CCAR RESPONSA

American Reform Responsa

126. The Education Value of Yahrzeit

(Vol. XXIV, 1914, p. 153)

The Yahrzeit as a permanent institution in connection with the recital of Kaddish appears first in Germany about the 14th century, but since it goes back to an ancient practice known in Talmudic literature ("Taanit beyom shemet bo aviv ve-imo," Nedarim), and since its good influence is evident in manifold ways, I would strongly favor its retention as far as possible.

In addition, as Chairman of the Committee, I would say that while much may be adduced in favor of the individual mourner's rising for the Kaddish as the outflow of the soul, longing for comfort to be found in submission to God's will, in conformity with tradition--there is also a consideration for, and a sense of sympathy with, the mourner expressed by the whole congregation rising for Kaddish, wherever it is introduced. The decision of this question must therefore be left to the congregation.

In general, I would here refer to the ancient rabbinical dictum, "Mitoch shelo lishmah ba lishmah," "A good practice, even if not done for its own sake, but for some less spiritual motive, should still be encouraged, since it may eventually lead to a more spiritual view," because it applies to the so-called "Kaddish Jew," who attends divine service only in honor of his dead parents. While religion is not merely piety, nevertheless, filial piety shown by the mourners may in the end lead to a more permanently religious attitude.

K. Kohler and D. Neumark

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.