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Higher Than Kaddish

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 30/5/2020

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Fascinating Insights—The Sefer (in English)

Higher Than Kaddish

As a 12-year-old boy, R’ Pam (1913-2001), who lived in Lithuania, was sent by his parents to Yeshiva in a different town. When his parents heard that the wagon driver from their city was headed to where R’ Pam was learning in Yeshiva, they would send him regards. When he would receive those regards, he felt such a thrill because he felt lonely as a 12-year-old boy away from home. When his parents had more notice that the wagon driver was headed there, they would write a letter and send it. Upon receiving it, R’ Pam was overjoyed. When his parents had even more notice, his mother would make him a fresh kugel. When R’ Pam received that, he felt tremendous joy. Later in life, after his parents passed away, he took that as a lesson, as he would say the following. When I say Kaddish, I am sending my parents regards.[1] When I learn Torah, I am sending them a letter. When I strengthen public Torah learning, I am sending them a fresh kugel.[2]


When R’ Ruderman[3] (1901-1987) was 14, he learned in the Slobodka Yeshiva. One Erev Rosh Hashana, he accepted upon himself to finish Shas by Pesach. Prior to the new Zeman after Succos, a message came to the Alter of Slobodka that the father of R’ Ruderman passed away (His mother died when he was 7.). The Alter of Slobodka (1849-1927), who knew R’ Ruderman committed himself to complete Shas, didn’t tell R’ Ruderman his father died which caused him not to say Kaddish for his father. Only after R’ Ruderman finished Shas by Pesach did the Alter tell him that his father died. The Alter explained to him that his learning Shas was worth more than saying Kaddish for his father (If he would have told him when it happened, R’ Ruderman wouldn’t have finished Shas due to the mourning.).


Once, on his mother’s Yartzheit, the Rosh Yeshiva of Telz, R’ Elya Meir Bloch (1894-1954), was in a foreign city trying to raise funds for those Jews who had their house destroyed by fire. Due to this, he was unable to say Kaddish since there was no Minyan. R’ Bloch’s response to this was, “What does my mother want—to say Kaddish or to actually do it?!” His action to help other Jews was a living יתגדל ויתקדש..., making Hashem’s name great.


The Divrei Malkiel[4] was asked about a child who didn’t want to say Kaddish for his father. In answering the question, he says that people have forgotten the big picture around Kaddish: The masses have thought that the essence is to lead davening and say Kaddish. And there are those who say Kaddish as much as possible, but all day they do whatever they want. In truth, the essence is to increase Torah and good deeds, and keep away from forbidden things. And in this a child confers merit on his parent.
Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Incidentally, saying Kaddish for a parent is a fulfillment of the commandment כבד את אביך ואת אמך, honor your father and your mother (Shemos 20:12).

[2] The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (26:22) writes that the main thing is to go on the proper path and in this way one brings merit to their parents. This is even greater than saying Kaddish. 

[3] He founded and served as Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisrael in Baltimore. In 1926, two years after his marriage, he received Semicha from the Rosh Yeshiva in Slobodka, R’ Moshe Mordechai Epstein. In 1933, with his father-in-law's encouragement, he moved to Baltimore from Clevland, where he was immediately offered a rabbinical post at the Shul Tiferes Yisrael. R’ Ruderman accepted the position on the condition that he be permitted to open a Yeshiva using the Shul’s facilities. He began with six students and named the newly formed Yeshiva Ner Yisrael, after R’ Yisrael Salanter, the founder of the Mussar movement. The Yeshiva grew quickly, and R’ Ruderman approached R’ Shimon Schwab (who at the time was the rabbi of another Baltimore congregation) inviting him to join the faculty. R’ Schwab taught the first-year shiur (class) in Ner Yisrael for several years, until he moved to Washington Heights. R’ Ruderman led the Yeshiva for 54 years until his death when R’ Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, his son in law, took over. R’ Ruderman was Rosh Yeshiva, while his brother-in-law, R’ Naftali (Herman) Neuberger took care of the financial side. His son-in-law, R’ Weinberg, who married his only child, Chana, succeeded him as Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael until R’ Weinberg's death in 1999.

[4] 4:96. 

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