Special Issues in Kaddish

Study in honor of dead; women reciting Kaddish; Kaddish integrating mourners into communities; and hiring someone to say Kaddish.

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At the time of mourning a parent, which for many people occurs in their 40s and 50s, many rediscover what Judaism has to offer and emerge from the year more committed and observant than before. The loss of a parent makes one at once more vulnerable and more open to new experiences or to changing one's way of doing things. Whereas Judaism up until that time may have been experienced vicariously through a parent, at this time a person comes into direct contact with it and struggles to find a new personal meaning in the Jewish faith and community.

Arranging for Someone Else to Say Kaddish

In the past, when a person died leaving no sons or leaving sons who were not observant, a Kaddish-sayer was paid to recite Kaddish at three synagogue services each day [and this custom still exists in many traditional communities]. This person was not related to the deceased but was a Jew whose custom it was to pray three times a day in the synagogue. Many have decried this practice because it engenders disrespect rather than respect. If children of the deceased are not available to say Kaddish on a relatively consistent basis for the entire period, rather than hire a Kaddish-sayer, some rabbis suggest that relatives and friends divide the responsibility among themselves.

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Judith Hauptman

Judith Hauptman is a professor of Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. A popular lecturer on Judaism and feminism, she is the author of Rereading the Rabbis: A Woman's Voice.