Customs for Reciting Kaddish

Question

When a parent passes away, the child says Kaddish for eleven months, not twelve. I know it has something to do with the soul of the departed.

Question 1: Does a parent say Kaddish for eleven months for a departed child?

It is the custom of some people to say Kaddish for eleven months even if it is not mandated – for example: husband for departed wife, sibling for departed sibling.

Question 2: Should someone say Kaddish every time the Mourner’s Kaddish can be recited after the twelve months?
How does that reflect on the departed person’s soul?

3 weeks

Answers

  1. The Sages teach that the most stringent “verdict” that the soul of a wicked person will receive in Gehinom is twelve months.

    In order not to seem to show that our parents’ are wicked the custom is to recite Kaddish for only eleven months. In general the earliest mention of mourners reciting Kaddish is found in Tractate Sofrim and there are Midrashim that explain the tremendous benefits there for the soul of the deceased when Kaddish is recited for it, see Midrash Tanchuma Parshat Noach. The idea of not reciting Kaddish for a full twelve months so as not to suggest that the deceased was wicked is found in Halacha, see Be’er Heitev Orach Chaim 132, Shevut Ya’akov and Chayei Adam 32. The Kol Bo l’Aveilut (one of the classic books on the Laws of Mourning) writes that one should recite Kaddish for twelve months and there is a custom to recite it for twelve months minus one week. This was the custom of the Ktav Sofer when he recited Kaddish for his father the Chatam Sofer, who was one of the greatest scholars and authority in Jewish Law in the generation. Rabbi Moshe Isserles, the Halachic authority of the Ashkenazim, rules that one should recite Kaddish for the entire twelve month period if the child knows that a parent will be punished for twelve months in Gehinom (if, for example, the parent desecrated the Shabbat publicly), see Orach Chaim Ramah 376:4.

    If there is no child to recite Kaddish then it is certainly correct for a family relative to recite the Kaddish for the eleven months. If Kaddish is being recited for a child then it is correct to recite for thirty days. If someone feels a great need to recite Kaddish for eleven months they may do so.

    After the twelve months are over the Ashkenazic custom is not to recite Kaddish at all (unless it is the Yahrzeit). Among some of the Sefardic communities there is a custom to recite Kaddish once for each Prayer Service even after the twelve months are over.

    For a child, as opposed to a parent, the custom is to say Kaddish for 30 days – and likewise for a spouse or a sibling.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team