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Mourners Kaddish

Mourners Kaddish

Biblical prayer article by Rabbi Eilfort explaining why mourners recite Kaddish. The Kaddish is one of the most famous prayers during Synagogue service.

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Why Do Mourners Recite Kaddish?
By Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort
The Kaddish is one of the most famous prayers offered during the service. Kaddish is recited only when there is a minyan (quorum of ten). There is a special version of the Kaddish that is recited specifically by mourners called Mourner's Kaddish. It is interesting to note that many Jews have returned to observance of Judaism and synagogue participation through fulfilling the obligation to say Kaddish for a departed loved one.
The Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) explains that for a parent Kaddish is recited for 11 months, whereas for a spouse, sibling or child it is recited for 30 days.
The text of Kaddish is in Aramaic, the vernacular of the Jewish people at the time of its composition (Talmudic times).
We find that the saying of Kaddish by a next of kin is a great merit for the soul that has passed away. Why is that so? Can our actions in this physical world affect those who have passed on to the spiritual world? The answer is a resounding yes, and can be better understood by examining the Kaddish itself.
Many find it intriguing that this prayer, the preeminent prayer said for those who have passed on, makes absolutely no mention of death, loss or mourning. Nor is there mention of the person who died. Kaddish speaks of G‑d's greatness. In fact, Kaddish is an affirmation of belief in the Almighty and His unlimited power. If one were to boil down the theme of Kaddish, it would be that G‑d is great and everything comes from G‑d, so everything that occurs is ultimately for the good.
This is a profound statement for one in the midst of grieving. It is precisely this type of statement that benefits the soul of the deceased, and proves that those left behind can maintain an important connection with those who have passed.
Our tradition teaches that following death the soul ascends and is judged according to its deeds while alive in the physical realm. Everything accomplished by the soul, both positive and negative, is carefully considered. One of the greatest legacies one can leave behind is a family that has been inspired to serve G‑d, even during times of distress.
When in the midst of this judgment the hallowed words of Kaddish ascend, uttered by those who grieve most intensely, this serves as a great merit for the soul. Obviously, a person who inspired those around her to such an awesome level of faith and commitment has fulfilled many great deeds and is prepared for the manifested light of the Creator experienced in Heaven.
It is for this same reason that many undertake to do mitzvot in honor and memory of those who have passed away. They are seeking to prove that the departed is truly a worthy soul deserving of a lichtig Gan Eden, a "luminous Paradise."
It turns out the intuitive feelings of many that Kaddish must be recited is exactly right. It may be argued that saying Kaddish is the ultimate sign of love and respect that one can do for those who have passed away.
Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort is director of Chabad at La Costa and a scholar on AskMoses.com. Rabbi Eilfort welcomes readers comments and questions and may be reached via e-mail at rabbiE@chabadatlacosta.com.
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