- Question: [Sunday, 30th Iyar, 5783]
My four-year-old child recently passed away r”l from a prolonged medical condition. I am hearing conflicting things from different Rabbis who came to me during Shiva regarding how long the Kaddish is to be recited for. Some told me not to say Kaddish at all, another one told me that it is to be said for three months, and another one told me 11 months like everyone else. Can you please clarify this for me?
The accepted practice based on the simple understanding of the Halacha, is for the Kaddish to be recited for the full 11 months from the passing, just as is done after anyone else who passes away. This applies whether the Kaddish is being said by a hired individual, or is being said by the father [in those cases permitted according to Halacha and in those communities that direct one to do so].
It is ruled in the Poskim, as recorded in the Rishonim, and as accepted amongst all Israel, to recite Kaddish after the passing of an individual for at least 11 months. There is no known custom, or source in the Poskim, to recite Kaddish for less than this amount of time. Nonetheless, the Poskim discussed the question as to whether it is at all necessary to recite Kaddish on behalf of a child who passed away, as one who is under Bar/Bas mitzvah. You see, the reason for the 11th month recital is because the maximum amount of months that a Rasha remains in purgatory is 12 months and we hence want to ease their judgment by the reciting the Kaddish on their behalf. However we do not say for a full 12 months in order not to deem the person a Rasha who is deserving of a full 12 months of purgatory above. Accordingly, there is room to argue that there is no need to say Kaddish on behalf of a deceased child who was below the age of mitzvah’s, being that he does not have any sins for which purgatory is necessary, and indeed there are some authorities who write that Kaddish is not recited for a child who passed away until he reaches the age of mitzvah’s. Nonetheless, the main opinion and practice is to recite Kaddish even on behalf of a child who passed away so long as he is not a Nefel, which is 30 days after birth. The reason for this is because although a child is not held responsible for wronging, nevertheless, there are many benefits of Kaddish asides for removing him from Gehinnom. Following this approach the Kaddish should be recited for 11 months as is done with anyone else, and so is explicitly ruled in the Poskim, and so is the accepted practice and ruling of all Rabbanim that I spoke with when researching the matter. There does not seem to be any source or reason to saying the Kaddish for less than this amount of time. As far as the opinion of saying it for only three months, I spoke to the Rav who made the statement and he bases it on a story with his father who he claims to have given a similar ruling and says that Rav Ovadyah Yosef who was also present at the time agreed with it. However, aside for this not being the accepted practice, he has yet to verify the details of the story and the circumstances in which the acclaimed ruling was given. I have also been unable to ascertain this to be the opinion of Rav Ovdyah Yosef, and in fact it does not seem to be the case as can be understood from his responsas in Yabia Omer regarding this issue in which he makes no such mention of this three-month custom, and it is likewise not recorded in the writings of his sons. Without establishing the details of the story it is not possible to base a Pesak on it, as the Talmud teaches us that one may not base a ruling on a story with a Posek, until the Posek tells you to rule this way as there may be mitigating circumstances which were involved in the above ruling. Indeed, Rav Eli Landa Shlita responded to me that he believes that this is an error, as there is no reason or source or custom for saying it only three months, and that it is to be said for 11 months like everyone else. Likewise, regarding an adult child who passed away the Rebbe instructed that the Kaddish should be said for 11 months and not just for 30 days and explained that the saying of the Kaddish for 11 months is very important according to Kabbalah, and seemingly the same would apply regarding a child below the age of mitzvah’s.
Sources: See regarding saying Kaddish for 11 months: Rama 376:4; Maharil Semachos; Levush 133; Beir Heiytiv 132:5 in name of Kneses Yechezkal; See Taz 340:12 and 376:5; Sefer Haminhagim p. 180 [English]; Igros Kodesh 4:106; Sefer Hasichos 1989 1:175 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 5:290-298] Sichas 9th Teves 1951; Nitei Gavriel chapter 51; See regarding saying Kaddish for 11 months even for a very young child who passed away: Sdei Chemed Aveilus 151 in name of Beis Yisrael; Hakaddish [Asaf] p. 181; Toras Menachem Tziyon 2:344; See regarding the general discussion of saying Kaddish on behalf of a child who passed away r”l: Opinion to say after 30 days old: Michaber 344:4 and Shach 344:3 regarding Kaddish of Tziduk Hadin; Vayitzbar Yosef 21; Hillel Omer 231; Gesher Hachaim 2:12 that so is Minhag Yerushalayim; Sefer Hakkadish p. 181 as second opinion; Pnei Baruch 34:30 as second opinion; Tzitz Eliezer 7:86-7; Nitei Gavriel ibid and footnote 10 that so is the custom and that so is the custom of Chabad and Ashkenaz; Igros Kodesh 19:44 [published in Shulchan Menachem 5:306] Opinion to say after 12 months old: Rama 344:4 regarding Kaddish and Tziduk Hadin by funeral that it is not said for under 12 months; See Maaseh Avraham Y.D. 59 regarding custom in Tzefas Opinion to say from age of Chinuch: Sdei Chemed Aveilus 151, 162, 212; Gesher Hachaim 1:118; Sefer Hakkadish p. 181 as main opinion; Pnei Baruch 34:30 as main opinion; Opinion to say after Bar and Bas Mitzvah: Maaseh Avraham Y.D. 59; See regarding not to give a Halachic ruling based on a story with a Rav until you hear the Rav say that this is the Halacha Lemaaseh: Bava Basra 130b; Nidda 7b
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