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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Should you say kaddish for grandparents?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 70

When Leibel’s father died, it went without saying that he would say kaddish for him for the duration of the eleven months and that he would be back each year on the yortzeit to recite the kaddish
But then he’d been thinking and came to me with the following question: “For years and years, I know that Dad would commemorate his parents’ yortzeits.  Now that he’s gone, should I be saying kaddish for Bubby and Zaidy?  But then where does it end – maybe I should also be commemorating my great-grandparents’ yortzeits!”
‘He was asking a good shayla (question),’ I thought to myself.  How far back does one go?  The Rabbanit can actually trace her lineage to King David.  Should she say kaddish on Shavuos, her great-grandfather King David’s yortzeit?

The Torah states, “And the daughter of a cohen who married a layman, she shall not partake of the holy tithes.  But if this daughter of the cohen became widowed or divorced and she has no offspring, she shall return to her father’s house as in her youth, and from her father’s bread (i.e. tithes) she may once again partake.”

Our Rabbis taught: The verse says, “And she has no offspring.” 
Question: From here, I only understand that offspring would maintain her layperson status.  How about the offspring of offspring, i.e. surviving grandchildren?  
Answer: The verse teaches ‘she has no offspring,’ meaning any offspring whatsoever.  
Question: How about illegitimate offspring? 
Answer: The verse teaches ‘she has no offspring’ – meaning examine her to determine if she has offspring of any sort (which would include illegitimate offspring).
Question: But you’ve already employed that verse to teach about offspring of offspring!
Answer: We don’t need a verse to teach about offspring of offspring, for grandchildren are just like children.

There is a special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.  The old joke says that it’s because they have a common enemy!    But of course, the real reason, our Sages tell us, is that you don’t know whether you have succeeded at parenting – physically and spiritually – until you have grandchildren.   The Talmud explains that while the mitzvah of procreation obligates one to have a son and a daughter, one has not fulfilled one’s obligation until one has grandchildren from these children, thus ensuring replacement! 

In terms of reciting kaddish and observing the yortzeit for a grandparent, while you are not obligated to do so, it is certainly praiseworthy given the special relationship between grandchildren and grandparents.  Beyond grandparents, however, there is no need whatsoever to observe the yortzeit and we hope and pray that the yortzeits that were observed in their honour in years gone by will have effected the necessary elevation of their souls. 

In terms of grandparenting, however, the Talmud is clear: grandchildren are just like children.  That means that your job isn’t over just because you’ve raised wonderful children.  Whether it means helping out with Jewish education tuition payments if you’re able to do so, or calling your grandchildren regularly to discuss their spirituality, you need to have the same expectations of yourself in grandparenting as you did in parenting!   You can’t simply offload the responsibility to your children and say it’s their problem now; no, you have a responsibility to grandparent your grandchildren! 

Some people think that the golden years are about kicking back, relaxing, and focusing on themselves.  But as long as the Almighty has kept you here on this earth, He has a job for you to do!  You’re here to make this world a better place, beginning with your own children and grandchildren.  May you merit children and grandchildren who are committed to our heritage and may you always have nachas from every one of your offspring!