jewish Funeral Guide

Kaddish / קדיש

Kaddish Insights

The recitation of Kaddish / קדיש is central to the mourning observance. As was already mentioned, the Mourner's Kaddish / קדיש יתום is not a prayer on behalf of the deceased. It is the prayer of sanctification of God's name. In Jewish tradition names are regarded as more than just labels. Names reflect the nature and identity of what they refer to. Accordingly, the prayer that God's name be exalted is alike to glorifying God Himself.

Kaddish message. The starting phrase of Mourner's Kaddish“Exalted and sanctified be His great name / יתגדל ויתקדש שמה רבא” has roots in the biblical verse “I will be exalted and I will be sanctified, and I will make Myself known before the eyes of many nations / והתגדלתי והתקדשתי ונודעתי לעיני גוים רבים” (Ezekiel 38:23). The next sentence “In the world, which He has created according to His will / בעלמא די ברא כרעותה” is a declaration that only the Creator knows the purpose of everything that happens in this world. The closing statement of Mourner's Kaddish is that “He who makes peace on high / עושה שלום במרומיו” (Job 25:2), i.e., He who is balancing powerful conflicting heavenly forces — water and fire, light and darkness, good and evil, life and death, for sure will bring peace to all of us.

Kaddish benefits. It is extremely difficult for someone who is absolutely devastated by the loss of his loved one, to come to the realization that everything that God does is for the good. People in this situation tend to question their faith and question the meaning of life. This is why the rabbis required mourners to strengthen their faith by reciting Kadish as an affirmation of their trust and belief in God.

When the mourners recite Kaddish they show their acceptance of the divine decree, following the example of Job who said: “Even if He kills me, yet I shall yearn for Him / הן יקטלני לוֹ איחל” (Job 13:15). Despite their grief they still proclaim God's glory and sanctify His name. What is even more important is that because of the mourners the entire congregation sanctifies God's name by answering “Amen / אמן, May His great Name be blessed forever and ever / יהא שמה רבא מברך לעלם ולעלמי עלמיא”, which is a paraphrase of the verse in the Book of Daniel 2:20. All this brings great merit to the deceased.