Mourner’s Kaddish: The Jewish Prayer for the Dead

The Mourner’s Kaddish, also called the Kaddish or the Jewish Prayer for the Dead, is a prayer that forms a central part of Jewish funeral traditions. Recited to honor someone who has passed away, the Kaddish was famously featured in Elie Wiesel’s book Night. Traditionally, the Kaddish helps someone grieve the loss of a parent, but sometimes it’s recited to honor other family members.

Reciting the Kaddish isn’t required under Jewish law, but it is a strongly held tradition among many Jews. It has remained part of Jewish mourning and funeral traditions since the Middle Ages.

Reciting the Kaddish

The Kaddish is recited only at the end of a special prayer service called a minyan. In Orthodox Judaism, a minyan involves a group of 10 males, age 13 or older, who read a portion of the Torah. A minyan in Conservative or Reform Judaism can include males and females. A minyan is performed during a Jewish funeral or memorial service and again each day a family is sitting shiva.

Jewish law requires mourners to recite the mourner’s Kaddish three times each day during shiva. Since a minyan is required to say the Mourner’s Kaddish and mourners should not leave their house, friends and family come to the home to enable the bereaved to fulfill this mitzvah.

Some Jewish families recite the Kaddish every day for 11 months after a memorial service for a parent, then once more on the yahrzeit, or the anniversary of their passing. For all other relatives, it is recited for 30 days, or the period of sheloshim. In some cases, when someone is meant to take part in reciting the Kaddish but can’t do it themselves, another person recites it on their behalf.

The Mourner’s Kaddish transliteration from Hebrew

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.”

The Kaddish prayer in English

Glorified and sanctified be G-d’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.

Who stands for the Mourner’s Kaddish?

During synagogue services, anyone in the congregation who is mourning a family member is invited to recite their daily Kaddish prayer publicly with others in their community. Anyone who is in mourning as defined by Jewish tradition can join.

In some Reform Jewish communities, the entire congregation stands to recite the Kaddish together. Many other communities, however, discourage anyone who isn’t mourning from standing. If you’re considering reciting the Kaddish and aren’t sure if it’s appropriate for the congregation you’re joining, it’s a good idea to talk with the rabbi first.

Kaddish and cremation

More and more people today are choosing cremation over traditional burial for themselves or their loved ones. However, many Jewish sects don’t allow cremation for members of their congregations. This means a rabbi can decide not to hold a funeral for a Jewish person who's been cremated. It may also be frowned upon to recite the Kaddish after a cremation memorial.

However, it’s not completely forbidden under Jewish law, and some modern Reform sects do allow cremation and permit funeral traditions, including the Kaddish. In some cases, a rabbi might be unsure about permitting cremation until they’ve spoken with you. If you’re considering cremation for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to know the traditions and beliefs of your congregation.

Plan a Jewish funeral and burial

If you’re planning a Jewish funeral and burial, Dignity Memorial® professionals are here to walk you through the process, from arranging a funeral according to Jewish traditions to selecting cemetery property. When you plan with us, you’re not just choosing a provider, you’re choosing a partner.