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For how long is Kaddish recited following the passing of a family member?

by Rabbi Moshe Miller

  

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A person recites Kaddish Yatom (Mourner's1 Kaddish) for a departed father or mother for 11 months.2 These are Jewish calendar (lunar) months. In a Jewish Leap Year (when there are two Adars) – kaddish is also recited for only 11 months. Hence, if the mourner began reciting the kaddish on the 5th of Av, the last day of Kaddish would be the 4th of Tammuz -- unless the year of mourning is a leap year, in which case the last day would be the 4th of Sivan.

According to the Zohar,3 one should recite kaddish for 11 months minus one day. This seems to be the opinion of the majority of later authorities. 

The prevalent Sephardic custom, based on the teachings of the holy Arizal, is to recite the kaddish for 12 months minus one week.

Some say that the eleven months (minus 1 day) begin from the day of the burial.4 Others count the eleven month period from the day of death.5 This is also the Chabad-Lubavitch custom.6

When it comes to saying Kadish for a family member other than a parent there are different customs if and for how long it is said.7  Consult with a local Halachic authority to determine the custom in your community.

Footnotes

  • 1. Yatom literally means "orphan" (not mourner). It is referred to by many as "Mourner's Kaddish" because the orphan says it during the period of mourning (and on the Yahrtzeit).
  • 2. Rama, Yoreh De’ah 376:4. Why 11 months? See http://www.askmoses.com/article/165,2164280/What-is-the-purpose-of-reciting-Kaddish-for-a-departed-family-member.html
  • 3. Vol. 1 p. 255a.
  • 4. Levush cited in Apei Ravr’vei; No’am Megadim.
  • 5. Siddur Ya’avetz, Dinei Kaddish 39; Mateh Efraim 4:1.
  • 6. Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chaim siman 71; Sefer HaMinhagim.
  • 7. Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 376:5 Rama's note.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Death » Mourning
Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs

Leap Year
Every 2-3 years an extra month is added to the Jewish calendar. Since the lunar year, which Jews follow, is 11 days shorter than the solar year, it is necessary to keep pace, so that holidays corresponding to certain seasons remain in sync. On a leap year, a second month of Adar is added.
Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Zohar
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Sephardic
(adj.) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Sivan
The third month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to May-June. This month features the holiday of Shavuot.
Av
The fifth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to July-August. The saddest month of the year due to the destruction of the Temples, and the many other tragedies which befell the Jews in this month.
Tammuz
The fourth month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to June-July.
Kaddish
A prayer sanctifying G-d's name which is sprinkled throughout the daily prayers and is recited by the leader of the services. This prayer is also recited by mourners during the first year of mourning, and on the anniversary of the death.
Arizal
Rabbi Isaac Luria, the 15th Century founder of Modern Kabbalah.
Lubavitch
Also known as “Chabad,” Lubavitch is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. “Lubavitch” is the name of the Belarusian city where four of the Chabad Rebbes (leaders) were based. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York, with branches worldwide. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.