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The Kadish is a declaration of praise and recognition that God is great. As I understand it, a mourner says Kadish to declare that despite his loss he still praises God and understands that this was God's will. If so, my questions are:

  1. How would someone else say Kadish in a mourner's place? The person saying it felt no loss and therefore has no reason or purpose to declare his continued faith.
  2. Where does the minhag that one can have someone say Kadish for them come from?
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Possible answer to #1 that just came to mind after discussing it with someone: Maybe by asking someone to say Kadish for you you're declaring your belief in all that kadish says and represents, so it's fulfilling the same purpose. The only problem with that is people who take it upon themselves to say kadish when there's no one else to. They were neither asked nor did they feel any loss, so I guess the question remains. –  Mark Nov 29 '11 at 12:58
    
But there's a difference of decree between (once) paying someone to say kaddish for you for the (month, year) and doing it yourself every single day. –  Monica Cellio Nov 29 '11 at 13:52
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3 Answers

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+50

Accroding to Rabbi Jack Abramowitz having a child or other relative as a catalyst for the congregation to praise God is an indisputable source of merit for the deceased. He basis this on a story about Rabbi Akiva, as given in Rabbi Abramowitz's essay on ou.org

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http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/514609/jewish/Why-Does-A-Mourner-Say-Kaddish.htm

Even if there is no son who can say the Kaddish, another Jewish male is still able to help the soul along by saying the Kaddish and by dedicating charity in honor of the deceased. After all, we are all connected. In truth, the Ari taught, we are all only one soul in many different bodies.

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+1, this answers why another should say it. It doesn't, however, address hypothesis in the question ("a mourner says kadish to declare..."). –  msh210 Nov 29 '11 at 19:12
    
Yes, this relates to the (I believe) false understanding of kadish as an iloy nishmat/merit of the deceased type of thing. In actuality, if you read and understand the words, it's just praising God. It's not learning, it's not a memorial, just plain praising God. Therefore I specifically posed the question with kadish defined as such. If you disagree and feel the kadish is in memory of, or for the merit of the deceased, please say so and explain how or bring a source. –  Mark Nov 30 '11 at 7:38
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@Mark: that understanding is based on sources including Or Zarua (citing Tanchuma), Zohar, and Rema (Yoreh De'ah 376:1). That it is praise of G-d is unquestionably true, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have other meanings and purposes too. –  Alex Dec 6 '11 at 14:52
    
@Mark, besides what Alex said, note also that any mitzva, including praising God or saying any prayer, can be done l'iluy nishmas someone, in a dead person's merit. –  msh210 Dec 6 '11 at 16:09
    
@msh210, do you have source? –  Mark Dec 11 '11 at 8:39
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As I understand it, a mourner says kadish to declare that despite his loss he still praises God and understands that this was God's will.

No.

It's sanctification of G-d's name to help fill the void by one less person alive, and for the deceased's merit.

Tziduk hadin -- the blessing said proclaiming G-d "the judge of truth", has some of the psychological aspects you're describing -- and is only said by the mourner (or other person intensely affected).

Certainly if a mourner uses kaddish as their form of expression of accepting G-d's plans, that's wonderful; but it's not "what kaddish is about." (Another explanation of Kaddish is that it may have been a way to enable more people to do something meritorious if they couldn't all lead the services, which was the older recommended practice.)

So if someone is unable to say Kaddish but a friend does in their stead (or they pay for someone to do it), there is still a sanctification of G-d's Name being made, despite the loss of life (and in the deceased's merit).

In cases where the mourner truly can't say Kaddish for whatever reason, the practice of paying someone to do it (though it seems weird from a religious perspective) is regarded as quite old (several centuries) and strong -- there have been points in time where if not for it, yeshiva students wouldn't have been able to eat.

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That's a little strong, NO? –  Double AA Dec 13 '11 at 0:59
    
@Shalom 1. What do you mean by, "It's sanctification of G-d's name to help fill the void by one less person alive, and for the deceased's merit"? The only source I know which defines what a kidush Hashem (sanctification of God's name) is, is the Rambam in Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah. He does not mention kadish there, nor would it fit any of his criteria. If you have a source that says saying kadish is a kidush Hashem I would happy to hear about it. –  Mark Dec 13 '11 at 7:23
    
2. When a person dies it can be viewed as void which may or may not need to be filled. But even if it needs to be filled, how does kadish do so? 3. Once again, the whole "decease's merit" thing. Do you have a source? –  Mark Dec 13 '11 at 7:24
    
If one purpose is as a "sanctification of G-d's name to help fill the void by one less person alive," then by the same logic, shouldn't we also be saying Kaddish for every one of our thousands of ancestors, each of whose death created a void? Why only our immediate relatives? –  Meliorate Jan 3 at 3:18
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