jewish Funeral Guide

Kaddish / קדיש

Mourner's Kaddish

Kaddish / קדיש (sometimes spelled Qaddish, plural: Kaddishim / קדישים) — literally sanctification, is the most recognized prayer in the Jewish liturgy. It was composed in Aramaic — the language of the Talmud. Kaddish is also the most prominent attribute of the mourning and Yahrzeit / יארצייט observance. Consequently, the common misconception is that Kaddish is a memorial prayer on behalf of the deceased. It is not! In fact, the only version of Kadish that mentions death and the resurrection of the dead is the Burial Kaddish / קדיש דאתחדתא, which is recited after the burial. And even in Burial Kaddish there is no reference to a particular person. Burial Kaddish is a prayer for the establishment of God's kingdom on earth, rebuilding of the Temple and resurrection of the dead. It is interesting that the Burial Kaddish (supplemented by the Rabbis' Kaddish segment) is recited also during a Siyum / סיום — ceremony of completion of a Talmudic Tractate. The completion of the major study effort is marked with the same prayer as the completion of life!

Kaddish history. There is an opinion that Kaddish or a very similar prayer was composed by the men of the Great Assembly / אנשי כנסת הגדולה following the destruction of the First Temple. Kaddish recitation by the mourners started, according to Tractate Soferim, as the recitation of Kaddish DeRabbanan / קדיש דרבנן — the Rabbis' Kaddish at the end of Shivah / שבעה for a great Torah sage. Later, the rabbis instituted the Kaddish recitation for ordinary people as well. The same Tractate Soferim (19:12) mentions the custom of saying Mourner's Kaddish at the end of prayer services.

There are several forms of Kaddish (besides previously mentioned Burial Kaddish / קדיש הגדול): Chatzi Kaddish / חצי קדיש — Half Kaddish, Kaddish Yatom / קדיש יתום — the Mourner's Kaddish, Kaddish Shalem / קדיש שלם — the Complete Kaddish and Kaddish DeRabbanan / קדיש דרבנן — the Rabbi's Kaddish. This will be the topic of the next section.