Section: Hanhagos   Category: Minhagim
Minhagim: In Sickness and in Death, After Mommy or Daddy?

When someone is sick, the minhag when we daven for them is to use the mother's name.  When they die and we do things L'Iluy Nishmasam, we use the father's name.  Why?

The Minhag Yisroel Torah (OC 119:1) brings a number of answers.

  • 1) Since we cannot be sure who the father is with 100% certainty when there is Pikuach Nefesh we are Choshesh for the rare case where it may not be the real father and ask for Rachamim in the mother's name. After death when the person is in Shamayim, we go after the majority and assume that he is the son of his known father. (Divrei Torah Mahadura 2:4)
  • 2) Generally speaking there are more complaints against a man in Shamayim than a woman. This is by virtue of the fact that men are obligated in more mitzvos including learning Torah and bitul torah is almost impossible to avoid. (Shu"t Torah Lishma 399)
  • 3) The Ramban says that the mother provides the substance of the child and the father provides the form. Therefore when it comes to physical health we use the mother's name. But when dealing with the welfare of the neshama we use the father's name. (Mekor Chaim on Sefer Chasidim)

It should be noted that in Germany and parts of Hungary the minhag was the opposite.  Another Minhag is to mention both parents names under all circumstances.  This was requested by the Maharam Ash and the Sdei Chemed in their respective Tzava'os.