American Reform Responsa

123. A Proselyte Reciting Kaddish for Deceased Parents

(Vol. LXV, 1955, pp. 90-91)

QUESTION: A woman of my congregation, who had been officially converted to Judaism, requested that the names of her deceased parents be read before the Kaddish, on the occasion of the Yahrzeit. A member of my Board desired to know whether traditional law would favor such a practice.

ANSWER: To the Rabbinic view of the proselyte and his parentage, there are two aspects--a theoretical and a practical one. Theoretically, the convert is a new-born babe. The old self has been replaced by a new self (Yevamot 48a). In practice, however, when confronted by a real situation, the Rabbis flung their theory aside. They permitted a proselyte to exercise the right of inheritance upon the death of his parents (Demai 6.10). They also imposed upon the proselyte the obligation to honor his natural parents, holding him responsible for any misconduct toward them (Yoreh De-a 241).

The Rabbis, it would seem, had too keen a sense of the real and the practical to follow slavishly their own theories. There is no good reason, therefore, why we should not be as realistic and practical as the Rabbis of old and permit the converted woman to give full expression to her filial sentiment and obligation.

Israel Bettan

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.