Your recent articles on Kaddish confirm the Jewish people’s ability to infuse a prayer with meaning. (“Local women reflect on saying Kaddish,” June 19). Kaddish itself is essentially a powerful prayer for our ultimate redemption, which most likely became associated with mourning in an attempt to give those in need of hope something to cling to. There are those who posit that this occurred as a response to the tragedy of the Crusades.
The issue of a daughter saying Kaddish is primarily a meta-halachic issue in that the specific result is bounded by the range of halachically defensible options and the general weltanschauung of the community in question.
My general sense is that in the Modern Orthodox community the practice is to support women who wish to say Kaddish. There is often an additional requirement that a man be saying Kaddish at the same time although I believe this is also for meta-halachic reasons.
There’s a lot more to be said on this issue. A few years back our congregation had a three-hour study session on the topic, sources available upon request.
I think it’s worthwhile to conclude any discussion about the saying of Kaddish with a quote from the Chayei Adam, a 19th-century decisor of Jewish law: “Though saying Kaddish and prayers are helpful to the departed, in any event, they are not of primary importance. Rather it is essential that the children proceed in the path of righteousness, for by this, they bring merit to the parents.”
While Kaddish may well have beneficial effects on the sayer, our real focus should be on the results for the departed.