Question: My father has died. I am an only child. I do not have children and am too old to bear children. I have no intention, at this time, of adopting children. There is no one who will bear my father’s name. How do I honor my father in death and ensure that his name carries on. What can I do that has the same merit as naming a child for someone who has passed? I love my father and want to honor his memory.
Toronto, ON, Canada
Response: I am so sorry to hear about you father’s passing. And it is very noble of you to wish to accord your father the eternal honor which I am sure he deserves. Before I respond, I am assuming that Kadish was already recited for one year in your father’s name. (If not we can help arrange that for you.).
Naming a child after a deceased relative does not offer any direct benefit to the deceased. The primary idea behind the age old custom of naming after someone, is only to inspire child to carry on the departed’s legacy. Should the child do such, it would indirectly be a source of merit to whomever he/she was named after.
While you are right in assuming that you would be honoring your father in this way, as is written in a work titled Ikrei Hadinim (end of Yorah Deah, Hil. Kibud Harav 26:7). There are also other rabbinic sources which would indicate the same. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein Zt”l was asked what can be done to honor one’s parents who perished in the Holocaust and it is not know where they are buried. His response is recorded in Igros Moshe (Igros Moshe, Yora Deah vol. 4, 57:8-9). He suggests that it is an honor to have the parents name on a plaque in a synagogue or Jewish school. These plaques are commonplace in synagogues all over (if you need help finding one in your area please let us know).
However, allow me to suggest something more than just honor alone. If you can become the catalyst for other people to perform mitzvos for the merit of your father, he will be accredited and consequently receive eternal reward. Making a donation to charity would be a good place to start. A good example would be to donate something to an organization which you and your father would receive merit every time it is put to use. I don’t know your level of means so I cannot give specific suggestions, but something simple like donating a sefer (torah study book) to a Yeshiva would be a great way to start. A sefer which will contain your father’s name on the inside cover can be used for decades of Torah study.
I hope that this helps.
Wishing you all the best,