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The Recitation of Kaddish

The Recitation of Kaddish

Basic Rules and Guidelines


The Mourner's Kaddish can only be recited in the presence of a Minyan (quorum of ten Jewish males over age thirteen) during a prayer service, or after reciting Psalms or Mishnayot. It is normally recited at specific points during each of the three daily services. Kabbalah explains that a son who recites Kaddish for his father or mother saves them from certain judgment. One should, therefore, do the utmost to recite Kaddish at every opportunity during the first eleven months from the passing, and on each Yartzeit thereafter.

Women may undertake to do a specific mitzva in honor and memory of the loved one. Our sages state that for them, this brings the same merit to the soul as the recitation of Kaddish.

Leading the Prayer Services

Many mourners make a point to lead the weekday prayer services in their synagogue for the entire eleven months (less one day), for then one can recite the different forms of Kaddish throughout the services. This adds more and more holiness to the soul of the departed. By leading the services, one also joins the merit of all those praying and praising G‑d to the soul of their dear departed.

In the case when there are two mourners in one synagogue, there are several ways to proceed. If there are at least two Minyanim (twenty or more Jewish men over the age thirteen) present, separate services can held in different rooms or at different times, allowing each mourner the opportunity to lead the services and to recite Kaddish. Some authorities oppose the idea of making different minyanim because of the concept of "a large number of people gives greater glory to G‑d."

If there are not enough men to form two minyanim, then those saying Kaddish can take turns leading the services. During the morning service, they can each lead for different sections of the service. One should follow the custom of his community.

If One Cannot Lead the Services

If one cannot lead the services, one must still pray with the Minyan and recite the Mourner's Kaddish at the designated points. If one cannot attend all three daily services, he should at least attend one of them to recite the Mourner's Kaddish.

If the Deceased Did Not Leave Any Sons

If one did not leave any sons, or if it is impossible for the sons to recite the Mourner's Kaddish every day with a Minyan, one must hire someone to recite the Mourner's Kaddish in the merit of the deceased. It is preferable that this person should not be reciting Kaddish for anyone else at the time, but it is not imperative.

Hiring a "Kaddish proxy" is not an ideal first choice and the option should not be misused for convenience or to discharge oneself from duty, but only in a case of genuine need.

When a person is hired to recite the Kaddish, the mourner should still study Torah and give charity (except on Shabbat and Jewish holidays) on each day that Kaddish is recited.

Reciting Kaddish for Eleven Months

The Mourner's Kaddish is recited during all prayer services for eleven months, less one day when recited by a son, and eleven months and three weeks, when recited by all others.

Why is Kaddish recited by son(s) for only eleven months, less one day? According to Kabbalah, the soul of the departed is judged by a Heavenly Court. If one's good deeds are outweighed by one's sins, the soul undergoes a painful spiritual cleansing. Depending on the sins, the cleansing period could last up to twelve months, following which the soul is allowed into its eternal spiritual resting place. Reciting Kaddish eases this judgment and any travails the soul might have to endure.

However, one does not recite Kaddish the full twelve months out of respect for the departed. Pausing a month early indicates our confidence that the person's life was sufficiently meritorious to have avoided the full twelve months of cleansing. From another perspective, a son stops reciting the Mourner's Kaddish earlier than others because he still is obligated to honor his parents - even after their passing.

Directions for Reciting Kaddish

  1. The Kaddish can only be recited in the presence of a Minyan (quorum of ten Jewish males over age thirteen) and only following the recitation of prayers, Psalms, or Torah study.

  2. The Kaddish is recited aloud, while standing with the feet together.

  3. The one saying Kaddish should pause after each paragraph to allow the congregation to respond, as indicated.

  4. It is customary for the one saying Kaddish to bow the head while reciting certain words. These words are bracketed by the following symbol: ◦. When the symbol appears before a word, bow the head forward, and remain bowed until the word that ends with the same symbol, then raise the head.

  5. Before the final paragraph of "Oseh Shalom..." one takes three steps back, and upon concluding the Kaddish, three steps forward. It is also customary to incline the head right, left, and straight ahead, while reciting certain words in this paragraph (see instructions below).

  6. While reciting Kaddish, have in mind that you are performing the positive mitzva of sanctifying G‑d, based on the verse, "I [G‑d] shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel" (Leviticus 22:32).

  7. Mourners recite Kaddish up to six times during the morning services, and twice during the afternoon and evening service, for a total of ten times on each day, as follows:
    During Shacharit (morning services):
    1)Kaddish D'Rabbanan following the readings before Hodu.
    2) Kaddish Yatom, following Shir Shel Yom.
    3) Kaddish D'Rabbanan, following the readings before Olaynu.
    4) Kaddish Yatom following Olaynu.
    5) Kaddish Yatom , following the recitation of the daily Psalms.
    6) Kaddish D'Rabbanan, following the studying of selected Mishnayot.
    During Mincha (afternoon) and Maariv (evening) services:
    1) Kaddish Yatom , following Olaynu.
    2) Kaddish D'Rabbanan , following the studying of selected Mishnayot.

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Shaul Wolf October 15, 2015

Re: The Rem"a, in his glosses to Shulchan Aruch SIman 56, writes that it is best to stand when Kaddish is being recited. In his work Darchei Moshe he brings the custom of the Maharil and the Ariza"l, who would remain standing for Kaddish if they were previously standing but would not intentionally stand for Kaddish. The Magen Avraham writes that one should not be lenient in this regard, and should make sure to stand. Reply

ken solkowitz, Raleigh, NC Raleigh, NC October 14, 2015

Stand or sit if not saying Kaddish Does the congregation stand or sit during Kaddish? Where is it cited as the source? I see that its preferable to stand. Where is that stated? I seem to see Chabad stands at least some chabad rabbis stand, others sit. What is recommended to the congregation and why? whats the source? thank you, Ken. Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary, NC October 13, 2015

The Kaddish is certainly not something negative. In it, we praise G-d and discuss His greatness!

If you refer to the fact that mourners say kaddish, the actual prayer itself does not mention death at all...

More about this here: Reply

David Tucson, Arizona October 3, 2015

Why do many Shabbat services end with Kaddish near the end of services?Doesn't it turn the day that we reflect and rest into a negative feeling? Reply

Mark Greenberger Chicago February 9, 2015

11 months and 3 weeks I have never heard of this tradition (anyone other than a son recites for 11 mos and 3 weeks). Where does this tradition come from?
I came across this today as I completed 11 months for my father in law. Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary, NC December 18, 2013

Re; Multiple Kaddishes each day There is importance to each of the three prayers each day. Not only in time but also conceptually and spiritually as each prayer has its spiritual significance and what it accomplishes.

Here is an article that touches upon this idea.

The Kaddishes said within each prayer are connected with uniqueness of that prayer. Reply

Anonymous December 13, 2013

Why is Mourners Kaddish said 10 times per day rather than once or twice? Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for March 17, 2013

Re: Standing for kaddish While there are differences of opinion whether all are required to stand while Kaddish is recited, it is definitely preferable to do so. This holds especially true when Kaddish is being recited right after a part of the prayer that was said standing, for example after the Hallel (i.e. this applies to the Kaddish that the Chazan recites as well, not just the mourners kadish). Reply

J.K. March 16, 2013

Standing for mourner's kaddish when not in mourning Is it permitted, or desireable, for non-mourners to stand during mourner's kaddish? Are the rules different for men and women? I'm not used to doing so; one congregation I sometimes daven with has everyone stand during mourner's kaddish, and I'd like to know if it's forbidden, acceptable but not preferable, or totally ok.

Rabbi Menachem Posner February 15, 2012

RE: Graveside 2012 Solicited You may stand at either the head or the foot of the grave. The Rebbe's practice was to stand at the foot, but others are particular to stand at the head. Either way is acceptable. Reply

Anonymous London, England February 13, 2012

Graveside 2012 Solicited Shalom,

Why is it so difficult to understand my question?

Can one stand at the head stone, while praying, or at the feet (bottom) of the kever? Reply

Rabbi Menachem Posner February 12, 2012

To Menahem You may recite kaddish at the grave of a parent, provided that there is a minyan present. Reply

Menahem London, England February 5, 2012

Cemetery Kaddish Is iit permitted to recite Kaddish at the head stone of a parent?

Can you also please list the source? Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein November 12, 2011

Hired Stranger vs. Female Relative Why is it preferable to hire someone than to have a daughter say Kaddish? Kaddish is a prayer sanctifying G-d's Name, not commemorating the departed. Why, then, is it recited over the deceased? Because when children go to the synagogue for the public service, and recite this prayer of sanctification, it benefits the soul of the departed, who has left such a legacy on this earth.
So in essence, the true benefit for the departed is having children who are meticulous about Torah law, not so much the words being said. Thus, when a daughter does not say Kaddish, but does other meritorious deeds in memory of her parent, that is of equal value. On the other hand, since women are not obligated in communal prayer, the recitation of Kaddish would not have the desired effect. For more on what the Torah requires of women, see here and here. Reply

Rachel Niceville, FL September 14, 2011

So sad... ...that you would prefer the words of a strange man, hired help, to those from the heart of a relative with female organs. So sad... Reply

Rebekah Hollywood, FL September 23, 2009

Mourner's Kaddish Thank you for including a paragraph for women. Very informative article. Reply

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