19. When there is No Adult Son to Recite Kaddish

If one was not privileged to leave behind a son or whose son is not God-fearing and does not come to the synagogue to recite Kaddish for them, a God-fearing grandson may say Kaddish for the whole year. A grandson from a son takes precedence over a grandson from a daughter. If the deceased does not have a grandson yet, but has a son-in-law, the son-in-law should say Kaddish. The grandson and son-in-law may recite Kaddish for their grandparent or parent in-law only after receiving permission from their own parents if they are still living. If the deceased does not have a son-in-law, the father recites Kaddish for his child. If his father is also dead, a brother or nephew says Kaddish.

When there is no relative to recite Kaddish for the deceased, part of the inheritance money should be used to hire a God-fearing person to recite Kaddish. It is good to hire someone who is engrossed in Torah. If someone in the family who is engrossed in Torah, he takes precedence over a stranger. Monetary compensation for reciting Kaddish is important to ensure its recitation. Furthermore, if they employ someone who is involved in Torah or a poor person who has children to support, the deceased will thereby accrue more merit.

The common ruling nowadays is that a man should be hired to recite Kaddish even if the deceased left a daughter. 1

  1. Although there have been places through the years where, if the deceased left only daughters, a daughter would recite Kaddish in her home or in a room adjacent to the synagogue, and some ruled that a daughter not yet bat mitzva should recite Kaddish in the synagogue. However, Ĥavot Ya’ir §222 states that it is proper to object to the recitation of Kaddish by women, so that the power of custom is not undermined, and the accepted custom is that daughters do not recite Kaddish (Yalkut Yosef 7:23:11; Pnei Barukh 34:20; Piskei Teshuvot 132:33).

    However, where there is demand for this practice, and there is no concern that it will undermine customary practice – whether because they have already been eroded or because the congregation is God-fearing and meticulous about mitzva observance – and there is no concern that it will cause dissent, the local rabbi may rule that they should recite Kaddish from the women’s section and under the conditions he specified. After all, as noted, there were places that had this custom in the past.

    This and similar halakhot demonstrate the importance of a local or congregational rabbi who is responsible for imbuing it with Torah, mitzvot, and their values. It is therefore important that every congregation has a designated rabbi who understands the congregants intimately. It is also important that the congregation rally around him and not instigate disputes when he decides in favor of one side or the other.