jewish Funeral Guide

Kaddish / קדיש

Paying for Kaddish

Who recites Kaddish. It is the sons of the deceased who have an obligation to recite Kaddish / קדיש. The prevailing custom is that women do not say Kaddish. If they wish, they can attend the synagogue services, especially on the Sabbath, listen attentively to Kaddish being recited by the cantor or other mourners and respond Amen / אמן with proper concentration. In Heaven this is considered to be equivalent to recitation of the Kaddish. The daughter, especially if there is no son, may say Kadish in a whisper while the other mourners are reciting the Kaddish. The prevailing custom is, however, that if there are no sons or other male mourners, somebody else is asked or hired to say Kaddish.

Hiring somebody should not really be an option if the deceased left a son capable of reciting Kaddish. This is the son’s personal obligation. It is a way for a son to demonstrate the impact of his parent’s life. We saw in Rabbi Akiva’s story above that he insisted on training the child to recite Kadish instead of reciting it himself. The prayer of even the greatest rabbi is not as effective as that of the children of the deceased. Their praiseworthy deeds and sanctification of God's name in public reflects on their departed parents and brings merit to them. If the deceased left more than one son, each of them must recite Kaddish. If one of the sons for some reason is unable to do this, he does not have to ask or hire somebody to recite Kaddish in his stead. — The other brothers fulfill his obligation. If the sons of the deceased are no longer alive, the grandsons recite Kaddish. In the absence of sons and grandsons, other male relatives may recite Kaddish.

Delegating Kaddish. If the family appoints somebody to recite Kaddish, it is better to pay for this service, than to receive it free. Paying for Kadish assures its recitation and brings more merit to the deceased than when somebody recites Kaddish as a favor. This is especially true when the payment for Kaddish recitation supports an orphan or an elderly Torah scholar. Many families pay for recitation of Kaddish even when there are sons who do recite Kaddish as well. This brings extra merit to the deceased and works as a backup in case the sons miss one of the prayer services due to some emergency.

Someone who was hired by the family to recite Kaddish should not recite it simultaneously for anyone else, unless each family who hired him consents to that. In the morning, before reciting his first Kaddish, this person should say quietly:

“Every Kaddish I recite today will be for the elevation of the soul of (insert the name of the deceased) ”.

Some conclude this declaration with the verse from Psalms 90:17:

וְיהְי נעֵם יְיָ
אֱלוֹהֵינוּ עָלֵינוּ
וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנָה עָלֵינוּ
וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנֵהוּ׃

May the pleasantness of my Lord
our God be upon us.
And establish the work of our hands for us;
the work of our hands may He establish.

If one is reciting Kaddish for several people, he should specify for whom each Kaddish is intended. Theoretically, a person hired to recite Kaddish may do so for the entire 12 months, but, being an agent of the family, he usually recites it for only 11 months. Otherwise it gives an impression that the family considers the deceased to be wicked and therefore instructed somebody to recite Kaddish for 12 months.