Question: May a person whose parents are both still alive recite the Kaddish Yasom after Aleinu?
Short Answer: While really a son whose parents are still alive may recite this Kaddish if he knows for certain that his parents will not care, the minhag is that this Kaddish is never recited by such a son.
I. Importance of Kaddish after Aleinu
The Rama (Orach Chayim 132:2) rules that a Kaddish should be recited after Aleinu of Shacharis. The Mishnah B’rurah (10) explains that the reason for this Kaddish is because we need to recite Kaddish after the recitation of p’sukim, such as the p’sukim in Aleinu. The Mishnah B’rurah likewise explains the minhag why this Kaddish is recited by mourners (as explained further in last week’s article). Since certain mourners are still k’tanim or do not know how to serve as a chazan, we instead allow them to recite this Kaddish, as it also has the power to elevate the soul of their departed parent.
II. Parents Still Alive
The Rama (ibid) also cites the words of the Agur, Tashbetz, and Maharil, that even a person whose parents are still alive may recite the Kaddish after Aleinu if his parents are not “makpidim” – i.e., if they do not care. (The context of these Rishonim is actually a slightly different case – where the father is makpid that a son not say Kaddish for the son’s mother during the father’s lifetime. The full answer to this question is outside the scope of this article).
The Mishnah B’rurah (11) expounds that the son need not ask the parents, but it is sufficient if the son intuits that his parents would not care.
Indeed, as explained by the Darchei Moshe (Orach Chayim 133:2), since the whole reason for the Kaddish really has nothing to do with mourners but was instead instituted because Aleinu includes p’sukim, it is fine for a person whose parents are still alive to recite this Kaddish so long as his parents do not care.
[Note, though, that if the parents express clearly that they do care, then it is forbidden for the son to say Kaddish Yasom. This is because the son cannot violate Kibud Av VaEim in order to help someone else. Alternatively, because the pain to the parents would be dangerous to their health. See generally Yabia Omer (3:26).]
III. Contradiction in the Rama
However, the Rama appears to contradict himself. In Hilchos Yoreh Dei’ah (Yoreh Dei’ah 376:4), the Rama writes that if there is no mourner saying Kaddish, someone who has no parents should recite the Kaddish (after Aleinu). Yet, here the Rama does not give the option of someone whose parents are still alive reciting the Kaddish, even if the parents do not care.
Thus, what is the opinion of the Rama? May a son whose parents are still alive recite Kaddish Yasom if his parents do not care? These questions are asked by the sefer Nishmas Yisrael (Vol. 2, siman 31, pg. 527).
IV. The Answers of the Nishmas Yisrael
The Nishmas Yisrael cites numerous answers to this contradiction of the Rama:
First, the Sh’vus Yaakov and the Avodas HaGershuni understand that the Rama in Yoreh Dei’ah retracts his opinion in Orach Chayim and thus ultimately holds that a person whose parents are still alive can never recite Kaddish Yasom.
Second, the Divrei Yoel understands that the Rama in Yoreh Dei’ah was only talking about a case where the son knew for sure that the parents cared; but otherwise, it is fine for a son to recite Kaddish Yasom if he thinks his parents will not care.
Third, the Matei Ephraim understands that the Rama in Orach Chayim is only talking about when the son knows for sure that the parents do not care; but otherwise, a son should not recite Kaddish Yasom, even if he intuits that his parents will likely not care. [Ed. This appears to be against the opinion of the Mishnah B’rurah mentioned above].
V. Practical Application
The Nit’ei Gavriel (Aveilus 43:3) rules that if a son merely intuits (as opposed to knowing for sure) that his parents who are still alive will not care if he recites Kaddish Yasom after Aleinu, he may recite the Kaddish.
However, the Nit’ei Gavriel (ibid) cites from Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l that the minhag is not this way. Rather, the minhag is that a son whose parents are still alive never recites the Kaddish Yasom. This was the opinion of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, as well. See Halichos Shlomo (T’filah 11:15).
Moreover, the sefer Siach T’filah (23) notes that once the minhag has developed that a son whose parents are still alive does not recite the Kaddish after Aleinu, it would confuse people if they saw such a strange sight of a son saying this Kaddish Yasom. He adds that this is enough of a reason to refrain from doing so. Also, sometimes the parents are embarrassed to say that they care, so they simply tell the son that they don’t care. Thus, a son should never recite Kaddish Yasom as long as his parents are still alive.
Next Week’s Topic: May multiple mourners recite Kaddish Yasom together, or is it preferable for only one mourner to recite Kaddish Yasom on behalf of all the mourners in the shul?