Helpful Kaddish Information: Part 1

The loss of a relative, especially a parent, can bring one closer to Hashem (G_d) — “Ki Avi v’Imi Azavuni va’Shem Ya’asfeni[1]“. Avelim (mourners) often have a great Aliyah in Tefilah (prayer) and Tzedakah (charity). An Avel (mourner) can help the Niftar (deceased) tremendously through Kidush Hashem (G_d), by Davening (prayer/praying) before the Amud and saying Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) according to Halachah (jewish law).

However, some Avelim (mourners) are so zealous to catch every Amud and Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) possible that they lose sight of this. One Avel (mourner) went around boasting that he found a Minyan (group of 10 Jewish men) that let him have the Amud on Purim at Minchah (afternoon prayer service) (he knew that the Poskim (torah authorities) forbid this). He didn’t intend to show more honor and fear for the deceased than for Hashem (G_d), but his actions did. No Avel (mourner) would be Kofer b’Ikar, Chas v’Shalom, and say that Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) is a magic formula that has an independent power to help the Niftar (deceased). Why do some transgress Halachah (jewish law) (we will discuss how) to ‘help’ the Niftar (deceased)? Surely, they blindly follow habit, without thinking or learning the Halachos, i.e. Mitzvas Anashim Melumadah.[2]

Sometimes there are quarrels about who will lead the Davening (prayer/praying) or get an Aliyah. The rule is, one should not fight over any Mitzvah (commandment from the torah)[3]. Tzenu’im withdraw, and crude people grab.[4] If one ‘stole’ a Mitzvah (commandment from the torah), the real merit goes to the one who deserved to get it[5]. The Ba’al Korei (the one reading from the torah) says the Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) after Kri’as ha’Torah (reading of the torah). If the last Oleh is an Avel (mourner), he may say it.[6]

The Shali’ach Tzibur (person praying on behalf of congregation) must be acceptable to the Tzibur (group). If one takes the Amud against their will, we do not answer Amen to his Brachos (blessings).[7] He must Daven at the pace the Tzibur (group) desires[8]. He should be the first to come and the last to leave.[9] [Surely, he may not delay the Davening (prayer/praying) because he came late! If he was on time but had to wait for a Minyan (group of 10 Jewish men) to say the Kaddeshim (prayers said when there is a deceased) before Pesukei d’Zimrah (morning psalms), the custom of the Tzibur (group) determines the pace for the rest of the Davening (prayer/praying).

Surely, even if the Tzibur (group) consents, one should not wait so long that they might miss Zman Kri'as Shma[10] or Zman Tefilah (prayer) (or Netz). I would not advise waiting if this will delay a Minyan (group of 10 Jewish men) that Davens in the same room after this Minyan (group of 10 Jewish men) finishes. If Pesukei d’Zimrah (morning psalms)must end by a certain time, they should not delay for the sake of Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) if this will necessitate skipping or rushing Pesukei d’Zimrah (morning psalms).[11]]

We say Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) only if the Pesukim (verses) (e.g. Ashrei before Minchah (afternoon prayer service)) were said in a Minyan (group of 10 Jewish men). If a tenth entered afterwards, they should say at least three verses before saying Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased)[12]. Similarly, we say Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) d’Rabanan after Torah she’Ba’al Peh only if it was learned amidst 10 people.[13] If Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) was not said before Boruch she’Omar, it may not be said during Pesukei d’Zimrah (morning psalms).[14]

Ashkenazi Poskim (torah authorities) hold that L’Chatchilah (preferably), only one person should say each Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased)[15]. The Rema[16] and Bi’ur Halachah (jewish law)[17] give the order of precedence.

To avoid fights, many places allow all the Avelim (mourners) to say Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) together.[18] However, they must say it together word-for-word,[19] for two voices saying the same thing in unison are not heard, except for something heard infrequently that is very dear to the listener.[20] Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) surely does not satisfy the first condition. It is even harder to hear voices that are not in unison, and even harder if they say different Nuscha’os of Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) and do not wait for each other.[21] Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) must be said gently. It says about one who says it quickly “one sinner ruins much good.”[22] This is even more essential when people try to say it together.

Some require everyone saying Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) to stand together.[23] Some defend the custom in some places not to do so.[24] Some say that each Avel (mourner) should be audible to a Minyan (group of 10 Jewish men).[25] Even Sefardi Poskim (torah authorities), who L’Chatchilah (preferably) permit all the Avelim (mourner) to say Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) together, prefer that each Avel (mourner) be audible to the Tzibur (group), or to at least one or two (who answer Amen to him).[26] If Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) is not said in unison, one answers to the first or last (or both).[27]

Some say that Sefardim can say Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) together properly for they are used to praying out loud together, but Ashkenazim cannot. A ridiculous cacophony and shouting match results, and one cannot properly answer to it. Heterim (permissions) were given to satisfy desires of Avelim (mourners) to say Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased), but it does not help the Niftar (deceased) at all. It is better that they let one person say it alone.[28] In a Minyan (group of 10 Jewish men) in which only one says each Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased), all must abide by this.[29] One who cannot hold himself back must find a different Minyan (group of 10 Jewish men).

An Avel (mourner) or Ba’al Yahrtzeit usually comes on time, so he can say every Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) and lead the Davening (prayer/praying) (which usually mandates Davening (prayer/praying) at a reasonable speed), to elevate the soul of the Niftar (deceased). Everyone should be no less motivated to come on time and not rush his Tefilah (prayer), for his own sake[30] [and for Hashem (G_d)'s honor!]

Some say that if one intends while or before saying Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased) to help the Niftar (deceased), he loses everything. Shamayim does not tolerate any intent other than l’Shem (for the sake of) Shamayim[31]. Rather, he should feel pain over Galus ha’Shechinah (G_ds divine prescence)[32] and Chilul (desecration) Hashem (G_d)[33], and yearn for Kidush Hashem (G_d). Others encourage intending to honor one’s parent through saying Kaddish (prayer said on behalf of the deceased).[34] Some say that learning Torah is a far bigger Zechus than all Tefilos (prayers) and Kaddeshim (prayers said for the deceased).[35]

Some people put out cake and drinks in Shul (synogogue) on a Yahrtzeit or birth… [One who leaves food in a Shul (synogogue) must clean up afterwards, or appoint a reliable Shali'ach to do so.[36]] There are Heterim (permissions) to eat and drink (and speak Divrei Chol for a need) in a Shul (synogogue), even in Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel), but it is better not to be lenient.[37] Putting out food often leads to idle talk[38] and eating while wearing Tefilin.[39] If one cannot leave the food outside the Shul (synogogue), one can put it in a Beis Midrash[40] for Talmidim (students), or give it (or money) to the poor!

From the Sefer Wake Up, with permission from the author


[1] My parents abandoned me, and Hashem gathered me (Tehilim 27:10).

[2] There is a severe punishment for this (Yeshayahu 29:13,14).

[3] Mishnah Brurah 53:65. [It is a Segulah for an easy birth for the husband to do Pesichah (take the Torah from the Aron Kodesh) in the ninth month (l'Shichno Sidreshu p. 63, from the Chida (Moreh b'Etzba 3:90)). Some people are so eager to do Pesichah that they begin to open the Aron during Kaddish, lest competitors seek this honor. I think that this disgraces Kaddish, and will not help at all.]

[4] Yoma 39A. Quarrels among equal Chiyuvim can be avoided by giving the Mitzvah to the highest bidder (to donate to the Shul or Tzedakah). The Taz (YD 249:1) allows using Ma’aser money only if he stipulated when making it Ma’aser. R. Akiva Eiger (249) allows using Ma’aser only for what he added to Hekdesh, i.e. what he added to the previous bid [or above the minimum for which a Mitzvah is sold, e.g. if he first bidder received it]. Doleh u’Mashke (p. 99) forbids even this. One need not give what he pledged if he did not get the Mitzvah (Ashrei ha’Ish 25:31; ha’Gaon R. Chaim Kanievsky Shlita wrote to me to see Erchin 21, which says so about redeeming Hekdesh). Yir’ei Shamayim fulfill what they pledge on Shabbos and Yom Tov even in such cases, lest the auction be like business (Yam Shel Shlomo Beitzah 5:8).

[5] Pischei Teshuvah YD 376:7 learns this principle from one who stole another’s Korban.

[6] Halichos Shlomo 12:27. Shevet ha’Levi 8:163 brings opinions that the Avel should say it, but says that the custom is that the Shali’ach Tzibur says it.

[7] Rema 53:22. Perhaps the Tzibur cannot stop an Avel from being Shali’ach Tzibur for Ma’ariv, but one should not quarrel with the Tzibur for any Mitzvah (Mishnah Brurah 53:61).

[8] Mishnah Brurah 53:36 forbids Davening too slowly. [Surely, the same applies to Davening too quickly, especially if this forces people to rush their Davening. If a Minyan Davens so fast that people cannot say the words properly, I advise one who wants to be Shali'ach Tzibur to Daven as fast as he can and still say the words properly, provided that this will not cause strife. Ha'Gaon R. Boruch Ber used to take 20 minutes to say Shma, but once he had Yahrtzeit and was Shali'ach Tzibur in a fast Minyan, so he Davened quickly (ha'Rav ha'Domeh l'Malach p.383).]

[9] Mishnah Brurah 53:13

[10] People could be Yotzei Shma before Birkos Kri’as Shma, but this is b’Di’avad, it is a burden on the Tzibur, and people are less likely to have proper Kavanah, especially if they hope to say it with the Berachos within the time.

[11] We say Kaddish before Pesukei d’Zimrah, but it is not obligatory Mishnah Brurah (51:10, 55:5(. The custom to say a second Kaddish was to enable each mourner to say a Kaddish )where only one says each Kaddish.) May one delay for the sake of something not obligatory, if it will make him transgress what is obligatory, i.e. saying every word of Pesukei d’Zimrah gently (Shulchan Aruch 51:8)?!

[12] Mishnah Brurah 55:2. There is no need to repeat verses to say Kaddish after Pesukei d’Zimrah, or after Birkos Kri’as Shma in Ma’ariv.

[13] One who did not learn may say the Kaddish only if no one who learned can say it (Divrei Chachamim 60, citing ha’Gaon R. C.P. Scheinberg Shlita).

[14] Sha’arei Teshuvah 51:2. Ha’Gaon R. Y.S. Elyashiv, Shlita and ha’Gaon R. C.P. Scheinberg Shlita permit interrupting Pesukei d’Zimrah to say Kaddish only if the Tzibur reached a place to say Kaddish and no one else will say it (Divrei Chachamim 51).

[15] Chasam Sofer 159. Dinim v’Hanhagos (4:7) says that two saying Kaddish together is like two Sheluchei Tzibur.

[16] YD 376:4

[17] 132 Ma’amar Kaddeshim. The one with precedence says the first Kaddish, and they alternate. One hired to say Kaddish for a stranger has no share where there are Avelim. Maharik (30) says that he receives half or a third as much as Avelim, and a grandson receives half. If a Niftar left no son, his grandsons should receive the Amud half as often as Avelim, or equally if there is only one grandchild (Halichos Shlomo 18(50,51)). He should not pardon this, for there is no one else to Daven for Iluy Neshamah. He should be Shali’ach Tzibur even when an Avel may not, e.g. on Chol ha’Mo’ed. If an Avel began Davening in a Shul, and intends to continue long-term after the Avelus finishes, he is like a resident regarding the order of precedence (Ashrei ha’Ish 9:16).

[18] Tzitz Eliezer (9:16 DH Le’umas) cites R. Akiva Eiger to say that this Heter was only for a dire period when many died, and without the Heter many orphans would not have said even one Kaddish in a month.

[19] Gesher ha’Chayim 1 p.18. Tzitz Eliezer (9:16:4 DH Lamah) says that at most two can say it properly together, and even this is very difficult. If they are not in unison, perhaps it is an Isur Gamur and the Kaddish is l’Vatalah; especially ‘v’Imru Amen’ must be said together (Teshuvos v’Hanhagos 2:42).

[20] Mishnah Brurah 588:11, from Rosh Hashanah 27A.

[21] A Sefardi in an Ashkenazi Minyan says ‘va’Yatzmach Purkanei…’ (unless the Tzibur objects – Ohr l’Tziyon 2:5:11). Ashkenazi Avelim should wait for him (Doleh u’Mashke p.55). The Tzibur must answer Amen (Salmas Chaim 53). A Sefardi says Yehei Shlama Raba like the Tzibur (Ohr l’Tziyon; Yalkut Yosef (56:25) permits this if he says with Ashkenazim, in order to finish together). [If one waits to finish 'Yehei Shlama Raba' together with a Sefardi, who says a longer text, he should wait before saying 'v'Al Kol Yisrael', for 'v'Imru Amen' should be said right after these words - see Mishnah Berurah 56:2.]

[22] Koheles 9:18; Kaf ha’Chayim 56:30, citing the Shlah ha’Kadosh and others. If one can’t say it properly, he must learn, or hire one to say it for him. It is better not to say it than to mispronounce it (Kaf ha’Chayim 56:19).

[23] Teshuvos v’Hanhagos 1:103

[24] Tzitz Eliezer (9:16:5)

[25] B’Tzel ha’Chachmah 5:135:2 DH u’Mistaber

[26] Halachah Brurah 56:8, Ben Ish Chai Sof Vayechi, and Kaf ha’Chayim 55:31, respectively.

[27] Mishnah Brurah 55:4. He answers to both only if there is a delay Kedei Dibur (the time to say 3 or 4 words) in between.

[28] Teshuvas Binyan Tziyon 122 DH u’Mah she’Nohagu

[29] Also Sefardim in such a Minyan must abide by this (Ohr l’Tziyon 2:5:11,in the footnote).

[30] Ohr l’Tziyon Chachmah u’Musar p.103 says so about Davening in a Minyan.

[31] Gesher ha’Chayim 30, footnote 2 and B’Tzel ha’Chachmah 5:25 citing Yad Eliyahu

[32] Aruch ha’Shulchan 55:4

[33] Yesod v’Shoresh ha’Avodah (small Tzavah b’Sof ha’Sefer, 5). He should intend for Mesiras Nefesh when saying Yisbarach.

[34] B’Tzel ha’Chachmah 5:25, based on Shulchano ha’Tahor and Salmas Chaim, permits for a parent, for the Torah commands to honor parents. [This applies also to others whom one must honor, e.g. a grandparent, parent in law or older brother, but not to other relatives, or a stranger for whom one was hired to say Kaddish.]

[35] Yechaveh Da’as 6:60 DH v’Acharei, citing Yesod v’Shoresh ha’Avodah and others

[36] One who puts out refreshments at a Bris should surely appoint a Shali’ach. He is deluged by friends and family wishing him Mazel Tov, he wants to talk with the Mohel and go to the Seudah… It is very rare that a Ba’al Brit stays to clean up by himself!

[37] Mishnah Brurah (151:20) allows Seudas Siyum ha’Shas in Shul if there is no alternative. There are less Heterim in Eretz Yisrael (Sha’ar ha’Tziyon 14). Ha’Gaon R. Y.S. Elyashiv Shlita (Kovetz Teshuvos 1:16) says that a Kidush in Shul opposes the Shulchan Aruch. If it must be in Shul, it is best in the back (Halichos Shlomo 19:1(3)). Teshuvos v’Hanhagos (2:132) praises the custom to make a Kidush [not in Shul] for the birth of a girl, but recent Chachamim decreed against expensive Seudos that lead to envy and Ayin ha’Ra; one should not be lenient. Ashrei ha’Ish (2:7:69) says that one should be particular to taste the wine in the morning Kidush, but one is Yotzei even without tasting. The Brisker Rav holds that he was Yotzei only if he tasted.

[38] I see no Heter to ask in Shul ‘did you bring good cake? Why didn’t you bring Shnops?…’ This is even worse if he is wearing Tefilin (Mishnah Berurah 37:7). People are especially prone to talk idly while folding Talesim and wrapping Tefilin, and they have ‘nothing else to do.’

[39] One may eat Arai (up to k’Beitzah) with Tefilin on, but perhaps nowadays one may not, for we wear Tefilin only while Davening (Mishnah Berurah 40:19,20). Aruch ha’Shulchan (40:5) forbids. Dinim v’Hanhagos (3:16) permits. Ashrei ha’Ish (6:1) praises one who is stringent. Some permit if this will enable him to wear Tefilin longer (Piskei Teshuvos 40:8). The custom is to permit drinking [but no more than k'Beitzah of intoxicating drinks] (Divrei Chachamim 29 citing Ha’Gaon R. C.P. Scheinberg Shlita, based on Kaf ha’Chayim 40:35). It is better not to smoke with Tefilin on, especially in front of others (Rivevos Efrayim 1:30:3).

[40] There are Heterim for Talmidim who learn all day in a Beis Midrash to eat there. The Heterim in a Shul are weaker (Bi’ur Halachah 151:1 DH v’Yesh, 151:11 DH Aval). Halichos Shlomo (5:3) says that nowadays, almost every Shul is considered a Beis Midrash, for people learn there. Ha’Gaon R. M. Feinstein says so only if people learn there the entire day (Divrei Chachamim 126). Drunkenness is forbidden even in a Seudas Mitzvah in a Beis Midrash (Mishnah Berurah 151:20). [To avoid Bitul Torah, one can put the food out at lunchtime.] If one drinks a drop of whiskey without pleasure (just to make the host happy), Teshuvos v’Hanhagos (2:141) forbids blessing on it. The same applies to drinking from a Kos Shel Brachah or eating Shirayim.

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