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Kaddish / קדיש

Rules of Precedence for Leading Prayers

There are times when several mourners strive for the privilege to lead their congregation in prayer. In order to avoid any conflicts elaborate rules of precedence were established, based on the level of mourner’s Chiyuv / חיוב — obligation to lead the prayer. Some of the basic rules of precedence, accepted in many congregations, are as follows:

  1. First Preference: A mourner for his parent who was buried within the last 7 days, even if his Shivah / שבעה period was terminated by a Jewish Holiday.
  2. Second Preference: A person on the Yahrzeit / יארצייט of his parent. Some maintain, however, that he takes the third preference, while some rule that they should share, as explained in the next paragraph.
  3. Third Preference: A mourner for his parent who was buried within the last 30 days, even if his Sheloshim / שלושים period was terminated by a Jewish Holiday. Some maintain, however, that he takes the second preference. A compromise ruling is that the one who has a Yahrzeit should lead the evening prayer and the first part of the morning prayer until the section that starts with Psalms 84:5“Ashrey yoshvey beitecha ... / ... אשרי יושבי ביתך”. The rest of the morning prayer as well as the afternoon prayer service is lead by the mourner for his parent who was buried within the last 30 days.
  4. Fourth Preference: A mourner for his parent in his last day of saying Kaddish at the end of the eleventh month.
  5. Fifth Preference: A mourner for his parent in his 12 months of mourning.
  6. Sixth Preference: Someone who recites Kaddish, for one of his closest relatives (not parents).
  7. Seventh Preference: Someone who recites Kaddish, but is not really obligated to do so, e.g., one who recites Kadish for an adoptive parent or a distant relative, or recites it for pay or as a favor.

As we can see, someone, who recites Kaddish for his parent, takes precedence over mourners in any category, who mourn for other relatives. However, a member of the congregation, who recites Kaddish for his relative, takes precedence over a visitor in any category.

Reaching compromise. Mourners in the same category should come to a compromise by taking turns. However, one should not readily give up his right to lead the prayer services, for the right is not really his to relinquish — it belongs to the soul of the deceased. In more complex situations one should ask a competent rabbi for guidance, but the most important rule of the precedence is that it is much better for the soul to relinquish one’s right to lead the prayer services than to start a fight. Quarreling desecrates God's name instead of sanctifying it! Kaddish recitation and leading the prayer services is very important for the souls of the deceased parents, but when the children are upright and pleasing to God and man, it provides much greater benefit to the parents’ souls.