The Kaddish is a deeply meaningful prayer that expresses and reflects the values of the Jewish people. A male mourner is obligated to recite the Mourner's Kaddish during the three daily prayer services. This continues for the first eleven months (less one day) for the parent, and for thirty days for other relatives. Kaddish is then said on each Yartzeit (anniversary of passing). (When is that?) A step-son or an adopted son may take upon himself to recite the Kaddish, but he is not obligated to do so.

If a relative has left no sons, close male relatives have a responsibility to ensure that the Kaddish is recited for eleven months and three weeks, and on each Yartziet thereafter. (More on who says Kaddish for whom.)

The Kaddish is in essence a prayer of praise for G‑d. It was written in Aramaic, the common language in Talmudic times, to ensure that everyone understood what was being said. (More on why Kaddish is in Aramaic)

The title "Kaddish" is translated as "holy," and its recitation brings holiness to G‑d's name and to all those who respond "Amen" while it is being recited. (What is the main point of Kaddish?)

There are six forms of Kaddish:

  1. Half-Kaddish: Recited during services to indicate the conclusion of minor sections of the prayer service.

  2. Whole-Kaddish: This Kaddish is the same as the half-Kaddish, but adds the section Titkabel ("May the prayers be accepted...") and concluding paragraphs. This is recited after the conclusion of major sections of the prayer services.

  3. Kaddish-D'Rabannan (Rabbis' Kaddish): This Kaddish is the same as the half-Kaddish, but adds the section Al Yisrael ("Upon Israel, upon our sages...") and concluding paragraphs. This is recited after the conclusion of studying a section from the Talmud or Mishnah. Text of Rabbis' Kaddish Text of Mishnah said before Kaddish

  4. Kaddish-Yatom (the Mourner's Kaddish): This Kaddish is the same as the half-Kaddish, but adds the section Y'hey Shloma ("May there be abundant peace...") and concluding paragraphs. It is recited by mourners at specific points during the services. Text of Mourner's Kaddish

  5. Graveside Kaddish: This Kaddish has special additions, mentioning our wish for "world which He will create anew, where He will revive the dead, construct His temple . . . and hasten the coming of His Moshiach." Text of Graveside Kaddish

  6. Kaddish-D'Itchad'ta: Recited at the conclusion of a major tractate of Talmud, and at a funeral. Just as one who concludes a major tractate of the Talmud, which is a holy endeavor, recites Kaddish, so, too, one who passes from this world has completed a holy endeavor and thus, this Kaddish is recited.

Learn to say Kaddish with our online Kaddish trainer.

Kaddish is for the Living

Remarkably, the Mourner's Kaddish does not mention death, nor make any reference to the deceased. It is directed, instead, at the living.

The Kaddish affirms G‑d's justice and speaks of the value of life. It states that G‑d is the Creator of the world and that He rules it. Kaddish also states that there will be an Era of Moshiach, when all illness and suffering will cease, and requests that this time be ushered in during our lifetime.

Further, it praises G‑d's name and describes His glory, and petitions G‑d to give His people "abundant peace, grace, kindness, compassion, long life, ample sustenance and deliverance, to those who occupy themselves with the Torah, and to all of Israel."

Restoring Perfections

Our sages teach that every Jewish person reveals a particular expression of G‑dliness in this world. Once he or she passes away, G‑d's radiance is "diminished" somewhat in this world. When Kaddish is recited, it restores this radiance and brings additional glory to G‑d's name in this world.

On a mystical note, there are ten words of praise in Kaddish. They correlate to the ten Sefirot (Divine manifestations) and relate to the ten Utterances of Creation. This indicates that we, who are still alive, have a role to play in perfecting Creation.

The Power of One's Children

According to the Talmud, parents are judged by the deeds of their children. If one's children follow in G‑d's ways, then the lives of the parents attain additional sanctity.

Similarly, if reciting Kaddish serves as a catalyst for personal spiritual growth, this too adds sanctity to the life that the parent lived, while elevating the soul in its current state. Therefore, the message of Kaddish should permeate one's personal life. In this way, children, through their actions below, will directly benefit their parents in the world above.

Read: Rabbi Akiva and the Orphan: The classic story to explain why a mourner says kaddish