Question: A man is saying Kaddish for a grandparent. Does he have the right to join the rotation of men serving as chazan, each in memory of a parent? Does it matter whether he is saying Kaddish for his maternal or paternal grandparent?
Short Answer: While a man saying Kaddish for his paternal grandparent has the right to join the chazan rotation of men saying Kaddish for a parent, there is a major dispute among the poskim whether the same is true for a man saying Kaddish for his maternal grandparent.
Serving as Chazan
In the times of the Rishonim, one person saying Kaddish would recite Kaddish on behalf of all the aveilim in the shul. Because the minhag nowadays in most shuls is that all the aveilim say Kaddish together, an aveil has the additional opportunity to serve as chazan in memory of his loved one. As there is obviously only one chazan at a time, the aveil is afforded the opportunity to be the only one to say the Kaddishim recited by the chazan. This is done in memory of the chazan’s loved one. Thus, many shuls have a rotation where the aveilim in the shul divide up the Shacharis service and/or alternate serving as chazan.
II. Dispute Between the Maharik and the Rama
There is a machlokes between the Maharik (Shoresh 30-44) and the Rama (Sh”ut 118) whether a grandchild saying Kaddish for a grandparent can join this rotation together with a child saying Kaddish for a parent. The Maharik rules that a grandchild cannot join this rotation, and thus a child always takes precedence as chazan ahead of a grandchild. Indeed, the Talmudic phrase “grandchildren are like children” is limited to the law of P’ru u’R’vu (i.e., the commandment to multiply and have children).
The Rama, on the other hand, rules that a grandchild must be added to the rotation, and must be given some opportunity to serve as chazan, despite there being other children saying Kaddish for a parent. The Rama notes that, although children must honor their parents more than grandchildren must honor their grandparents, nevertheless grandchildren still have an obligation to honor grandparents. The Rama proves this from Rashi on Chumash (Parshas VaYigash) who explains that Yaakov Avinu brought a korban to the “G-d of Yitzchak,” and not the “G-d of Avraham,” to afford “greater” honor to his father than to his grandfather – implying that some honor must be given to a grandparent. [The opinion of the Rama is also found in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 240) by the laws of Kibud Av VaEim].
III. Maternal vs. Paternal Grandparent
Although the case of the Rama was discussing a grandchild saying Kaddish for a maternal grandparent, the Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 132:10) cites the Rama but appears to limit his ruling to a grandchild reciting Kaddish for a paternal grandparent. Additionally, the K’neses Yechezkel (44) explicitly limits the Talmudic phrase “grandchildren are like children” to a grandchild to his paternal grandparent.
[As an aside, the S’dei Chemed (K’lalim, Kaf, 120) notes that even the Rama only rules that a grandchild can join the rotation when saying Kaddish for a paternal grandparent, as the whole basis for the grandchild’s obligation to honor his grandparents stems from his parents’ obligation to honor their parents. However, this only applies to the paternal side, as a woman is exempt from this obligation after marriage.
Note, though, that the S’dei Chemed appears to be against the simple understanding of the Rama, who was discussing a maternal grandparent. Further, the premise of the S’dei Chemed’s understanding of the basis for a grandchild’s obligation to honor his grandparent is subject to a machlokes Acharonim. See Yalkut Yosef (Kibud Av VaEim 2, p. 502).]
However, the Pischei T’shuvah (Yoreh Dei’ah 376) disagrees, and rules that a grandchild can join the rotation of aveilim serving as chazan, regardless whether he is saying Kaddish for his paternal or maternal grandparent.
IV. Practical Halachah
The Gesher HaChaim (30:8) and the P’nei Baruch (p. 362) bring down both the opinion of the K’neses Yechezkel and the Pischei T’shuvah regarding whether a grandchild can join the chazan rotation when saying Kaddish for a maternal grandparent. Yet, they do not rule either way.
The Yalkut Yosef (Kibud Av VaEim 2, p. 504) concludes that a grandchild saying Kaddish for a maternal grandparent does not have the right to join the chazan rotation together with children saying Kaddish for a parent. He reasons that it is unclear whether a grandchild is even obligated at all to say Kaddish for a grandparent (based on the Maharik), and if obligated, it is further unclear if this obligation applies to a maternal grandparent (based on K’neses Yechezkel). Thus, because of this double doubt (s’feik s’feika), a grandchild cannot join the rotation.
V. Grandparent as Rebbe
There is one case, however, where there appears to be unanimous consent that a grandchild can join the rotation – even for a maternal grandparent. This case is where the grandparent served as a rebbe to the grandchild. Because a talmid must respect his rebbe, the grandchild in this case can join the chazan rotation. Indeed, Rabbi Shmuel Salant zt”l (Otzros Yerushalayim 15, p. 44) ruled this way and even allowed a grandchild saying Kaddish for his grandfather rebbe to take precedence to a child saying Kaddish for his mother.
Next Week’s Topic: Is the chazan required to daven his silent Sh’moneh Esrei in the same nusach as the tzibur and with which he will use for Chazaras HaShatz?