I have seen it discussed whether or not there is an issue of kol isha by kriyas haTorah, but I have not seen any sources addressing whether there is an issue of kol isha by kaddish, specifically...? Any help with finding sources?

I remember seeing a Gemara something to effect of "something that has men answering to women would be a problem", which would seem to imply that kaddish would be a problem, and thus one would not be able to draw a kal v'chomer from kriyas haTorah to kaddish.

Anyone see any sources that specifically address the issue of kol isha by kaddish?

  • 3
    That gemara is explicitly about song ("זמרי"): women singing and men answering.
    – Double AA
    Jul 5, 2015 at 2:54
  • The Mishnah Berurah writes that a woman could say Kaddish from behind the Mechitzah. I don't remember off the top of my head if he adds the caveat that it must be together with males, or even alone. Jul 5, 2015 at 3:10
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    @Salmononius2 I would love a source for that...
    – WhoKnows
    Jul 5, 2015 at 14:19
  • @sam That question does not address this issue.
    – WhoKnows
    Jul 5, 2015 at 14:19

2 Answers 2


The basic discussion as shown below is not a matter of Kol Isha. It is actually a matter of the customs of the community. Thus the answer to your question would be that Kol Isha is not applicable to a woman saying kaddish. The articles linked below show the actual reasons for the discussion.

Since Kol Isha is not applicable, there would be no discussion about it.

For example Women Saying Kaddish which does not allow women to say Kaddish at a shul, does advise saying Kaddish at a private minyon. If Kol Isha were a problem, this would not be allowed either.

Women and Kaddish actually points to the original objection in the Chavos Yair for a particular case in Amsterdam. That article states that in a normal case (as in the question), there would be no problem reciting the kaddish with a minyon.

Women and Kaddish

Question: May women recite Kaddish in the synagogue?

Response: A contemporary compendium on mourning practices is the anthology written by Rabbi Chaim Binyamin Goldberg (P'nai Baruch, first published in 1986) and translated into English under the ArtScroll title, "Mourning in Halachah". Concerning the issue of women reciting Kaddish, Rav Goldberg notes the following: "If the deceased left only daughters, although some have permitted a daughter to recite Kaddish at a prayer service in her home, virtually all other Poskim disagree and rule that a daughter should not recite Kaddish even in her home." (Mourning in Halachah, chapter 39:21, p. 359) Thus it would appear that halakhic authorities are generally opposed to women reciting Kaddish whether at home or in the synagogue.

The difficulty with this pervasive negative halakhic orientation is that it fails to take into consideration the rulings of the three most influential halakhic sages in America. Indeed, it is openly recognized that the rulings of the following three rabbis permeated the essence and formed the standards of synagogue life in America: namely, Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik.

Rav Henkin (1880-1973) was the Director of Ezrat Torah, a relief organization for needy rabbis. Each year, he authored and published the popular "Luach" for synagogue life wherein he detailed halakhic practices. He was deemed the "Posek haDor", the decisor for issues impacting on synagogue life. Concerning women saying Kaddish, he wrote: "The question as to whether a [bereaved] daughter may recite the Kaddish is bound up with her observance of the Sabbath, kashruth, and the laws of family purity. If she does keep these basic mitzvoth, it is permissible for her to say Kaddish in the women's gallery while the men are doing so in the synagogue proper." (Teshuvot Ivra. The entire text of the teshuva is translated by David Telsner, The Kaddish, p. 301.)

Subsequent to Rav Henkin, the halakhic arbiter for American Orthodox synagogues was Rav Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory. In a posthumous publication of his responsa, the following is reported. Rav Moshe was concerned with whether it was necessary to have a Mehitza separating the men and women sections for prayer, in the event that there were only one or two women . He notes: "Throughout the generations the common custom was for a poor woman to be in the Bet haMidrash to receive charity, or as a mourner to recite Kaddish." His response was that a Mehitza was necessary even for one woman [who attended] on a regular basis. On an occasional basis, it was not necessary, should only one or two women be present. (Iggrot Moshe, Vol. 8, O.H. 5:12b) Note the terminology and the concern. Rav Moshe does not question the propriety of the woman who comes to the Bet haMidrash to recite Kaddish. He seems to assume that there are no halakhic qualms at all with such a function of women at religious services. The only problem is whether there need be a Mehitza during her recital. Indeed, it is apparent that Rav Moshe accepts a woman reciting Kaddish as a normal, unquestionable practice.

For many thousands of students of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, (former Rosh haYeshiva of Yeshiva University, and halakhic authority for the Rabbinical Council of America) a halakhic ruling from him was deemed authoritative. It is reported that Rav Soloveitchik ruled that is was permissible for women to recite Kaddish in synagogue. (cited by Joel Wolowelsky in a letter to the editor of HaDarom, vol. 57, Ellul 5748/1988, pp. 157-158.)

It is important to note that the ruling of the Havot Yair (1638-1702) cited by the Pit-hei Teshuva and the ArtScroll translation is not an accurate rendition of the actual position of the Havot Yair. The following is a full translation of the responsum of Havot Yair:

[translation not included for space reasons - see article]

I suggest that many may have misread the concerns of the Havot Yair. He was not perturbed by a woman reciting Kaddish at a regular minyan. Note that the case was not dealing with a regular minyan for daily services, but related to a very unique request. It was for a minyan to learn Torah in a home and for a woman to recite Kaddish subsequent to the learning. It was, therefore, an unusual request. It was as if it was not important for the daughter to recite Kaddish at a normal minyan for morning, afternoon and evening services. The only concern was for the daughter to say Kaddish after a special Torah learning session. This was deemed a denigration of the normal recitation of Kaddish. To permit this and not be concerned with saying Kaddish after a regular daily prayer was tantamount to giving people the right to make new customs and disdain the old. Accordingly, the Havot Yair opposed such a practice. However, should a daughter pray in a regular synagogue and recite Kaddish together with the other mourners, perhaps even the Havot Yair would permit such a practice for the reasons he himself articulated:

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    This is nice, but it does not answer my question, really. I would still like a source that directly addresses the concern of kol isha by a woman saying kaddish.
    – WhoKnows
    Jul 5, 2015 at 14:19
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    @WhoKnows the statements by the sources (and others) that a woman does say kaddish in shul mean that Kol Isha is not an issue. The staements by those who do not have a woman say kaddish in shul also show that Kol Isha is not an issue. For example aish.com/atr/Women_Saying_Kaddish.html states that those who do not have a woman saying kaddish in shul allow it at a private minyan. Jul 5, 2015 at 16:11

While it seems that @SabbaHillel seemed to cover the basic points., I'll add in what I've seen regarding this issue. There will likely be plenty of overlap, but hopefully I'll be able to add certain points as well.

To start off with, Artscroll's Mourning in Halachah (39:21) seems to unequivocally say that a woman should not say Kaddish. In one of the footnotes, the Mateh Ephraim is quoted, and seems to imply that there might be an issue of Kol Isha.

What's interesting is that the above source seems to say that almost all sources strongly discourage a woman from from saying Kaddish, but several strong 'mainstream' sources seem to allow a woman to say Kaddish. The Be'er Haitaiv (132:5) says that if we want to, we can assemble a Minyan to let a woman say Kaddish (wording seemed to strongly imply that it's optional, not obligatory), with the Sharei Teshuva (also 132:5) adding the caveat that the Minyan should be assembled at the woman's home. Neither source mentions anything about Kol Isha, which would imply that it isn't an issue here, for whatever reason.

It's interesting to note, though, that historically, Kaddish has been said differently than most Ashkenzic communities nowadays say it. Nowadays, it seems that the custom has almost universally evolved into a situation where all the mourners say every Kaddish all together as one. It seems like in the past (although someone I know shared a story where he was in a Shul in Israel (Jerusalem, I believe) and they still had this custom) only one mourner would say a Kaddish, and the mourners would 'cycle' and take turns for each Kaddish (to the point where if there were more mourners than available Kaddishes, some mourners wouldn't get a chance to say Kaddish during that Minyan). The above Be'er Haitaiv and Sharei Teshuva both seem to be discussing saying Kaddish in the 'old fashion', and presumably Mourning in Halachah (as it was published relatively more recently - 1991) deals with the more common manner of saying Kaddish.

As a conclusion, while I haven't found the source for my comments in the question (which is touched upon in Sabba Hillels excellent and thorough answer), I stand by what I said that a woman is allowed to say Kaddish in a Shul from behind the Mechitzah (although possibly only with other men saying it along as well). I've seen this done in different (Orthodox) Shuls and remember hearing my Rebbi say this is allowed.

  • Moral of the story: don't take halachic advice from Rabbi Artscroll.
    – Double AA
    Jul 28, 2015 at 16:04
  • The United Synagogue in the UK has recently issued a new booklet that “will Encourage Female Mourners to say Kaddish”. Commenting, Chief Rabbi Mirvis said: “.. it is important that women who would like to say Kaddish should feel comfortable and supported in doing so....” The booklet advises a woman who wants to say kaddish to contact the synagogue so that it can arrange a mechitzah and a man to say kaddish at the same time as the woman. Jan 4, 2017 at 21:04

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