Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"New" Halachic Ruling by Rav Ovadia Yosef on Women Saying Kaddish

The grandson of Rav Ovadia Yosef, who was the Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1983-1993, maintains a website where he records halachic rulings (psak) that he learns from him grandfather at the Yeshiva 'Yachveh De'ah' in Jerusalem. It was pointed out to me that there is a ruling involving a woman sitting shiva whose parent died and there is no son to say kaddish. Rav Ovadia rules (here in Hebrew) that she may say kaddish when ten men are assembled for prayer or learning (the times when a man would be saying kaddish in this situation).
(You can read about this psak - with a short excerpt translated at the Vos Is Neias site.)
Although the practice of women saying kaddish is referred to historically it still is not universally accepted practice. It is interesting that the custom is becoming accepted in many synagogues as well. (Rav Ovadia specifically does not allow the practice in synagogue - but only in a private home.) Rabbi Hershel Schachter of Yeshiva University in a very encompassing lecture available at the YU Torah Online site  "Halacha and Modern Family" states that the merit of saying kaddish in memory of a parent is specific to the children of that parent.Rabbi Schachter tells us that the deceased is judged not only by his own deeds but by the legacy s/he leaves behind in the world. The deceased direct descendants therefore show their devotion to mitzvot by saying kaddish and doing other mitzvot in their memory over the period of mourning. The yahrtzeit is considered a date when not only the judgement of soul of the deceased is reviewed in heaven but also the actions of their children and grandchildren are scrutinized. He brings up the practice of asking someone who is not a relative say kaddish in the case say where there are no sons to do so. He says that some women are not comfortable saying kaddish in shul so they might ask someone else to say kaddish for their parent. But the direction that he is taking is definitely that in terms of the effect on the parents soul in heaven it is well served if she herself says the kaddish. In the shul where I go, women do say kaddish (along with the men) and it is satisfying to see that this is becoming more widely accepted.
In poking around on Rav Ovadia's halacha site I found this psak in English this time relating to women saying the HaGomel blessing upon being saved from some catastrophe or recovering from an illness. He maintains that the women can and should recite this blessing in the synagogue with ten men answering amen.


Leora said...

"the effect on the parents soul in heaven it is well served if she herself says the kaddish" - I like that way of phrasing it.

In our traditional Sephardi shul, I don't hear women saying kaddish out loud. I assume some women say it to themselves. However, women do sometimes say birkat hagomel out loud, with the men answering. And we have the added opportunity of saying the name of the dead after Torah reading (it is similar to the blessing for the sick).

YMedad said...

as for "but only in a private home", he also permits saying kaddish after Tehilim in "any place" (או לאחר קריאת תהלים באיזה מקום שיהיה.) as long as it's not the main hall of the synagogue, which could mean in a side room of the synagogue, like a study room, a small Bet Midrash where a women's class was held.

Anonymous said...

I have some extensive source sheets on the topic. 2 thoughts
1. R"HS also states that 10 answering is important so imvho whispering it is not the way to go
2. If there is no direct descendant again imvho it would be better to pay an ani to say the kaddish so that the mitzvah of tzedaka is tied in
KT Amerbro (Risa knows where to reach me :-))

Batya said...

Since the custom in Israel, at least our shul, is that everyone, including women, stand and reply quietly to Kaddish, it doesn't make one stand out. Women say Gomel outloud, too, here.

David Tzohar said...

Harav NTZV ben-Yehudah (the Nin) Paskerned that you shouldn't say hagomel from the ezrat nashim but rather gather ten men in a corner of the lobby. This has to do with tzniyut issues rather than "slippery slope" as quoted above.On another tzniyut issue R"Ovadia paskens that a woman may get up and say a dvar Torah in front of a small gathering of men at a shiva.AFAIK lo mekubbal berov mekomoteinu.

YMedad said...

Since tzniyut issues today are much more conditioned by social custom and feelings (of the men and of the women) according to kavod hatzibbur, whatever the congregation feels is proper should be left to that congregation without any outside interference or suggestions.

Risa Tzohar said...

Leora, I think that saying the kaddish out loud in public is meant to elicit the response "yehai shmai rabba mevorach" from the ten men (the public). This constitutes santifying God's name in public and being the initiator of that is of great merit. So, saying kaddish softly doesn't really fulfill that objective. (As my Amerbro points out. Let's hear it for New Jersey!)
Batya, ditto about replying quietly.
Winkie, I'm with you on both your comments. The shul I regularly attend does have women both saying kaddish and gomel. On the other hand David's shul doesn't. So there you have it, fortunately we get to choose 'mekomoteinu'. 'nuff said.

David Tzohar said...

YMeidad-"kvod hatzibbur-whatever the congregation is comfortable with"
This is the ultimate slippery slope. This is the very reason that while R'Ovadia is sympathetic to women saying kaddish he in no way allows it to be done in shul. Do you base your views on those of Prof R Sperber?

adina said...

Hi-- I found your blog while googling for shuls where I would be able to say kaddish while I'm in Israel this summer. I'd very much appreciate any suggestions for Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv, The Golan/Galil.

JOFA said...

We recommend a new resource published by JOFA, "A Daughter's Recitation of Mourner's Kaddish"

The halakhic literature addresses questions such as: May a daughter recite mourner's kaddish? May she recite kaddish alone or must it be in conjunction with a man? Should her kaddish be said aloud or quietly?

GSIM said...

2 Thoughts,

1) Does the sevara of the Chavat Yair apply today seeing as reform is no longer a fledgling movement that may threaten orthodox Judaism? The lines have already been drawn.

2)In term of the bottom line, it seems that R' Ovadya paskins that a woman may recite kaddish as long as she is on the womens side. Possibly because the prohibition seems to be only in a place that is exclusively used for teffilah. Many shuls today function in capacities in addition to teffilah (learning and eating come to mind).


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