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What is Kaddish?

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Kaddish occupies an absolutely unique place in Jewish life and Jewish history. It is one of the most profound and stirring prayers in all of Judaism, and ironically, it may be the most misunderstood. Most people think that Kaddish is a prayer for the dead, in fact, it is a prayer for the living.

Kaddish: Just the Basics


  1. Kaddish is somewhat of a colloquial term that refers specifically to a short prayer more accurately known as the Mourners Kaddish. There are, in fact, other variations of Kaddish that are not said by a mourner. (On this site, Kaddish always refers to the Mourners Kaddish unless indicated otherwise)

  2. Kaddish is a short prayer said by someone who has lost a parent.

  3. It is also customary for a father to recite kaddish for a departed child without children capable of saying kaddish.

  4. Kaddish is recited in synagogue, during the three daily prayer services, every day for eleven months after the passing of a parent.

    The Jewish view of life includes both the world we inhabit, known as Olam Hazeh (This World), and a spiritual world that transcends our world, known as Olam Habah (The Next World). After death, the soul resides in the Next World.
  5. It is very common for people who do not regularly attend synagogue to do so during the eleven-month mourning period to say Kaddish.

  6. For people who are not familiar with the prayer service and who may not read Hebrew, there are always others in synagogue who are ready to help one learn how to say Kaddish. Virtually all prayer books include a transliterated version of Kaddish to make the recitation accessible to mourners who can’t read Hebrew.

  7. The Jewish view of life includes both the world we inhabit, known as  Olam Hazeh (This World), and a spiritual world that transcends our world, known as Olam Habah (The Next World).  After death, the soul resides in the Next World.

  8. In the Next World, souls have a deep relationship to God. The depth of the relationship is based upon the kind of life a person lived while he or she was alive. In the Next World, there is nothing the departed soul can do to enhance the quality of its connection to God.

  9. In this world a child can do things to accrue merit for his parents and thereby enhance their experience of closeness to God in the Next World.

  10. Kaddish, as well as Torah study, charity and kindness done in honor of the deceased parents can elevate the soul in the next world.

  11. Kadish is not a prayer for the deceased. Nowhere in Kaddish is the name of the deceased mentioned and there is no mention of death, loss or mourning.

  12. With the saying of the Kaddish prayer, the mourner both affirms his faith in God and calls on the community to join him in affirming his statement. When a mourner publicly inspires other Jews to affirm their faith in God, this greatly benefits the soul of his parent.

  13. If, for some reason, a son is unable to recite Kaddish on a daily basis, contingency arrangements can be made for someone else to say Kaddish in his place.


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