Reciting the Kaddish

We explain what Kaddish means and why it’s important in the Jewish tradition.



Why is there a daily minyan in the house of mourning?

Jewish law requires mourners to recite the mourner’s Kaddish three times each day – morning, afternoon, and evening – during shivah. Since a Minyan is required in order to say the mourner’s Kaddish, and since mourners should not leave the home except on Shabbat, friends and family come to the home, to enable the bereaved to fulfill this Mitzvah.

What is the meaning of Kaddish?

Kaddish is an Aramaic word meaning “holiness.” It is derived from the Hebrew word Kodesh (“holy”), which is also the root of the Hebrew words Kiddush (“blessing over wine”) and Kedushah (“sanctification”). There are several forms of the Kaddish, one of which is the mourner’s Kaddish.

Which forms of the Kaddish specifically mention death?

None of them. The Kaddish is a prayer, which praises God, expresses the hope that the messianic kingdom will come soon, and supplicates God to bring peace to the world.

For whom is Kaddish recited?

Jewish tradition generally prescribes the recitation of the mourner’s Kaddish for parents, spouses, siblings, and children. For parents, Kaddish is to be recited daily for eleven Hebrew months following burial. For all other relatives, the Kaddish is recited for thirty days, the period known as Sheloshim.

Why eleven months for parents?

Shouldn’t it be twelve months? The maximum twelve-month purification process of a soul was only required for individuals who were totally evil. Based on the belief that no child should ever have to acknowledge the possibility of a completely wicked parent, the great scholar, Rabbi Moses Isserles, shortened the required period to eleven months.

Who should say Kaddish?

Originally, only sons said Kaddish for their parents. Since this was such a respected Mitzvah, parents would often refer to their sons as “my Kaddish.” When there was no son, a family would often hire someone to say Kaddish during the eleven-month period. Today, in our diverse communities, there is a wide range of customs and observances regarding the recitation of Kaddish. Everyone should follow the practice of their community or congregation. Consult with your Rabbi if you have questions about which custom to follow.

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