Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has offered an alternative solution to mourners unable to recite the traditional memorial prayer, as synagogues remain closed and communal gatherings banned during the sixth week of the UK’s national lockdown.
In a letter issued to rabbis and rebbetzens across the country, the faith leader said he remained “mindful of our mourners”, including those who are unable to recite the Kaddish or commemorate a Yahrzeit, because they can not do so in the presence of a minyan.
Gatherings on Zoom and similar platforms could also not be counted as a minyan.
Instead, Rabbi Mirvis – who is currently in mourning for his father – suggested that mourners undertake Torah learning in memory of the deceased or recite the Hazkarah, the Memorial Prayer for a departed person.
He wrote: “While, for mourners nothing is quite the same as Kaddish, the Hazkarah is an authentic Memorial Prayer, which many are familiar with.
“It has added meaning, because the name of the deceased is inserted, and it can also be recited by mourners at home over Shabbat and Yomtov, when Zoom gatherings don’t take place.”
His guidance came just a day after Rabbi Mirvis launched a scathing attack on the “indefensible and … disgraceful” behavior of those who flout the UK’s ban on public gatherings.
“Our shuls are closed, we’re not gathering in numbers to perform the mitzvot that we should within a minyan because we value life, we don’t want the carrying out of mitzvot to present a danger to life,” he said.
He added: “When a group of people gather together in a quorum in order to perform a mitzvah such as the celebration of a marriage or the staging of a Tefillah service in a minyan and it is a breach of law, they are in endangering their lives, they are endangering the lives of others and they are causing a terrible Chillul Hashem – a desecration of God’s name. It is indefensible and it is disgraceful.”
Rabbi Mirvis’s stark message came after the Metropolitan Police issued a prohibition notice on a shul in Hackney on Monday and photos and footage emerged on social media of a wedding held last week in Golders Green.