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Convert – Mourning & Kaddish for Non-Jewish Parent

I am a convert but I still have a good relationship with my parents, who are very decent people and who were very supportive of my religious transformation. Unfortunately, my father is not doing well. In the event that matters continue to deteriorate, is there any obligation for me to mourn my father, by sitting shiva and saying kaddish? Does it depend on me because I’m Jewish, or on him who is not?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Mazal tov on your conversion! I’m also sorry to hear of your father’s health. May he have a complete and speedy recovery.

The obligations of mourning and Kaddish only apply to a Jewish parent. In fact, since Judaism views a convert as a new-born soul, you are technically considered unrelated to your biological kin. (Of course you should always stay on good terms with them and act respectfully towards your parents.)

In general we should not practice mourning when we are not obligated. However, it is common when a person suffers the loss of a loved one that he will want to mark it in some way. If such a loss does occur in your family, you might want to have guests visit during the week after to give you a chance to speak about your father and come to terms with your loss. You also should see to it that he receives a respectful burial.

In terms of Kaddish, you are not obligated to say Kaddish for him, but if he was a good person who observed the Seven Noahide Laws, there is nothing wrong with saying Kaddish for him as an elevation for his soul. (Note that according to Jewish law the Christian belief in God is consistent with the Noahide obligation to believe in a single, all-powerful God.)

(Sources: Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 374:5, Rema to 374:6, Pitchei Teshuva 374:7, Yechaveh Da’at VI 60.)

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