This morning, a few minutes after the minyan ended and had begun to disband, a man arrived saying he needed to say kaddish for his father. What we did (with no rav present) isn't particularly important, but now I'm wondering what we should have done. Several questions:

  1. Does halacha permit someone to say kaddish yatom who did not say any of the earlier prayers?

  2. If not and he did it anyway and there's a minyan present, do we respond (amein, y'hei shmei raba, b'rich hu)? May, must, must not?

  3. What about if there is no longer a minyan?

  4. If the answer to the previous questions is "no", are any leniencies available if the mourner is obviously upset? How do we balance compassion and correctness?

While the question arises from a specific incident I hope it's not seen as too localized. I'm interested in the principles behind such a case, not just a yes/no answer.

1 Answer 1


Mourners' kaddish is said after any public recitation of Tanakh (and its close cousin, Rabbis' kaddish, said after public study of Talmud or other Oral Law). While most yeshivas don't conclude a daily lecture with kaddish, I'm told it's not unheard of.

So as long as there are still ten men around, he should recite a short chapter of Psalms out-loud or the like, then say the Kaddish. (Or some mishna/braita, then rabbis' kaddish.)

If there aren't ten men around anymore and he's just coming in now, I'm not sure what to say. The good news is that that Kaddish doesn't use G-d's name directly (we say "may His name be blessed", "before their Heavenly father"), so I don't think you'd violate anything by answering to a kaddish that shouldn't be said -- but as it wasn't a public study, it's not fulfilling its goal. Whether to answer the kaddish to make the fellow feel good, or not to answer, to make it clear the kaddish is ineffective, I don't know.

  • 2
    +1. But re "I don't think you'd violate anything by answering to a kaddish that shouldn't be said": but answering is saying amen, which has pretty strict rules....
    – msh210
    Oct 27, 2011 at 14:46
  • @msh210, you mean like amen yetoma? (An amen "orphaned" from its blessing?) This isn't a halachic "amen" to a blessing per se, it's confirming the wish that His name be great. Not sure where that fits halachically. There's the discussion about answering "amen" if you're listening to a Torah lecture and the speaker pauses and makes a shehakol on a drink. But if the speaker says "I hope that so-and-so has a speedy recovery soon", is there a problem amening a "canned" good wish?
    – Shalom
    Oct 27, 2011 at 15:02
  • 1
    – msh210
    Oct 27, 2011 at 15:06

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