The mourner’s Kaddish service is an important Jewish ceremony involving the chanting of unique and specific phrases in praise of God. In Jewish culture, its importance cannot be overemphasized. Those who partake in it must adhere to its rituals. This usually involves saying it correctly and responding appropriately when another person says it. Sometimes, the chazzan (prayer leader) leads others in kaddish. An appropriate response is always required whether a mourner or a Chezzan leads kaddish.
Kaddish is believed to bring benefits for the living in addition to helping the soul of the departed. This is believed to not only help their passage into heaven after judgment but also push them to progress to higher planes. This is why the Mourner’s Kaddish is to be said every year on the anniversary of the deceased’s passing in question.
A minyan is a group of ten adults needed during certain Jewish ceremonies. While more traditional schools of thought consider only men as part of a minyan, more liberal ones also include females.
The concept of the minyan can be traced back to ancient times. In Jewish folklore, the number ‘ten’ signifies importance. For example, in the Bible, Moses sent ten spies to scout the land of Canaan and report back to him. The importance of an “…assembly needed during the recitation of texts on special occasions like kaddish, Kedushah, and Barechu” is also mentioned in the book of Numbers.
From here, the concept of the minyan was born. Its basic tenet is that a quorum of ten adults is needed during such things as the public reading of the Torah; This means that a group of nine adults cannot form a minyan irrespective of their stature.
The minyan is a requirement for any public recitation of important Jewish text or during any Jewish ceremonies like Barechu and, of course, the Mourner’s kaddish. Without these ten individuals present (the minyan), the kaddish loses its validity.
Evidence for this practice is found in the text of kaddish itself. The structure is such that it has to be recited in the presence of other people. For instance, it says that “ in your life and your days and the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.” Reciting this without an audience of sorts would not make any sense, hence the minyan’s need.
The Mourner’s kaddish’s importance for the departed’s soul is that the entire group (minyan) is led in prayer by the one who chants it.
The best kaddish for the departed is when one of their sons offers it. However, this may not always be possible. The next best thing would be a relative, like a son-in-law or first cousin. The parents of the deceased will be ideal if they’re alive. Otherwise, a sibling can also lead the Mourner’s Kaddish for the departed.
If all the above options are unavailable, it can be arranged for any Jewish person (following the required Jewish teachings) to recite the kaddish for the dead. For such an arrangement, a stranger should be paid for their services. This helps to add merit to their kaddish recitation. The whole point of the recitation is to add merit to the departed. Someone paid to do this will do it as a duty. Such a person is also considered more of an emissary, hence more merit for the soul of the dead.
While kaddish is said mainly for the departed soul, it still holds significance for the living. The children of the deceased are primarily of importance.
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The Zohar forms a crucial part of its foundational work in Jewish mysticism. The Zohar states that just as a son honors their father or mother with clothing, food, and other material items during their lifetime, so must it be when the parents pass away—only with more dedication! A son should walk a righteous and acceptable path even after the death of his parents. In this way, he honors them. Walking an immoral and treacherous path brings disgrace to the parents’ memory.
Ultimately, the minyan is crucial for the recitation of the kaddish. It ensures that the deceased is honored in the right way, thereby bringing more merit to their soul. A less-than-ideal minyan is better than none at all!