Should an adopted child say Kaddish for their adoptive father or mother?

July 25, 2022 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Ask the rabbi.


Rabbi Raymond Apple

Q. Why don’t the kohanim “duchan” (or “duchen”) in synagogue every day in the Diaspora like they do in Israel?

A. The kohanim blessed the people from a platform in the Temple known as a “duchan”, hence the word “duchaning” to describe the ceremony.

In Israel, people are used to daily duchaning; in the Diaspora it generally takes place only on festivals. Reasons include the following:

• The kohen must be ritually pure when he duchans, and there is more likelihood of this on festivals.

• The festival prayers say, “Bestow on us the blessing of Your festivals”, which suggests a link between festivals and blessing.

• The kohanim have to bless the people with joy, and festivals evoke this emotion since the Torah says, “v’samachta b’chaggecha” – “you shall rejoice on your festival”. Why can there not be joy every day in the Diaspora? Because it was often a bitter experience to be a Diaspora Jew.

Some advocate duchaning when a festival falls on Shabbat, especially Yom Kippur. Some, especially Sephardim, duchan every Shabbat, though Ashkenazim note that people’s joy tends to be affected on Shabbat by thoughts of the problems which they will face the next day.

There is further concern that some of those who claim to be kohanim may be in error. Jews in the Diaspora were often confused about their lineage, whereas in Israel, greater care was exercised.

Rabbi Nathan Adler had thoroughly researched his kohanic background and duchaned every day. The Vilna Gaon wanted to institute daily duchaning but could not change the accepted practice.

The Ba’al HaTanya, the teacher of Chabad Chassidism, also saw no real reason not to duchan daily.


Q. Should an adopted child say Kaddish for their adoptive father or mother?

A. The answer requires an understanding of the status of adoption in Jewish law.

Adoption of some kind was known from Biblical times; Moses was brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter, Ruth’s son by Naomi and the sons of Merab (Saul’s daughter) by their aunt. Judaism sees it as a great act of piety and humanity to rear a neighbour’s child (Meg. 13a, Sanh. 19b).

But though poetically, the sources say that one who performs this mitzvah is as if they gave the child birth, adoption is not a halachic institution and the birth relationship is not eliminated. Thus the child’s religion is determined by its natural mother, and in theory, Kaddish is required for a natural parent if their identity is known.

There is no strict duty of saying Kaddish for an adoptive parent, but as a mark of love and respect, an adopted child will certainly want to undertake it.

Rabbi Raymond Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem where he answers interesting questions.

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