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Kaddish for Abusive Parent

November 17, 2017 | by Rabbi Pinchas Waldman

My father was violent and abusive. He suffered from depression and other psychological disorders, and growing up was very difficult for me and my sister. He died fairly recently. We sat shiva for him and I began saying Kaddish regularly. But after starting, it has begun to become more and more of a burden for me. Difficult childhood memories are returning, and I just feel I can’t bring myself to make such an effort in his memory. Am I obligated to? Can I say Kaddish less often or not at all?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

I’m sorry you suffered so much in your childhood and wish you a complete recovery. Assuming your father was not a heretic or wicked through and through, there is still an obligation to say Kaddish for him. When you think about it, if anything, his soul needs the extra merit more than most. You should try your best to find it in your heart to forgive him now that he is gone. People who suffer from mental disorders are sometimes racked by forces very difficult for them to control. He probably suffered greatly himself (which tragically he took out on you) and likely endured abusive behavior from his own father.

However, if it is still too painful for you to say Kaddish for him, you should try to say it at least once a day. And if even that is too much, you should hire someone to say Kaddish for him in your stead.

(Sources: Bi’ur Halachah – “Ma’amar Kaddishin” 132, Igrot Moshe Y.D. I 254.)

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