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Jewish prayer recited communally, often by mourners
Kaddish or Qaddish or Qadish (Aramaic: ? "holy") is a hymn of praises about God found in Jewish prayer services. The central theme of the Kaddish is the magnification and sanctification of God's name. In the liturgy, different versions of the Kaddish are used functionally as separators between sections of the service.
The term "Kaddish" is often used to refer specifically to "The Mourner's Kaddish", said as part of the mourning rituals in Judaism in all prayer services, as well as at funerals (other than at the gravesite, see Qaddish a?ar Haqq?vurah "Qaddish after Burial") and memorials; for 11 Hebrew months after the death of a parent, and for 30 days after the death of a spouse, sibling, or child. When mention is made of "saying Kaddish", this unambiguously refers to the rituals of mourning. Mourners say Kaddish to show that despite the loss they still praise God.
Along with the Shema Yisrael and Amidah, the Kaddish is one of the most important and central elements in the Jewish liturgy. Kaddish cannot be recited alone. Along with some prayers, it can only be recited with a minyan of ten Jews.
The various versions of the Kaddish are:
?a?i Qaddish ( ? 'Half Kaddish') or Qaddish L?ela (? ?), sometimes called the Reader's Kaddish
Qaddish Yatom (? ?) or Qaddish Yehe Shlama Rabba (? ? ) – literally 'Orphan's Kaddish', although commonly referred to as Qaddish Avelim (? ), the 'Mourner's Kaddish'
Qaddish Shalem (? ) or Qaddish Titkabbal (? ) – literally "Complete Kaddish" or "Whole Kaddish"
Qaddish de Rabbanan (? 'Kaddish of the Rabbis') or Qaddish ?al Yisra?el (? )
Qaddish a?ar Haqqvura (? ) – literally 'Kaddish after a Burial', also called Kaddish d'Ithadata (? ?) after one of the first distinguishing words in this variant
Qaddish a?ar Hashlamat Masechet (? ?) – literally, 'Kaddish after the completion of a tractate', i.e. at a siyum (in Sefardi practice, same as Qaddish de Rabbanan), also called Qaddish haGadol (? 'the Great Qaddish'), as it is the longest Kaddish
All versions of the Kaddish begin with the Hatzi Kaddish (there are some extra passages in the Kaddish after a burial or a siyum). The longer versions contain additional paragraphs, and are often named after distinctive words in those paragraphs.
Historically there existed another type of Kaddish, called Qaddish Yahid ("Individual's Kaddish"). This is included in the Siddur of Amram Gaon, but is a meditation taking the place of Kaddish rather than a Kaddish in the normal sense. It is not recited in modern times.
The Half Kaddish is used to punctuate divisions within the service: for example, before Barechu, after the Amidah, and following readings from the Torah.
The Kaddish d'Rabbanan is used after any part of the service that includes extracts from the Mishnah or the Talmud, as its original purpose was to close a study session.
Kaddish Titkabbal originally marked the end of a prayer service, though in later times extra passages and hymns were added to follow it.
Text of the Kaddish
The following includes the half, complete, mourner's and rabbi's kaddish. The variant lines of the kaddish after a burial or a siyum are given below.
In some recent prayerbooks, for example, the American ReformMachzor, line 36 is replaced with:
all Israel, and all who dwell on earth; and let us say: Amen.
v'al kol isra'el, v'al kol yoshve tevel; v'imru: Amen.
? ? ?
This effort to extend the reach of Oseh Shalom to non-Jews is said to have been started by the British Liberal Jewish movement in 1967, with the introduction of v'al kol bnai Adam ("and upon all humans"); these words continue to be used by some in the UK.
Bracketed text varies according to personal or communal traditions.
(a) The congregation responds with "amen" () after lines 1, 4, 7, 12, 15, 18, 27, 33, 36. In the Ashkenazi tradition, the response to line 12 is "Blessed be he" ( ? b'rikh hu).
(b) On line 1, some say Yitgaddeyl veyitqaddeysh rather than Yitgaddal veyitqaddash, because the roots of these two words are Hebrew and not Aramaic (the Aramaic equivalent would be Yitrabay veyitkadash), some authorities (but not others) felt that both words should be rendered in pure Hebrew pronunciation.
(c) Line 13: in the Ashkenazi tradition the repeated "le'ela" is used only during the Ten Days of Repentance. In the Sephardi tradition it is never used. In the Yemenite tradition it is the invariable wording. The phrase "le'ela le'ela" is the Targum's translation of the Hebrew "ma'la ma'la" (Deuteronomy 28:43).
(d) Lines 4 and 30-32 are not present in the Ashkenazi tradition. "Reva? vehatzala" is said aloud by the congregation.
(e) Line 26: some Sephardi Jews say malka [or maram or mareh] di-shmaya ve-ar'a (the King [or Master] of Heaven and Earth) instead of avuhon de-vi-shmaya (their Father in Heaven); De Sola Pool uses mara; the London Spanish and Portuguese Jews use the same text as the Ashkenazim.
(f) During the "complete kaddish" some include the following congregational responses, which are not regarded as part of the text:
Before line 16, "accept our prayer with mercy and favour"
Before line 28, "May the name of God be blessed, from now and forever" (Psalms 113:2)
Before line 34, "My help is from God, creator of heaven and earth" (Psalms 121:2)
(g) Line 35: "b'rahamav" is used by Sephardim in all versions of kaddish; by Ashkenazim only in "Kaddish deRabbanan".
(i) Lines 37 to 45: these lines are also recited by Yemenite Jews as part of every Kaddish DeRabbanan.
(z) In line 22, the bracketed word is added in the Land of Israel.
In line 1, as noted in (a), the congregation responds "Amen", even though this commonly is not printed in most prayerbooks. This longstanding and widespread tradition actually introduces a break in the verse which may lead to misinterpretation as the phrase "according to His will" would then appear to apply only to "which he created" instead of to "Magnified and sanctified".
It is common that the entire congregation recites lines 8 and 9 with the leader, and it is also common that the congregation will include in its collective recitation the first word of the next line (line 10), Yitbarakh. This is commonly thought to be done to prevent any interruption before the next line (which begins with Yitbarakh) is recited by the leader. But this inclusion of Yitbarakh has not always been the case. Maimonides and the Tur did not include it in the congregation's recitation; Amram Gaon, the Vilna Gaon, and the Shulchan Aruch include it.
Analysis of the text
The opening words of Kaddish are inspired by Ezekiel 38:23, a vision of God becoming great in the eyes of all the nations.
The central line of the Kaddish is the congregation's response: ? ? ? (Y?h? ?m?h rabb? m?v?rakh llam u-l?alm? lmayy?, "May His great name be blessed for ever, and to all eternity"), a public declaration of God's greatness and eternality. This response is similar to the wording of Daniel 2:20. It is also parallel to the Hebrew "? ? " (commonly recited after the first verse of the Shema); Aramaic versions of both and ? ? appear in the various versions of Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Genesis 49:2 and Deuteronomy 6:4.
The Mourners, Rabbis and Complete Kaddish end with a supplication for peace ("Oseh Shalom..."), which is in Hebrew, and is somewhat similar to the TanakhJob 25:2.
Kaddish does not contain God's name. It is said that this is because Kaddish has 26 words, equalling the gematria of the Lord's name itself (?), and the Kaddish text proves that from the very beginning with words "May His great name be exalted and sanctified".
Kaddish, as used in the services on special days, is chanted. There are different melodies in different Jewish traditions, and within each tradition the melody can change according to the version, the day it is said and even the position in the service. Many mourners recite Kaddish slowly and contemplatively.
In Sephardi synagogues the whole congregation sits for Kaddish, except:
during the Kaddish immediately before the Amidah, where everyone stands;
during the Mourner's Kaddish, where those reciting it stand and everyone else sits.
In Ashkenazi synagogues, the custom varies. Very commonly, in both Orthodox and Reform congregations, everyone stands for the mourner's kaddish; but in some (especially many Conservative and Hasidic) synagogues, most of the congregants sit. Sometimes, a distinction is made between the different forms of Kaddish, or each congregant stands or sits according to his or her own custom. The Mourner's Kaddish is often treated differently from the other variations of Kaddish in the service, as is the Half Kaddish before the maftir.
Those standing to recite Kaddish bow, by widespread tradition, at various places. Generally: At the first word of the prayer, at each Amen, at Yitbarakh, at Brikh hu, and for the last verse (Oseh shalom). For Oseh shalom it is customary to take three steps back (if possible) then bow to one's left, then to one's right, and finally bow forward, as if taking leave of the presence of a king, in the same way as when the same words are used as the concluding line of the Amidah.
Masekhet Soferim, an eighth-century compilation of Jewish laws regarding the preparation of holy books and public reading, states (Chapter 10:7) that Kaddish may be recited only in the presence of a minyan (a quorum of at least 10 men in Orthodox Judaism or 10 adults in Reform and Conservative Judaism). While the traditional view is that "if kaddish is said in private, then by definition it is not kaddish," some alternatives have been suggested, including the Kaddish L'yachid ("Kaddish for an individual"), attributed to ninth-century GaonAmram bar Sheshna, and the use of kavanah prayer, asking heavenly beings to join with the individual "to make a minyan of both Earth and heaven". In some Reform congregations, a minyan is not required for recitation of the Kaddish, but other Reform congregations disagree and believe that the Kaddish should be said publicly.
History and background
"The Kaddish is in origin a closing doxology to an Aggadic discourse." Most of it is written in Aramaic, which, at the time of its original composition, was the lingua franca of the Jewish people. It is not composed in the vernacular Aramaic, however, but rather in a "literary, jargon Aramaic" that was used in the academies, and is identical to the dialect of the Targum.
Professor Yoel Elitzur, however, argues that the Kaddish was originally written in Hebrew, and later translated to Aramaic to be better understood by the masses. He notes that quotations from the Kaddish in the Talmud and Sifrei are in Hebrew, and that even today some of the words are Hebrew rather than Aramaic.
The oldest version of the Kaddish is found in the Siddur of Rab Amram Gaon, c. 900. "The first mention of mourners saying Kaddish at the end of the service is in a thirteenth century halakhic writing called the Or Zarua. The Kaddish at the end of the service became designated as Kaddish Yatom or Mourner's Kaddish (literally, "Orphan's Kaddish")."
Professor Yoel Elitzur made an attempt at reconstructing the theorized original Hebrew version of Kaddish:
Mourner's Kaddish is said at all prayer services and certain other occasions. It is written in Aramaic. It takes the form of Kaddish Yehe Shelama Rabba, and is traditionally recited several times, most prominently at or towards the end of the service, after the Aleinu and/or closing Psalms and/or (on the Sabbath) Ani'im Zemirot. Following the death of a child, spouse, or sibling it is customary to recite the Mourner's Kaddish in the presence of a congregation daily for thirty days, or eleven months in the case of a parent, and then at every anniversary of the death (the Yahrzeit). The mourner who says the Kaddish will be any person present at a service who has the obligation to recite Kaddish in accordance with these rules.
Customs for reciting the Mourner's Kaddish vary markedly among various communities. In Sephardi synagogues, the custom is that all the mourners stand and chant the Kaddish together. In Ashkenazi synagogues before the year 1831, one mourner was chosen to lead the prayer on behalf of the rest, but since then most congregations have adopted the Sephardi custom. In many Reform synagogues, the entire congregation recites the Mourner's Kaddish together. This is sometimes said to be for those victims of the Holocaust who have no one left to recite the Mourner's Kaddish on their behalf and in support of the mourners. In some congregations (especially Reform and Conservative ones), the Rabbi reads a list of the deceased who have a Yahrzeit on that day (or who have died within the past month), and then ask the congregants to name any people they are mourning for. Some synagogues, especially Orthodox and Conservative ones, multiply the number of times that the Mourner's Kaddish is recited, for example by reciting a separate Mourner's Kaddish after both Aleinu and then each closing Psalm. Other synagogues limit themselves to one Mourner's Kaddish at the end of the service.
Notably, the Mourner's Kaddish does not mention death at all, but instead praises God. Though the Kaddish is often popularly referred to as the "Jewish Prayer for the Dead," that designation more accurately belongs to the prayer called "El Malei Rachamim", which specifically prays for the soul of the deceased. The Mourner's Kaddish can be more accurately represented as an expression of "justification for judgment" by the mourners on their loved ones' behalf. It is believed that mourners adopted this version of the Kaddish around the 13th century during harsh persecution of Jews by crusaders in Germany because of the opening messianic line about God bringing the dead back to life (though this line is not in many modern versions).
Women and the Mourner's Kaddish
Though there is evidence of some women saying the Mourner's Kaddish for their parents at the grave, during shiva, and in daily prayers since the 17th century, and though R. Bacharach concluded in "the Amsterdam case" that women could recite the Mourner's Kaddish, this is still controversial in Orthodox communities, with various rabbis restricting the ruling. Despite these restrictions, recitation of the Mourner's Kaddish by Orthodox Jewish women is becoming more common. In 2013 the Israeli Orthodox rabbinical organization Beit Hillel issued a halachic ruling that women may say the Kaddish in memory of their deceased parents. In Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Judaism, the Mourner's Kaddish is traditionally said by women who are also counted in the minyan.
Use of the Kaddish in the arts
The Kaddish has been a particularly common theme and reference point in the arts, including the following:
In literature and publications
(Alphabetical by author)
In Shai Afsai's "The Kaddish," a poignant short story that could happen in almost any town with a small Jewish community, a group of elderly men trying to form a minyan in order to recite the Kaddish confront the differences between Judaism's denominations.
In the first chapter of Sholem Aleichem's novel Motl, Peysi the Cantor's Son the boy narrator, whose father just died, needs to quickly learn by heart the Kaddish - which he would have to recite - and struggling with the incomprehensible Aramaic words.
Kaddish is a poem, divided into 21 sections and of almost 700 pages length, by German poet Paulus Böhmer. The first ten sections appeared in 2002, the remaining eleven in 2007. It celebrates the world, through mourning its demise.
Kaddish in Dublin (1990) crime novel by John Brady where an Irish Jew is involved with a plot to subvert the Irish government.
Nathan Englander's third novel, Kaddish.com (2019), is about a grieving son who discovers a website that for a fee will match dead relatives with pious students who will recite the Mourner's Kaddish thrice daily on their behalf. In this manner, he outsources his obligation to recite kaddish for his father.
In Nathan Englander's novel set during the Dirty Wars in Argentina, The Ministry of Special Cases, the protagonist is an Argentinian Jew named Kaddish.
In Torch Song Trilogy (1982), written by Harvey Fierstein, the main character Arnold Beckoff says the Mourner's Kaddish for his murdered lover, Alan, much to the horror of his homophobic mother.
In Frederick Forsyth's novel The Odessa File, a Jew who commits suicide in 1960s Germany requests in his diary/suicide note that someone say Kaddish for him in Israel. At the end of the novel, a Mossad agent involved in the plot, who comes into possession of the diary, fulfils the dead man's wish.
Kaddish is one of the most celebrated poems by the beat poet Allen Ginsberg. It appeared in Kaddish and Other Poems, a collection he published in 1961. The poem was dedicated to his mother, Naomi Ginsberg (1894-1956).
"Who Will Say Kaddish?: A Search for Jewish Identity in Contemporary Poland," text by Larry N Mayer with photographs by Gary Gelb (Syracuse University Press, 2002)
In the September 20, 1998 Nickolodeon's Rugrats comic strip, the character Grandpa Boris recites the Mourner's Kaddish in the synagogue. This particular strip led to controversy with the Anti-Defamation League.
The Mystery of Kaddish. Rav "DovBer Pinson". Explains and explores the Kabbalistic and deeper meaning of the Kaddish.
In Philip Roth's novel The Human Stain, the narrator states that the Mourner's Kaddish signifies that "a Jew is dead. Another Jew is dead. As though death were not a consequence of life but a consequence of having been a Jew."
"Kaddish" is the penultimate and longest piece in poet Sam Sax's chapbookSTRAIGHT, in which he tells the story of the death of the speaker's first love due to an overdose, following narratives of the speaker's own addiction. In August 2016, Sax performed this poem at the Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam.
Zadie Smith's novel, The Autograph Man, revolves around Alex-Li Tandem, a dealer in autograph memorabilia whose father's Yahrzeit is approaching. The epilogue of the novel features a scene in which Alex-Li recites Kaddish with a minyan.
Several references to the Mourner's Kaddish are made in Night by Elie Wiesel. Though the prayer is never directly said, references to it are common, including to times when it is customarily recited, but omitted.
Leon Wieseltier's Kaddish (1998) is a book length hybrid of memoirs (of the author's year of mourning after the death of his father), history, historiography and philosophical reflection, all centered on the mourner's Kaddish.
(Alphabetical by creator)
Matthew J. Armstrong quotes the final lines ('oseh shalom bimromav...) in his work "Elegy for Dachau" (2009).
Kaddish is the name of Symphony No. 3 by Leonard Bernstein, a dramatic work for orchestra, mixed chorus, boys' choir, speaker and soprano solo dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy who was assassinated on November 22, 1963, just weeks before the first performance of this symphony. The symphony is centered on the Kaddish text.
The Kaddish is spoken in Part V of the Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service) by the composer Ernest Bloch (1933).
Canadian poet/songwriter/artist Leonard Cohen uses words from the Kaddish in his 2016 final album entitled "You Want it Darker", specifically in the title song, during the chorus.
kaddish (ladder) canon is the final piece on the album "These are the Generations" by Larry Polansky. It is an elegy for friends recently lost.
The French composer Maurice Ravel composed a song for voice and piano using part of the Kaddish. It was commissioned in 1914 by Alvina Alvi as part of a set of two songs: "Deux mélodies hébraïques" and was first performed in June 1914 by Alvi with Ravel at the piano.
Inspired by Kaddish is a fifteen-movement musical composition by Lawrence Siegel. One of the movements is the prayer itself; the remaining fourteen are stories of the experiences of a number of Holocaust survivors Lawrence interviewed. It was debuted by the Keene State College Chamber Singers in 2008.
Potter Steven Branfman threw chawan (Japanese style tea bowls) every day for a year in honor of his departed son Jared. For a year, they were the only pots he made. One chawan each day, no matter where he was. He and his family said Kaddish every day for a year. His daily chawan made at his potter's wheel was his own personal Kaddish. The exhibition is also included in The Teabowl: East and West, by Bonnie Kemske.
Artist Mauricio Lasansky, familiar with kaddish from his background, produced his Kaddish series of eight intaglio prints, ten years after his Nazi Drawings, his statement of Nazi destruction and degradation. In 1978, the Argentine-born 62 year-old Lasansky completed his answer of peace and survival, his Kaddish prints.
Artist Max Miller traveled from synagogue to synagogue throughout New York and beyond, reciting the daily prayer in memory of his father and then painting a watercolor study of the synagogue in which he recited it.
Following the deaths of both her parents within one week of one another, artist Wendy Meg Siegel created a painting with a focus on the Kaddish, as part of her canvas on canvas "text-tures" series, which explores methods of combining text and canvas in a somewhat "sculptural" manner.
(Alphabetical by creator)
Mira Z. Amiras and Erin L. Vang have taken the Kaddish as a starting point for a yearlong collaboration titled, "Kaddish in Two-Part Harmony", consisting of a jointly written blog and daily podcast recording of Lev Kogan's "Kaddish" for solo horn.
In the film The Passover Plot (1976), a revived Jesus dies finally and is mourned with a Kaddish recitation by a disciple.
In the 1980 film The Jazz Singer starring Neil Diamond, character Cantor Rabinovitch (Laurence Olivier) says the Kaddish while disowning his son. The Kaddish helps bring forth the power needed to evoke the emotion of loss.
In the film Yentl (1983), at Yentl's father's burial, the rabbi asks who will say Kaddish (Kaddish is traditionally said by a son). Yentl replies that she will and, to the horror of those assembled, grabs the siddur and starts saying Kaddish.
Konstantin Fam's Kaddish (2019) centers on the testament of a former concentration camp prisoner who confronts and turns the lives of two young people from different worlds around, shedding light on the tragic history of their family.
Kaddish For Uncle Manny", episode 4.22 of Northern Exposure (first aired 5-3-93) relates to Joel's (Rob Morrow) seeking out of ten Jews in remote Alaska to join him for Kaddish in memory of his recently departed Uncle Manny in New York City. Joel eventually decides, though, that saying Kaddish for his uncle is best accomplished in the presence of his new Cicely family, who although Gentile, are most near and dear to him.
The second season of the series Quantico, FBI Special Agent Nimah Amin, herself a Muslim, recites the Mourner's Kaddish at Simon Asher's unveiling.
In the series Touched by an Angel, episode 3.5 (season 3, episode 5), Henry Moskowitz, a proud archaeologist on a dig at a Navajo excavation site, receives a surprise visit from zayda (grandfather). Sam hopes to reconcile with his grandson and Jewish family faith by asking him to say kaddish.
^Scherman, Nosson, The Kaddish Prayer: A new translation with a commentary anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources (Brooklyn, Mesorah Publ'ns, 3rd ed. 1991) page 28; Nulman, Macy, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer (Aronson, NJ, 1993) s.v. Kaddish, pages 185-186; see also the pointed Hebrew translations of the Kaddish in the Siddur Rinat Yisroel (Jerusalem, 1977) Ashkenaz ed. page 40, and in Rosenstein, Siddur Shirah Hadasha (Eshkol, Jerusalem, no date, reprinted circa 1945 - but original edition was 1914) page 38; Silverman, Morris, Comments on the Text of the Siddur, Journal of Jewish Music & Liturgy, vol. 2, nr. 1 (1977-78) page 21.
^Silverman, Morris, Comments on the Text of the Siddur, Journal of Jewish Music & Liturgy, vol. 2, nr. 1 (1977-78) page 21.
^Mishcon, A., Disputed Phrasings in the Siddur, Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. 7 n.s., nr. 4 (April 1917) page 545.
^Mishcon, A., Disputed Phrasings in the Siddur, Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. 7 n.s., nr. 4 (April 1917) pages 545-546; Nulman, Macy, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer (Aronson, NJ, 1993) s.v. Kaddish, page 186.
^The rule is daily recitation for one month from the date of burial for a sibling, child, or spouse, but eleven months for a parent though the full mourning period is twelve months. The Mourner's Kaddish is recited for a shorter period so as not to imply that one's parent was a sinner.
^ abcAvenary, Hanoch; Millen, Rochelle (2007). Berenbaum, Michael; Skolnik, Fred (eds.). "Kaddish". Encyclopedia Judaica (2 ed.). Gale Virtual Reference Library. pp. 695-698. Retrieved .
^After a cholera plague in 1831, there were so many mourners that the original custom would not allow them to say kaddish with any frequency, so Rabbi Akiva Eger allowed them to recite Kaddish together. Over time this practice became the Ashkenazi norm. See Rov in a time of cholera