The Kaddish is an Aramaic prayer that is nearly 2,000 years old. It is recited in slightly different variations during every prayer service. The form of the Kaddish recited in memory of the dead, known as the Mourner’s Kaddish, does not speak about death; rather, it’s theme is the greatness of God. This is reflected in its opening words: “Yitgadal ve-yitkadash, Shmei rabbah” — “May His name be magnified and made holy.” The conclusion of the prayer speaks of a future in which God will redeem the world.
The tradition of saying the Mourner’s Kaddish dates back to the Middle Ages. There is no definite answer to why this prayer was designated by Jewish law to memorialize the dead, but most likely, people believed that the best way to honor the dead was to recite the Kaddish, thereby testifying that the deceased person left behind worthy descendants — people who attend prayer services daily and proclaim there their ongoing loyalty to God.
Reciting the Kaddish also forces mourners to go out in public. After the death of a loved one, a person might become reclusive, but saying Kaddish forces a mourner to join with others. According to Jewish law, the Kaddish cannot be recited unless a minimum of 10 adult Jews are gathered in minyan. Kaddish is recited every day at Beth El during the morning and evening services. It is traditional to say Kaddish at every service during a period of mourning, but if one cannot do so, it is desirable to attend at least one of the daily services. In the observance of Kaddish, as in most areas of Jewish life, something is better than nothing. If it is impossible to attend a daily service, then one should at least try to say the Kaddish on Shabbat.
Click here for a prayer to read in place of the Mourner’s Kaddish when there is not a minyan present/available.
The Mourner’s Kaddish
Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba b’alma di-v’ra
chirutei, v’yamlich malchutei b’chayeichon
uvyomeichon uvchayei d’chol beit yisrael, ba’agala
uvizman kariv, v’im’ru: “amen.”
Y’hei sh’mei raba m’varach l’alam ul’almei almaya.
Yitbarach v’yishtabach, v’yitpa’ar v’yitromam
v’yitnaseh, v’yithadar v’yit’aleh v’yit’halal sh’mei
d’kud’sha, b’rich hu,
l’eila min-kol-birchata v’shirata, tushb’chata
v’nechemata da’amiran b’alma, v’im’ru: “amen.”
Y’hei shlama raba min-sh’maya v’chayim aleinu
v’al-kol-yisrael, v’im’ru: “amen.”
Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu
v’al kol-yisrael, v’imru: “amen.”
Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world
which He has created according to His will.
May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days,
and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon;
and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored,
adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He,
beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that
are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights,
may He create peace for us and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.