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Peninei Halakha > Prayer > 04 - The Chazan and the Mourner’s Kaddish > 06 – The Duration of the Kaddish Recital and the Yahrtzeit Day

06 – The Duration of the Kaddish Recital and the Yahrtzeit Day

According to Ashkenazic custom, a mourner leads the services and says Kaddish for eleven months after a parent’s death. This is because the judgment of evil people in Gehinnom is twelve months, and if a mourner recites Kaddish for the deceased for a full twelve months, it will seem as though he was considered evil (Rama, Yoreh De’ah 376:4). The Sephardic custom is to stop for the first week of the twelfth month and then continue to lead the services and say Kaddish until the anniversary of the death (yahrtzeit) (Birkei Yosef there). Kaddish recited after learning, which is not within the framework of prayer, may be said by the mourners throughout the whole twelfth month (Rav Pe’alim, part 4, Yoreh De’ah 32). However, for one who was known to be an evil person, such as someone who committed suicide or an apostate, Kaddish is recited for the full twelve months (Pitchei Teshuvah, Yoreh De’ah 376:9).

It is also customary to say Kaddish and lead the prayer service on the day of the yahrtzeit. According to Sephardic custom, one begins to say Kaddish from the Friday prior to the anniversary until the yahrtzeit day. Additionally, one who is well-liked by the congregation should also be chazan (Kaf HaChaim 55:23). Even among Ashkenazim there are those who have the custom of leading the services on the Shabbat before the yahrtzeit and for the Ma’ariv prayer at the close of that Shabbat (Pnei Baruch 39:2). However, they cannot preempt a mourner in his year of mourning or someone who has a yahrtzeit on that specific day (Piskei Teshuvot 132:26). The yahrtzeit is set according to the day the person died and not the day he or she was buried. Even at the end of the first year, the yahrtzeit is established based on the day of the person’s death.[6]

[6]. Whereas for mourning purposes the day of the burial starts the count of the seven days of shivah, the 30 days (sheloshim), and the 12 months of mourning, the yahrtzeit is always the date on which the person died. There are those who have the custom to commemorate the first yahrtzeit on the burial date. However, the primary minhag is to commemorate it on the date of the person’s death even that first year, as brought by Pnei Baruch 39:35 and Yalkut Yosef, chapter 7, 22:3. In a leap year, according to the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 568:7), the yahrtzeit is in Adar II, and according to the Rama it is in Adar I. When a person dies on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar II, which is the 30th of Adar I, in a non-leap year, the yahrtzeit falls out on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar, which is the 30th of Shevat (Mishnah Berurah 568:42, and see Pnei Baruch 39:36-37). For the remaining halachot regarding the recital of Kaddish, see Pnei Baruch 34 and Yalkut Yosef, part 7, 23.

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Editor: Nechama Unterman