I understand that a soul may be judged for a full 12 months after death but that we (generally) only say kaddish yatom for a parent for 11 months because the longest period is for the worst sinners and we presume that our parents are not wicked.

But what if they are? What if, chas v'shalom, one has the misfortune of being the child of somebody he understands to be among the worst sinners and thus in need of the full 12 months? Should he say say kaddish for the full 12 months (to continue to provide benefit to the soul), or should he say it for only 11 months to avoid calling attention to the deceased's wickedness? Does it depend on how public the wickedness is -- maybe if "everybody knows" you go for the full year but if it's more private you don't?

I'd like to clarify that this question is asked out of intellectual curiosity and not out of need. B"H my parents are (a) still alive and (b) definitely not wicked.

  • Who are we to judge ? Perhaps there is some linud zechus that only God knows about ? Perhaps the person once did a positive deed and that counts more than we know ? Did they really know what they were doing was wrong ? Even victims of suicide today are buried within cemeteries since we say that they were not in control of their facilities. Don't some poskim question if the concept of apikoros applies today ?
    – eramm
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 17:09
  • I think once it's the accepted minhag than we don't differentiate regardless of the reason.
    – eramm
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 17:11
  • @eramm we can't know; we can only take our best guess. If (despite perceptions of wickedness) a son wants to do the best he can for the departed, based on the best (incomplete) information he has, what should he do? Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 17:12
  • Suggested edit for the question. Mumar LeHachis, someone who lent with ribis i.e a case where the halachah calls the person wicked/bad not just "they were just really bad people."
    – eramm
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 17:14
  • There are other ways to help elevate the soul besides kaddish. Torah study, charity, doing good deeds etc..
    – eramm
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 17:16

2 Answers 2


According to Ask the Rabbi from Yeshivas Ohr Somayach:

First he reviews the reasons that were mentioned in the question you referred to

He (IMHO) seems to take a angle that says that the reason we don't say for the full 12 months even if we know the person was wicked is not to embarrass the deceased.

Then he concludes:

So, unless the parent specifically requested it, or unless it's known that the parent was a willful transgressor, kaddish is said for only 11 months.

I don't know the name of the Rabbi who posted the answer but he does list his sources as

  • Gesher HaChaim

  • P'nei Baruch

  • 1
    Wait! If the parent specifically requested it, he must have realized the gravity of his actions, i.e. hirhur teshuva. Shouldn't he just get 11 months then? :-)
    – Adám
    Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 18:27
  • Why wouldn't every parent request this?
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 18:53

The Rambam writes:

This reckoning is not calculated [only] on the basis of the number of merits and sins, but also [takes into account] their magnitude. There are some merits which outweigh many sins as implied by [I Kings 14:13]: "Because in him, there was found a good quality." In contrast, a sin may outweigh many merits as [Ecclesiastes 9:18] states: "One sin may obscure much good."

The weighing [of sins and merits] is carried out according to the wisdom of the Knowing God. He knows how to measure merits against sins.

In addition a single thought of Teshuva can erase all sins. So there is really no way to know that someone is so wicked that they will get the full 12 months. Maybe they did one good deed that outweighs whatever you think was so bad.

Since it is an estimation at best what their judgement will be, it doesn't seem to be a reason to change the custom.

I'm sure it possible for there to be an outliner, just like we say a blessing on that in Shemona Esrei, but it has to be something beyond "they were just really bad people."

  • Does it make sense to presume as the norm that this person is not a rasha because of the possibility that you can't do the math right? You are showing that the assumption they are bad may be incorrect, but does that mean the status quo assumption should not be that way? Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 19:07
  • @YEZ, I think it makes sense to not presume that you know or could determine.
    – Yishai
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:10
  • that's the point - you can't determine in either direction. So best guess is...? Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:11
  • @YEZ, who says you sit and judge?
    – Yishai
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:13
  • 1
    we don't sit and judge, but we do make assumptions. You wouldn't allow a mechalel shabbos p'farhesia to testify based on the above quoted Rambam. Or say that there is no such thing as someone who isn't excluded by עושה מעשה עמך. We aren't judging, we are questioning the ability to judge in the opposite direction. Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:16

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