By renee bravo
July 23, 2009
May I respond to the lady who thinks (as do most people), that women must not say Kaddish in an orthodox synagogue.. She is quite wrong. It may be forbidden by some rabbis in some synagogues, but this is for traditional, social and political reasons, not religious ones.
Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah and the daughter of a rabbi, was one of a family of daughters, no sons. When her mother died in 1916, a male relative offered to say Kaddish on her behalf. She declined the offer in a famous letter which contains these words. "When my father died, my mother would not permit others to take the place of her daughters in saying the Kaddish, so I am sure I am acting in her spirit when I am moved to decline your very beautiful offer".
Let me tell you some of my own experiences in this matter. Holidaying in Bournemouth during the sixties, I went into the hotel synagogue for the evening prayers, and I was asked by the (orthodox) rabbi if I had come to say Kaddish. When my husband died, I said Kaddish at the funeral at Waltham Abbey, at home throughout the shivah, and for the thirty days I said Kaddish at a Chabad House. I was recently in a situation where I wanted to say Kaddish, and I asked the orthodox rabbi conducting the ceremony if I might do so. He replied, "Yes, but very quietly please". I said it so quietly that only God could hear it.
Whole articles could be written listing the many famous and learned women who said Kaddish. Many books have been written by the most respected orthodox authorites as to why women could or should say Kaddish. Rashi said that the idea of women being exempt from time-bound commandments only applied to biblical law not rabbinic. As the Kaddish as a prayer for the dead was not common until the 13th Century, at the time of the crusades, it must be seen as an example of rabbinic law, influenced by the circumstances and mores of its time.
A woman may say Kaddish. But why is this left to a nobody like me to say it. Why doesn't the Chief Rabbi say it