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The Kaddish Of His Life

The children were the first to notice his absence. Perhaps it was the lack of candies that he customarily gave out to the children which caused them to worry about him and to inquire about his absence. The elderly candy man had been a fixture at the shul in Manhattan for years, but no one knew much about him. He used to come daily to the shul, and would sit in his place and daven or learn. He preferred to remain alone for Shabbos, and never engaged in small talk. No one knew whether he had a family or had always been alone.

The children continued to worry about his absence, and the neighbors and shul members soon became concerned as well. The Rav of the neighborhood decided to visit the elderly man and inquire about his welfare. The Rav, accompanied by several shul members, knocked on the door but no response was heard. They knocked again, but there was no sign of life from within. They decided to summon the police, who knocked down the door. They found him lying lifeless on his bed.

The Rav and others began searching the apartment for papers, hoping they would find the number of relatives who could come to the levaya. Eventually, they found some personal papers, and the telephone number of the man’s son. The Rav immediately called the number to inform him of his father’s death, and to confer with him about the time of the levaya.

The Rav successfully contacted the son, but it quickly became apparent that the son had long abandoned his
heritage and his past. He shouted in the phone, “I haven’t seen or spoken with my father for twenty years, and there is no reason I should come to his levaya!”

The Rav was shocked but he didn’t relent. “What about Kaddish for your father?” That alone is sufficient reason to come to the levaya.”

The son replied, “I don’t keep Torah and Mitzvos, and I don’t believe in Kaddish, and therefore I’m not saying Kaddish, and I’m not coming to the levaya.”

The Rav, however, was not going to be put off so easily. He explained, “Do you know what Kaddish is? Kaddish is not a tefillah on the niftar, Kaddish is a tefillah which exalts the name of Hashem Yisbarach, a tefillah which saves from punishments and harsh decrees, a tefillah which lengthens the life and years of the one who says it. Through saying Kaddish, one merits to glorify the name of Shamayim by causing others to answer, Amen Yehay Shemmah Rabbah, which is the essence of Kaddish. Come and daven for yourself. You’ve hurt your father your whole life; at least give him the final honor and the wealth of Olam Haba.” After a long conversation and much convincing, the son finally agreed to come to the levaya and say Kaddish.

Setting a time for the funeral wasn’t simple either. The son was a successful businessman who had a large office in the Twin Towers. He finally agreed that the funeral would be held before his office opened so he wouldn’t miss any work that day.

The funeral was set for September 11, 8:00 A.M. The son appeared and requested that the funeral begin immediately. The funeral began, and the son said Kaddish, repeating the words after the Rav without emotion or concentration. The Rav began saying a hesped, and then one of the neighbors began a hesped, but was not successful in finishing it. Word about the tragedies at the Twin Towers had begun filtering in and people began leaving the funeral to inquire about the welfare of their loved ones.

The son remained behind standing next to the kever, completely stunned. For the first time in many years, he felt a closeness to his father. He looked at the kever and said, “Abba, I received my life as a gift in your merit.” (Shiru Lamelech)
From Revach.net

This story is incredible. Wow.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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