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Question: Two mourners are reciting Kaddish at different speeds. How should you answer Amen to their Kaddish?

 Short Answer: Although others disagree, the Mishnah B’rurah rules that if the two mourners are within “toch k’dei dibur” – three or four words from each other – then you may answer Amen to whichever mourner you want, and this will count for both of them. However, if they are more than three or four words apart, then you should answer Amen separately to both of them.

 

Explanation:

I. The First or the Last?

The Shaarei T’shuvah (Orach Chayim 56:3) cites the Birkei Yosef that where two mourners are reciting Kaddish at different speeds, and it is impossible to answer Amen to both of them, you should just answer Amen to the first mourner’s Kaddish.

On the other hand, the Eishel Avraham miBuchach (Orach Chayim 124:6) rules that Amen should only be recited on the last mourner’s Kaddish, as this Amen covers all the earlier mourners’ Kaddishim.

The Nit’ei Gavriel (Aveilus 41:13) cites an opinion that you should answer Amen to the mourner who is in the closest proximity to where you are standing.

II. Both Mourners

The Mishnah B’rurah (Orach Chayim 55:4), however, cites the Likutei K’tanos who rules that where two mourners are reciting Kaddish at different speeds, if they are within “toch k’dei dibur” – three or four words from each other – then you should answer Amen to whichever mourner you want, and this will count for both of them. However, if they are more than three or four words apart, then you should answer Amen separately to both of them.

As an aside, the sefer Siach T’filah (2) proves from this Likutei K’tanos that you apply “toch k’dei dibur” even in a situation where you are not obligated in the second item at the point that you are doing the first item. Here, you are answering Amen on the first mourner’s Kaddish, and so long as the second mourner is only three or four words behind, your Amen counts even on his Kaddish.

Additionally, the sefer Ishei Yisrael (16:38:112) cites the Kerem Shlomo who proves from this Likutei K’tanos that our minhag is to allow multiple mourners to recite Kaddish together, not like the old practice of minhag Ashkenaz (see my earlier Article, Kaddish #3).

III. Doubt of the Meir Oz

The sefer Meir Oz (Orach Chayim 55:2) wonders whether this rule – if the two mourners are within “toch k’dei dibur” then you should answer Amen to whichever mourner you want – applies even where the mourners are up to different Amens. In other words, do we still say that you only need to respond Amen once where the two mourners are both finishing phrases that require an Amen, but the phrases are different (e.g., “Y’hei shlama rabba” and “Oseh shalom”)?

The Meir Oz suggests that this depends on the precise understanding of the Mishnah B’rurah. When two mourners are within “toch k’dei dibur,” do we view it as if the two mourners are reciting the same words simultaneously, or do we view it as if your Amen is working on both Kaddishim? If it is the former view, then saying only one Amen only works where the mourners are reciting the same phrases and not just merely finishing different phrases around the same time. However, according to the latter view, it does not make a difference whether the mourners are reciting the same phrase or just merely finishing different phrases around the same time – in both cases only one Amen is necessary because we view the Amen as going on both phrases.

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Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Assistant to the Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..