from the judgment?
One answer is that some deeds done in our lifetime continue to bear fruit long after we have left this world. Consider Rashi, for example, who lived for 65 years from 1040 – 1105. In those short years, Rashi wrote a running commentary on the entire Written Torah – The Five Books of Moses, Prophets, and Writings, verse after verse, and a running commentary on most of the Babylonian Talmud. From Rashi’s passing and forward, countless people studying the Written Torah, and the Talmud, have looked to Rashi for the explanation of the text. Every time someone understands the meaning of the text from Rashi’s commentary, Rashi’s soul in heaven becomes elevated in reward for the great mitzvah of teaching Torah to that person. Thus, every day Rashi’s soul goes higher and higher with no end in sight, as more and more people learn his commentary. Thus, the ticker is still running and the calculation is yet incomplete. We must wait until the end of time until we can finally draw the line at the end of the column and determine the final tally. Unfortunately, this same concept is true in the negative. If, for example, a person wrote a book that misleads people, the author will continue to suffer in the next world, as more and more people become negatively affected by his book.
The Talmud Sanhedrin 104a teaches us: ברא מזכי אבא – a son brings merit to his deceased father. This follows from the above concept. Since the father raised his son to do Torah and Mitzvot, he is entitled to reward for all the good deeds that his son does. He was the catalyst and the source of all his son’s goodness.
Hence, when a son recites Kaddish for a parent, and sanctifies Hashem’s name in public, he bestows upon his parent the greatest merit possible for having raised a son who is proclaiming Hashem’s greatness in public and requesting more of Hashem’s presence in the world.
One of my teachers gave the following illustration. I believe this story happened during the Russian Japanese war in 1904-1905. The Japanese shot a shell at the Russians, and the shell did not explode. A Russian soldier, picked up the shell, ran it across the no-man’s land, threw it into the Japanese foxhole, and blew up a number of soldiers. He then made it safely back to his battalion. As you can well understand, he was awarded a medal of honor for his valor.
As it turned out, shortly after the incident, the soldier’s father was caught stealing a horse, a crime punishable by death during war times. When the horse thief appeared before the judge, the judge asked him his name. “Vladimir Mikhailov” he replied. “ Mikhailov,” echoed the judge, “Are you related to the soldier Mikhailov we just decorated for valor?” “Yes, your honor, that is my son!” replied the horse thief. “You raised a son like that?” Said the judge, “Get out of here! We are not going to punish you for stealing a horse!”
In much the same way, when the son of a soul in heaven stands in Shul sanctifying Hashem’s name in public, the angels in heaven say to that soul, “You raised a son like that? Get out of here! Go to a higher place!”
There is an amazing story in the biography of Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, which shows how beneficial the Kaddish is for the deceased.
A wealthy woman in the city of Pressburg, Hungary, would give a substantial donation to the local yeshiva to pay a boy to say Kaddish for all the souls that had no one to say Kaddish for them. After her husband passed away, she was unable to run the business alone, and, over time, lost the business and her money. In addition to her day to day difficulties of making ends meet, she had a new concern; her two daughters had become eligible for marriage, and she had no funds to cover the weddings. The woman accepted her plight with trust in Hashem and soldiered on.
One thing that she could not bear, however, was that she could no longer afford to pay the yeshiva for a student to say the Kaddish. She turned to the heads of the yeshiva and pleaded with them to continue the Kaddish for those with no one to say Kaddish for them until her fortunes changed and she would once again be able to pay for it. Upon seeing her sincerity, the rabbis agreed, and the woman felt gratified that the Kaddish would continue. Knowing this gave her tremendous inner piece, and the fortitude to continue on, in her current situation.
As she left the yeshiva an elderly man with a shining countenance and a flowing white beard greeted her warmly and struck up a conversation with her. She was surprised when he began to ask her about her financial situation and about her two daughters. With a sigh she spilled her heart and told him about her difficulties and how she is concerned because she lacks the money to marry off her daughters.
“How much would you need for the weddings?” he asked. “Why do you want to know? What’s the difference?” she asked as she told him a certain large sum of money.
The man took out a piece of paper and wrote instructions to the local bank to pay the bearer of this document the entire amount the woman said. However, before he signed it he said, since it is such a large sum of money, he wants two witnesses to see him sign the document to avoid any problems.
The woman went back into the yeshiva and asked two boys to come watch the signing of a document. When the boys appeared with the woman, the old man instructed them to watch carefully as he signs the document, and for extra measure, he asked them for a piece of paper and signed his name on their paper as well. Upon handing the paper to the woman, the man instructed her to go to the local bank the next morning and to ask payment for the amount in the document.
The entire episode seemed surreal and too good to be true, but the next morning the woman went to the bank and presented the paper to the teller for payment. When the teller looked at the document, he gave the woman a piercing look, and in a state of confusion told the woman to wait a minute. With that, he took the paper to the office of the bank owner. When the owner of the bank saw the document, he fell off his chair and fainted. In the commotion that ensued, the woman was taken to a guarded room because of suspected foul play.
When the bank owner came to, he asked to see the woman who brought the document. When she entered his office, he asked her. “When and where did you get this document?” “Just yesterday I received it from an elderly saintly looking person, and I even have two witnesses who saw him sign the document.” She answered.
“If I were to show you a picture of him, would you be able to identify him?” asked the bank owner.
“Of course I could, and so would the witnesses!” she said. The bank owner had the picture of his deceased father brought to him, and the woman identified him without hesitation as the person who gave her the document. The bank owner told them to pay her the amount in the document and then let her go.
After she left, the bank owner told those assembled the story behind what happened. The man who gave the woman the document, was the bank owner’s father who had passed away ten years earlier. The previous night, his father appeared to him in a dream and told him the following words.
“You should know that since you left the path of Torah and married that non-Jewish woman and stopped saying the Kaddish for me, my soul could not find peace, until this widow came and had Kaddish said for those who have no one to say Kaddish for them. Because of her, and in her merit, my soul finally found peace. Tomorrow, this woman is going to appear in your bank with a document that I gave her to cover the weddings of her two daughters. Give her the amount of money written in the document.”
When I woke up, I told the dream to my wife, who laughed the whole thing off. But when the woman appeared in my office with the document, I realized that the dream was real. The bank owner turned his life around, his wife converted to Judaism, and they raised a beautiful Jewish family.
The two Yeshiva boys who witnessed the signature of the old man were Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, who became the chief rabbi of Jerusalem from 1848-1932, and Rabbi Yehuda Greenwald.
There are other ways to sanctify Hashem’s name in public, the most difficult being giving one’s life up, rather than worship an idol. Reciting the Kaddish and responding appropriately is much easier. When something is so common, we tend to forget how truly great it is. If we were to focus on the meaning of the Kaddish when it is being said in shul, we could hasten the coming of Mashiach, may he come speedily in our times.