Question: May a woman say Kaddish Yasom for a deceased?
Short Answer: Some Acharonim allow it, while others do not. It largely depends upon the custom of the community.
I. Three Reasons
Rav Zvi Ryzman shlita, in his new sefer Ratz KaTzvi (Aveilus 1), cites three reasons why women should not say Kaddish Yasom. The Chavos Yair (222) discusses “a strange site in Amsterdam” where a father requested that his daughter recite Kaddish for him after his death. The Chavos Yair responds that even though a woman reciting Kaddish serves as an ilui for the neshamah of the deceased, doing so would be improper because it breaches the sanctity of our minhagim and opens up a Pandora’s box for future breaches in minhagim. See also B’Mar’ei HaBazak (1:4).
The Ben Ish Chai gives a second reason why a woman should not recite Kaddish for the deceased. If a woman is allowed to recite Kaddish Yasom, she will come to recite the regular Kaddish in t’filah, which of course is not permitted.
A third reason is found in the Matei Ephraim (Kaddish Yasom 4:8). A woman should not recite Kaddish for the deceased because it will lead to immorality. Indeed, while it is not precisely “kol ishah,” the Matei Ephraim suggests that it is similar to such a concept, and will cause a greater “loss” for the neshamah than any benefit from the recitation.
The P’nei Baruch (cited in B’Mar’ei HaBazak ibid) also concludes that it is preferable for a woman to hire a man to recite Kaddish rather than recite it herself.
II. Only in the House
The Shaarei T’shuvah (132:5) cites the Sh’vus Yaakov who allows a woman to recite Kaddish Yasom in front of a minyan at her house, but not in shul. Similarly, Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Chazon Ovadia 1, p. 356) rules that a woman should only recite Kaddish in front of a minyan at her house, but not in shul.
The Ratz KaTzvi (ibid) explains that these opinions obviously understand that there is no kol ishah when a woman recites Kaddish, because otherwise there would be no allowance in her house. He further cites the sefer Beis Avi (2:14) who explains that there is no kol ishah by words of Torah, and especially where others (men) are reciting the Kaddish with her. Moreover, he adds that nobody would have improper thoughts during Kaddish anyway.
III. The Lenient Opinions
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe 5:12), in a responsum about m’chitzos, acknowledges that for many generations women have come to shul to recite Kaddish for the deceased.
Similarly, Rav Yosef Henkin zt”l (cited in Ratz KaTzvi, ibid) notes the minhag for women to recite Kaddish, especially nowadays that the minhag (even in Ashkenaz – see my previous article) is for multiple mourners to recite Kaddish simultaneously.
The Ratz KaTzvi concludes by citing Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l who allowed women – even by themselves – to recite Kaddish Yasom in shul, and notes that this was the custom in Vilna, as well. This p’sak of Rav Soloveitchik zt”l is likewise quoted by Rav Hershel Schachter shlita in Beis Yitzchak (Vol. 45).
Next Week’s Topic: May a child say Kaddish for both parents who died within the same year or must he hire someone else to say Kaddish for one of his parents (and for no other individual simultaneously)?