by Martin D. Stern
Bero Mezakeh Abba
I was very sorry to hear of the petiroh of your father
o.h. As I also went through the same experience just
over a year ago, I know exactly how you must feel. That his
last few weeks were spent in hospital must have been
particularly distressing for you as the geriatric wards are,
at the best of times, depressing places. I am sure that he
really appreciated your being with him every day and your
kibbud av was an example to us all.
Now that you have got up from shiva you will be
davening before the omud and I thought I might
pass on to you some of the thoughts I have had from my own
experience last year. Perhaps you have wondered why an
ovel is considered to have this particular chiyuv.
Perhaps the clue lies in one of the qualifications
required of a shliach tzibbur, that he be acceptable
to the whole tzibbur. When one thinks how easy it is
for people to become irritated with one another, can there be
any greater zechus for the niftar than for his
son to be so popular that no one has any ta'anos on
Of course this puts a great responsibility on one to live up
to such a high standard but, as the Kitzur writes,
this is what is most important, rather than having the
omud or saying many Kaddeishim. He also writes
that one should rather give up one's "rights" to these than
come to machlokes over them, or chas vesholom
hurt someone else's feelings.
Unfortunately there are too many people who consider that
their right to the omud is absolutely sacred and are
not willing to give way to others even if they have a higher
priority al pi halochoh.
If someone like that should come to your minyan, let
him have his way and do not worry that you may have missed an
opportunity for kibbud av. Even if as a result you
lose the chance to say a Kaddish do not be upset. The
Chasam Sofer writes that when someone takes a Kaddish
away from someone else, it goes to the merit of the one
for whom it should have been said, so you will not have lost
anything. In reality he has acted as your shaliach in
Another situation that sometimes arises is where the other
person does not exactly drive you away from the omud
but suggests, rather, that one of you take part of the
minyan out into the corridor so that you can both act
as shliach tzibbur. This is also not a good solution
since often the place where the outside minyan goes
may not be a suitable place to daven. It also goes
against the principle of berov am hadras Melech. By
letting the other person have the omud, and not
insisting on your rights, I believe you bring more zechus
to your late father than a hundred Kaddeishim.
While on this subject might I suggest that saying extra
Kaddeishim ostensibly in his honor might, in reality,
be the exact opposite. In seforim it says that each
Kaddish raises the niftar a bit further out of
Gehennom. Only the completely wicked stay the full
twelve months there and that is why a son only says
Kaddish for eleven, so as not to imply that his parent
comes into that category R"l. By trying to say more
Kaddeishim than absolutely necessary you might be
thought to be making that same implication R"l. This
is quite apart from any tircha detzibura involved,
especially on weekday mornings when most people have to hurry
to work after davening.
Another aspect of tircha detzibura that you may find
difficult to avoid is getting to shul in good time in
the mornings. I know your wife has not been very well
recently and that you cannot leave the toddlers crying in
their cots, which inevitably makes you late at least
occasionally. Perhaps it would be better for you to tell the
gabbai about your problem and ask him to find someone
else to say Brochos if you are not in shul five
minutes before the official start of davening. After
all, the main chiyuv is to daven from
Borechu and it is a genai for your late father
that people should mistakenly think that his son can't get
out of bed in time in the morning, even if you have another
very good reason for your lateness.
When `Shmuli Levy' was an ovel a couple of years ago,
people were forever complaining that he always rushed in at
the last minute, or even a few minutes late; nobody knew
whether he would turn up or not until he appeared. When the
gabbai suggested that someone else should say
Brochos, he was indignant and said that the tzibbur
should not be so bothered since he had the right to the
omud. As someone pointed out, he would not have turned
up late to catch a train, but some people just do not realize
the problems their attitude can cause others.
To add injury to insult, `Shmuli' would then rush the
davening to try to finish on time; at least we can
rely on you not to do that. I remember when we were in
yeshiva how careful you always were to daven with
proper kavonoh and, since you started working, you
have always tried to keep up this hanhogoh.
Unfortunately, you will find it difficult to continue to
do so when acting as shliach tzibbur.
Old `Mr. Cohen' had yahrtzeit a few months ago and
finished a quarter of an hour late. Of course he has been
retired for many years and has no need to hurry, but the
result was that he hardly had a minyan left by the
time he got to Oleinu.
A question that you might wish to consider is whether
davening before the omud will interfere with
your own avodas Hashem and, therefore, be
counterproductive. It would be a much greater zechus
for your late father for people to be impressed by your
private davening than to have them complain about
having to rush out of shul before the end of
Shacharis. In the circumstances, you might feel
happier only taking the omud from Ashrei.
Shlomo Hamelech says: "Tovah tokhachas megulah mei'ahavoh
mesuteres," Better open rebuke than hidden love
(Mishlei 27:5) so I hope that you will understand my
remarks in that spirit and not take them as a personal
criticism. They are only meant to help you through what will
certainly be a very difficult year. Before making any
decisions, you should discuss them with the rov.
Your Torah learning and tefillos will certainly be a
great zechus for your father and I hope that you will
see only simchas in the future together with your
family until the time when "bila hamoves lonetsach umochoh
HaShem Elokim dim'oh mei'al kol ponim."
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