Question: When a parent tells his/her child that he/she does not want Kaddish recited for them, should the child listen?

Short Answer: While the simple understanding is that the child should obey the parent’s request and not recite Kaddish, many Acharonim limit this ruling to specific situations. In most cases, the child should probably recite Kaddish against his parent’s wishes.

Explanation:

I. The Avnei Shoham

The Pischei T’shuvah (Yoreh Dei’ah 344:1) cites the ruling of the sefer Avnei Shoham, that a child should oblige a parent’s request that the child not recite Kaddish for the parent.

The simple reading of this Avnei Shoham is that a child must always listen to a parent’s request that the child not recite Kaddish, no matter what the reason for the request. This appears to be the understanding of the Pischei T’shuvah according to the Sefer HaKaddish (Rav Dovid Assaf zt”l, p. 160).

II. The Wicked Son

The Nit’ei Gavriel (Aveilus 2:40:10), on the other hand, notes that the ruling of the Avnei Shoham is limited to the specific case presented there: where the child was a rasha, and the father didn’t want the evil son to recite Kaddish for him. However, in other situations, the son should recite Kaddish against his parent’s wishes.

The Nit’ei Gavriel (ibid) also cites the ruling of the sefer P’ri Sadeh, that where a child does not treat the parent properly, and the parent thus subsequently requests that the child not recite Kaddish for him/her, the child must listen to the parent. However, in other situations, the son should recite Kaddish against his parent’s wishes.

III. The Parent Doesn’t Always Know Best

The Chelkas Yaakov (2:93) elaborates on the reason why a son should recite Kaddish against his parent’s wishes. Even though the Gemara in Kiddushin (32a) rules that a parent is allowed to be mochel (forgo) his own honor, that rule only applies for mundane or secular issues. For the issue of reciting Kaddish, however, a parent cannot forgo his honor (of having Kaddish recited for him), because it is a religious and spiritual issue. Indeed, it is likely that the deceased parent “changed his mind” in shamayim after seeing the great merit afforded to him from the recitation of Kaddish.

Similarly, the sefer Y’sodei Y’shurun (1:225) cites the Chemdas Moshe who rules that a son should not listen to a parent who requests that he not recite Kaddish because it is analogous to a case where a doctor tells a parent not to drink water, but the parent seeks water from the son. Just as the son should not harm the parent by not giving the water, so too the son should not harm the parent by not reciting the Kaddish for the parent’s benefit.

IV. Another Reason To Ignore the Parent’s Request

The sefer Divrei Binyahu (13:54) likewise rules that a son should recite Kaddish against his parent’s wishes. He explains that a son does not need to listen to a parent who tells him to violate an isur d’Rabbanan, so surely a son does not need to listen to a parent who tells him not to recite Kaddish.

  1. Misnaged Parent with Chasidishe Son

The Y’sodei Y’shurun (ibid), however, cites the Shoel U’Meishiv who tells of the fascinating case where a misnaged parent requested that his chasidishe son not recite Kaddish because he did not want the words “v’yatzmach pirkunei” to be recited for him. The Sho’el U’Meishuv cites the Y’shuas Yaakov who ruled that the chasidishe son should ignore the father, and recite Kaddish, albeit without the words “v’yatzmach pirkunei.

The Shoel U’Meishiv however limits this ruling to a case where there were other non-chasidishe brothers who would otherwise be reciting Kaddish. If the chasidishe brother did not recite Kaddish, it would cast dispersion upon the family that perhaps the chasidishe son was illegitimate. But otherwise, the son should listen to the parent’s request.

Indeed, the Shoel U’Meishiv notes that the language of the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 386:4) appears to agree that the son should honor the parent’s request. The Shulchan Aruch writes that if a father tells a son not to recite Kaddish for the child’s mother, the son should not listen to the father. This implies that if the father tells the son to not recite Kaddish for him, the son should listen to the father.

Next Week’s Topic: Should a Sefardi who is saying Kaddish in an Ashkenazi shul recite the Kaddish nusach for Sefardim or the nusach of the Ashkenazi shul? The same question applies in the reverse case, an Ashkenazi davening in a Sefardi shul?

By Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq.


Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Assistant to the Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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