The Power of Qaddish

by tillerofthesoil

“Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: He who responds [during the recital of Qaddish], ‘May His great Name be blessed forever and eternity’ with all his might his decreed sentence is torn up, as is written, When bonds were loosed in Israel, when the people answered the call, bless YHWH! (Judges 5:2). What is the reason for When bonds were loosed? Because of the bless YHWH!…. 

Resh Laqish said: He who responds אָמֵן (amen) with all his might, they open before him the gates of the Garden of Eden, as is written, Open the gates and let a righteous nation enter, keeping faith (Isaiah 26:2). Do not read שֹׁמֵר אֱמֻנִים (shomer emunim), keeping faith, but rather שֶׁאוֹמרִים אָמֶן (she’omrim amen), that say amen. What does אָמֵן (amen) mean? Rabbi Ḥanina said: אֶל מֶלֶך נֶאֶמָן (el melekh ne’eman), God steadfast King” (BT Shabbat 119b). 

“Come and see: There was a man who traveled to the mountain region of Qardunya—he and two others with him. He saw craters with fiery fissures—spewing smoke—and he heard a man moaning, ‘Woe, woe!’ He remarked, ‘This must be one of the chambers of Hell.’

He slept. In his dream he saw a man with a bundle of thistles on his shoulders. Two angels from Hell kindled the bundle from below; it ignited, and he shrieked. The two holy angels—messengers of the heavenly magistrate who judged him—admonished him, ‘You neglected the blessed Holy One and His angels who guarded you in this world and the world that is coming; instead, you obeyed the desires of the thistles—wicked ones—who come from the side of Samael and the serpent. The thistles will scorch you.’

He asked that sinner from Hell, ‘Who are you?’

He replied, ‘I am a Jewish sinner, but the officers of Hell won’t tell me my name. Three times a day they punish me, and twice at night.’

He asked him, ‘Do you know the name of your locale?’

‘Upper Galilee,’ he replied.

‘And did you leave a son behind?’

‘I did leave a child. I was a butcher; and on account of the many crimes I committed long ago, I am judged for my mouth, legs, and hands. The angel who is appointed over graves tells me while I am being judged, “Woe to one who has been adjured to fulfill the Torah and swore falsely! Woe to the skull that never put on tefillin! Woe to hands that dandled worldly trifles! Woe to legs that walked amid worldly frivolities!”

When they would flog me with the rebel’s lashes, I confessed all that I had done. My soul came, along with the angel appointed over it, and they submitted a writ, listing all I had done. My soul testified with the angel; and they said, By the word of two witnesses or three witnesses shall the one who dies be put to death (Deuteronomy 17:6). Of this is written From her who lies in your bosom guard the doors of your mouth (Micah 7:5). Who is this? The soul, for she testifies about a person at the time of death.

The man awoke from his sleep, and traveled to the Upper Galilee. He asked a man, ‘Have you seen a child, the son of a butcher who died at such-and-such a time?’

He replied, ‘The child you seek spends his time at the slaughterhouse—he is wicked like his father! May such-and-such happen to him, his father, and to the nursemaid who nursed him!’

He went to a study hall and heard a child reciting, ‘If you seek it like silver…‘ (Proverbs 2:4).

He proceeded to the slaughterhouse and saw the child sporting with the youths there. He said to him, ‘My son, come with me’; and the child went with him. The man clothed him, and handed him over to a particular rabbi who taught him Torah until the child grew up and learned to read Torah. He trained him to chant the haftarah in the synagogue and to pray, until he had learned to read from the Torah. He became ever more wise, and came to be called ‘Rabbi.’

The dead man—father of the child, the one who was being punished—came in a dream to the sage and said, ‘Rabbi, as you have consoled me, so should the blessed Holy One console you. When my son chanted the haftarah in the congregation, I was released from judgment. When he moved on to the Prayer and recited Qaddish, they tore up my decree completely. And when he became wise, they bestowed upon me a portion in the Garden of Eden—the portion referred to as a portion in the world that is coming, the portion given to each and every righteous one on his own. And they escorted me to be with the righteous in their academy. When he became wiser yet and they called him ‘Rabbi,’ they crowned me with the crowns bestowed upon the righteous. I was provided with food from that which benefits them—from the glow of the Shekhinah, as is said: ‘The righteous sit with their crowns on their heads, basking in the radiance of Shekhinah’ [see BT Berakhot 17a]. And anyone who benefits from the radiance of the Shekhinah, it is as if he had eaten and drunk.

It is on account of you, Rabbi, that I merited all this glory! Happy is your portion, for it is on account of this that you shall have a more elevated portion in this world and in the world that is coming! Happy is one who merits to leave a child in the world!” (Zohar Ḥadash 49a–b).

“Come and see: This Kedushah is not like other Kedushot, which we triple. Rather this Kedushah ascends on all sides above and below, in all aspects of Faith, smashing locks and seals of iron and evil shells, so that the glory of the blessed Holy One will be exalted above all. We must recite it in the language of the Other Side [Aramaic], and respond with mighty כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power: ‘Amen! May His great Name be blessed,’ so that the power of the Other Side is broken, the blessed Holy One ascends in glory and remembers His children and remembers His Name. Since the blessed Holy One is exalted in His glory by this Kedushah, it must be uttered only in the presence of ten” (Zohar 2:129b).

The enlightened (Daniel 12:3)—they know the letters, of them it says ‘Bezalel knew how to combine the letters by which the heavens and earth were created’ (BT Berakhot 55a) [cf. Zohar 2:152a]. They are the כ״ח (twenty-eight) letters [and seven words]. And another fourteen are hidden within them: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ (bereshit bara elohim et ha-shamayim ve-et ha-erets), In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), of which is said, the כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, of His deeds He told His people (Psalms 111:6). But at the time of the exile, these כ״ח (twenty-eight) letters departed, as is said, And they go without כֹחַ (khoaḥ), strength, before the pursuer (Lamentations 1:6). Therefore, it is said in [the introduction to] Qaddish, ‘And now, may the כֹּחַ (koaḥ), power, of the Lord be magnified,’ corresponding to כ״ח (twenty-eight) other letters that form seven words, which are יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא (yeheh shemeh rabba mevarakh le-alam ul-alemei alemaya), ‘May His great Name be blessed forever and eternity.’ Thus, the saying that whoever responds ‘May his great Name…’ with all his כֹּחַ (koaḥ), might, ‘becomes a partner with the blessed Holy One in the Work of Creation,’ and the giving of the Torah [see BT Shabbat 119b]. The other י״ד (fourteen) are the name יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה (Adonai Eloheinu Adonai), YHWH our God YHWH (Deuteronomy 6:4). The hint is the night before the fourteenth [of Nisan, i.e., Passover] we check for חָמֵץ (ḥamets), leavened bread, by the light of a candle, with these י״ד (fourteen) letters as He swore, כִּי יָד עַל כֵּס יָהּ (ki yad al kes Yah), For hand upon Yah’s throne [War for YHWH against Amalek from all time] (Exodus 17:16)” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar, Haqdamah, 13a).