Over the generations, our Sages have suggested many ways to help commemorate the memory of our loved ones. One central practice is the recitation of Kaddish. However, when one is unable to recite Kaddish, other potent options are also available.
It is traditional to learn Mishna in honor of the soul. This can be seen in the word Mishna משנה which contains the same letters as נשמה, the soul. Prayer is also powerful; and, of course giving tzedakah as well. Therefore, each day we will be offering this ceremony, which incorporates all three, to stand in place of kaddish--until our daily minyan resumes. Of course, you should still daven three times a day, and are encouraged to join our daily Mincha-Maariv call-in, which will incorporate a Kel Maleh/Memorial prayer for the Yahrtzeits of the day as well as a Dvar Torah.
Open the service with a prayer (listed below) and Tehillim. Each day we will provide a different Mishna with brief commentary and guiding questions. Read the Mishna, in either English or Hebrew… or both, and review the commentary. If it so interests you, answer the guiding questions as well. Then, set aside any amount of money for tzedakah in honor of your loved one.
May these important mitzvot provide an עילוי נשמה, an elevation of the soul, for your loved one and help all of Am Yisrael and the world in these difficult times.
Order of the Service
May my prayer, Torah learning, and tzedakah stand in the merit of _______________ b. ________________ (add the Hebrew name and the Hebrew name of their father).
1. Tehillim (Psalm 121)
שִׁיר לַמַּעֲלוֹת אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי אֶל-הֶהָרִים מֵאַיִן יָבֹא עֶזְרִי. עֶזְרִי מֵעִם ה' עֹשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ. אַל יִתֵּן לַמּוֹט רַגְלֶךָ; אַל יָנוּם שֹׁמְרֶךָ. הִנֵּה לֹא יָנוּם וְלֹא יִישָׁן שׁוֹמֵר יִשְׂרָאֵל. ה' שֹׁמְרֶךָ; ה' צִלְּךָ עַל-יַד יְמִינֶךָ. יוֹמָם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לֹא יַכֶּכָּה וְיָרֵחַ בַּלָּיְלָה. ה' יִשְׁמָרְךָ מִכָּל-רָע, יִשְׁמֹר אֶת-נַפְשֶׁךָ. ה' יִשְׁמָר צֵאתְךָ וּבוֹאֶךָ מֵעַתָּה וְעַד-עוֹלָם.
A song of ascents. I lift my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. God will not let your foot falter, your guardian will not slumber. Behold, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. The Lord is your Guardian, the Lord is your protection by your right side. By day the sun will not harm you, nor the moon by night. The Lord will guard you from all evil; the Lord will guard your life. The Lord will guard your going and coming from now and forever.
2. Mishna Learning (Chapters of the Fathers 1, 9)
שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן שָׁטָח אוֹמֵר, הֱוֵי מַרְבֶּה לַחְקֹר אֶת הָעֵדִים, וֶהֱוֵי זָהִיר בִּדְבָרֶיךָ, שֶׁמָּא מִתּוֹכָם יִלְמְדוּ לְשַׁקֵּר:
Shimon ben Shetach used to say: be thorough in the interrogation of witnesses, and be careful with your words, lest from them they learn to lie.
Q: The Mishna refers to judges. What other lessons can we take from it for our lives?
A: Being thorough and not jumping to conclusions is one lesson we can take from this Mishna.
Another is based on the Sfat Emet which teaches that we always have two witnesses testifying and pleading their case before us: our good and evil inclinations.
Despite their distinct titles, neither inclination is completely good or evil. The “evil” inclination can be good if we channel it toward good. For instance, being angry is usually not a good thing. But if someone is upset and angry about an injustice they witnessed in the world and this propels them to take action, this can be positive. The Sages hinted to this when they said we must serve Hashem with both of our inclinations, the good and “evil” ones (Mishna Brachot 9, 5).
Similarly, the good inclination can at times be detrimental. I had a friend at yeshiva who became very religious in a short amount of time. I remember seeing him learn in the study hall till the very late hours of the night and actually being a bit envious of this at the time. It turns out he was missing Shacharit every day in order to do so. This may have been a case of too much “good inclination,” because it was making him miss daily minyan. There are many examples of this. Giving to others is a good thing. But overwhelming them with giving, can at times be bad and not well received.
The Hashkiveinu blessing we recite prior to the Maariv Amida hints to this. In this blessing we ask Hashem to remove “Satan” from before and after us. The prayer for protection “before us” makes sense: we want to be protected from all impediments that stand before our spiritual growth. It’s the Satan “behind us” that needs explaining. One of my rabbis once explained it this way: sometimes “Satan” pushes us--from behind--to be overly righteous. We, therefore, pray against this because we know that too much “good inclination” can prove detrimental.
It’s all about measure. And this is the message of the Mishna. Be careful to scrutinize the “witnesses”--both the evil and good inclinations. See what is good and evil in each of them and choose the correct path. If not, our inclinations will be running us and “learning to lie” and decieve us into thinking they are always correct.
Set aside tzedakah in memory and in the merit of your loved one.