Kaddish Q & A

What is Kaddish?

Kaddish is commonly referred to as the "Mourner's Prayer" as it is recited for the deceased.
See the complete text and translation of the Kaddish Prayer.

Where did the practice of saying Kaddish come from?

Rabbi Akiva, one of the great sages of the Mishna and Talmud, instituted Kaddish circa 200 C.E.

Do most Jews say Kaddish, or is it only minor detail in our faith?

Kaddish is a strongly held tradition that is widely practiced in all circles of the Jewish community.

For whom does Kaddish need to be said?

Kaddish is said for any member of the Jewish People who has passed on.

Who should be saying the Kaddish?

Preferably, the deceased's son should recite Kaddish. If the person had no sons or if the son is unable to, then Kaddish can be said by a relative, friend or student. One may also hire someone to recite the Kaddish, a practice dating back over 500 years.

When is the Kaddish said?

Kaddish is said on the day of the Yahrtzeit (anniversary of the Jewish Calendar date of passing. Additionally, Kaddish is recited every day for the first eleven months after the persons passing.

Generally, the Mourner's Kaddish is recited once at each of the three daily prayers.

Traditionally, also, the mourner should lead the daily services. He will then be the one to recite the kaddishim which are part of the regular prayers.

Both these and the additional mourner's Kaddish are "credited " to the deceased.

By leading services, the total Kaddishim said would be 16, as per the recommendation of the Kabbalah.

What are the requirements for saying Kaddish?

Kaddish needs to be said in the presence of a Minyan, a quorum of ten, and only after the recitation of Torah verses said in prayer or in study, either scripture or Talmud.

Why do we say a Mishna along with the Kaddish prayer?

In Hebrew, the soul is called "Neshama". Neshama is spelled with the same letters as the word Mishna. Therefore, when fulfilling the requirement to recite verses of Torah before the Kaddish, Mishna is preferable.

If Kaddish was never said for an individual, even years after passing, can Kaddish still be said for them?

Yes, no matter if a Jew had a traditional burial or not, the Kaddish can and should be said on the their Yahrtzeit, annually.

-The Jewish Spirit-

Aside from my memories, where is my deceased loved one right now?

The Jewish soul is eternal. The world we know is only one of many, and is known as the Physical World. After the physical body and the spiritual soul separate, the soul continues living in the spiritual worlds. The merit that is gained through Mitzvot and good deeds in the physical life determine the "spiritual level" on which the soul will live on.

Once separated from the body (by death) the soul continuously climbs to higher levels, growing constantly closer to G-d.

What happens to them when I say Kaddish for them?

Kaddish being recited on a soul's behalf is what allows it to climb to the next level or "world".

What else can we do to help our departed?

All good deeds done in their memory will be a merit to them. Traditionally, the most common tributes are the giving of charity and the study of Torah, specifically Mishna.

Incidentally, the word Mishna has the same Hebrew letters as the word, "Neshama," which is the Hebrew word for "soul."

-Kaddish for Others-

How can someone say Kaddish for another they've never even met?

The Torah tells us that all Jews are responsible for one another - in all respects

In fact, there is a tradition of reciting the Kaddish for "Meisei Olam", the collective of all Jews who have passed on who may not have someone saying Kaddish on their behalf.

When did we start hiring others to say Kaddish?

The practice of hiring someone to say Kaddish dates back at least to the 16th century.

It is especially helpful when the deceased had no sons able to say Kaddish according to tradition.

-Suggested Reading-

For more information about this and related topics we suggest reading:

The Kaddish Prayer by Artscroll

The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning

My Prayer by Kehot Publications

The Tanya by Rabbi Schneur Zalman, Kehot Publications

 

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