Q: If I am not familiar with the prayer services, what should I do?
A: There are rabbis and individuals in your area who teach people like yourself how to say kaddish and how to feel comfortable in the prayer service.
Q: If there are no children to say kaddish, then what happens?
A: Though no one other than a son is obligated to say kaddish, another relative may do so if he chooses. Additionally, someone can be hired to say kaddish on behalf of the deceased.
Q: If my relative wasn’t involved in Jewish life, should I still say kaddish?
A: Absolutely. Every Jew, whether they realize it or not, is endowed with a precious soul. Though many people today are unaware of the rich spiritual dimensions of Judaism, this lack of knowledge or involvement does not diminish them as being fully Jewish. Though they may have missed out on what Judaism had to offer while they were alive, you can still bring great spiritual benefit to their departed soul.
Q: What if my father and I didn’t get along, should I say kaddish?
A: Yes. Parents are the givers of the greatest of gifts, life itself. For this alone, children owe a great deal to their parents; even if the relationship was strained, a child should still say kaddish.
Q: It’s just not possible for me to attend synagogue on a regular basis, do I have any other options?
A: Yes. You can appoint someone to say kaddish on your behalf and it is highly recommended that you study Torah in memory of your parent.
Q: Besides saying kaddish, is there anything else a mourner does after losing someone?
A: There are various mourning practices that are observed throughout the first year after the passing of a parent. Two excellent books that address these are Remember My Soul by Lori Palatnik, and The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning by Maurice Lamm.
Q: Why is kaddish said for eleven months?
A: Death is the separation of the soul from the body. Following death, the soul goes through a purification process as it prepares for its new “life” in the purely spiritual realm. The more morally and spiritually refined one was while alive, the less purification is needed. The more morally and spiritually deficient one was, the more purification the soul will need. The longest this process can last is twelve months, and that is only for the souls of the most morally corrupt and spiritually debased people. Kaddish provides a spiritual benefit to the soul while it is undergoing purification. To say kaddish for twelve months would imply that the departed person lived the worst kind of life and is in need of the absolute greatest amount of purification. That is a judgment Jewish tradition does not make about anyone.
Q: Why is the recitation of kaddish, the study of Torah and other efforts by a child so significant?
A: Children are a physical and spiritual extension of parents and, to a degree, parents live on in their children. For this reason, the actions of children are able to have the most profound impact on the departed soul of a parent.
Q: Does an adopted child say kaddish?
A: An adopted child may say kaddish.
Q: If I can only say kaddish once a day or maybe even just a few times a week, what should I do?
A: The primary spiritual benefit of kaddish is when a child says it for a parent. Therefore, you should both pay someone to say kaddish and also say it yourself as frequently as possible.
Q: Do I need to know what the translation of the words of kaddish are in order to say it?
A: No. However, it is always better to have an understanding. Kaddish is a short prayer and it’s relatively easy to learn the translation as well as the basic meaning behind the words. You can always read the kaddish in Hebrew while also looking at a translation of the words.
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