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Kaddish (קדיש Aramaic: "holy") refers to an important and central prayer in the Jewish prayer service. The central theme of the Kaddish is the magnification and sanctification of God's name. In the liturgy, several variations of the Kaddish are used functionally as separators between various sections of the service. The term "Kaddish" is often used to refer specifically to "The Mourners' Kaddish," said as part of the mourning rituals in Judaism in all prayer services as well as at funerals and memorials. When mention is made of "saying Kaddish", this unambiguously denotes the rituals of mourning.
The opening words of this prayer are inspired by  This response is a paraphrase of part of ., a vision of God becoming great in the eyes of all the nations. The central line of the kaddish in Jewish tradition is the congregation's response "May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity", a public declaration of God's greatness and eternality.
Along with the Shema and Amidah, the Kaddish is one of the most important and central prayers in the Jewish liturgy.
History and background
"The Kaddish is in origin a closing doxology to an Aggadic discourse" (Pool). 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 (Pool).
Kaddish was not originally said by mourners, but rather by the rabbis when they finished giving sermons on Sabbath afternoons and later, when they finished studying a section of midrash or aggadah. This practice developed in Babylonia where most people understood only Aramaic and sermons were given in Aramaic so Kaddish was said in the vernacular. This is why it is currently said in Aramaic. This "Rabbinical Kaddish" (Kaddish d'Rabbanan) is still said after studying midrash or aggadah or after reading them as part of the service. It differs from the regular Kaddish because of its inclusion of a prayer for rabbis, scholars and their disciples. While anyone may say this Kaddish, it has become the custom for mourners to say the Rabbinical Kaddish in addition to the Mourner's Kaddish.
The oldest version of the Kaddish is found in the Siddur of Rab Amram Gaon, c. 900. The Jewish Virtual Library observes that "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 Mourners' Kaddish (literally, "Orphan's Kaddish")."
The Lord's Prayer in Christianity has its roots in the Kaddish and shares similar themes.
The various versions of the Kaddish are:
- Chatzi Kaddish (חצי קדיש) or Kaddish Le'ela (קדיש לעלא) – Literally "Half Kaddish", sometimes called the "Readers Kaddish"
- Kaddish Yatom (קדיש יתום) or Kaddish Yehe Shelama Rabba (קדיש יהא שלמא רבא) – Literally "Orphan's Kaddish", although commonly referred to as Kaddish Avelim (קדיש אבלים), the "Mourners' Kaddish"
- Kaddish Shalem (קדיש שלם) or Kaddish Titkabbal (קדיש תתקבל) – Literally "Complete Kaddish" or "Whole Kaddish"
- Kaddish d'Rabbanan (קדיש דרבנן) or Kaddish al Yisrael (קדיש על ישראל) – Literally "Kaddish of the Rabbis"
- Kaddish achar Hakk'vura (קדיש אחר הקבורה) – Literally "Kaddish after a Burial", also called Kaddish d'Itchadata (קדיש דאתחדתא) named after one of the first distinguishing words in this variant. In the presence of a minyan, this version is also said at the siyum upon completion of the comprehensive study of any one of the Talmud's tractates ("volumes") and is printed at the end of most tractates.
Most versions of the Kaddish begin with the Chatzi Kaddish (Half Kaddish). (There are some inserted passages in the Kaddish after a burial.) The longer versions contain additional paragraphs, and are often named after distinctive words in those paragraphs. The Kaddish, as used in the services, is chanted. The melody varies depending on the version as well as on the point in the service at which it is recited. While the Chatzi Kaddish generally has a distinctively upbeat melody, the Mourners' Kaddish is recited slowly and contemplatively.
The Half Kaddish is used to punctuate divisions within the service: for example, before Barechu, between the Shema and 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 the service, though now there are a few passages and hymns following it. Kaddish Yehe Shelama Rabba is used as the Mourners' Kaddish, and this is the best known use of Kaddish.
The Jewish Encyclopedia's Kaddish article mentions an additional type of Kaddish, called "Kaddish Yachid", or "Individual's Kaddish". This is contained in the Siddur of Amram Gaon, but is a meditation taking the place of Kaddish rather than a Kaddish in the normal sense.
Text of the Kaddish
The following includes the half, complete, mourners' and rabbis' kaddish. The variant lines of the burial kaddish are given below.
|#||English translation||Transliteration||Aramaic / Hebrew|
|1||Exalted and sanctifiedb is God's great name.a||Yitgaddal veyitqaddash shmeh rabba||יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא.|
|2||in the world which He has created according to His will||Beʻalma di vra khir'uteh||בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא כִרְעוּתֵהּ|
|3||and may He establish His kingdom||veyamlikh malkhuteh||וְיַמְלִיךְ מַלְכוּתֵהּ|
|4||may his salvation blossom and his anointed near.ad||[veyatzmakh purqaneh viqarev (Ketz) meshikheh]||וְיַצְמַח פֻּרְקָנֵהּ וִיקָרֵב(קיץ) מְשִׁיחֵהּ|
|5||in your lifetime and your days||bekhayekhon uvyomekhon||בְּחַיֵּיכוֹן וּבְיוֹמֵיכוֹן|
|6||and in the lifetimes of all the House of Israel||uvkhaye dekhol bet yisrael||וּבְחַיֵּי דְכָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל|
|7||speedily and soon; and say, Amen.a||beʻagala uvizman qariv veʼimru amen||בַּעֲגָלָא וּבִזְמַן קָרִיב. וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן|
|The next two lines are recited by the congregation and then the leader:|
|8||May His great name be blessed||yehe shmeh rabba mevarakh||יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ|
|9||forever and to all eternity.||leʻalam ulʻalme ʻalmaya||לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא|
|10||Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted,||Yitbarakh veyishtabbakh veyitpaar veyitromam||יִתְבָּרַךְ וְיִשְׁתַּבַּח וְיִתְפָּאַר וְיִתְרוֹמַם|
|11||extolled and honored, elevated and lauded||veyitnasse veyithaddar veyitʻalle veyithallal||וְיִתְנַשֵּׂא וְיִתְהַדָּר וְיִתְעַלֶּה וְיִתְהַלָּל|
|12||be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He.a||shmeh dequdsha, brikh hu.||שְׁמֵהּ דְקֻדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא.|
|13||beyond (far beyondc) all the blessings||leʻella (lʻella mikkol) min kol birkhata||לְעֵלָּא (לְעֵלָּא מִכָּל) מִן כָּל בִּרְכָתָא|
|14||and hymns, praises and consolations||veshirata tushbekhata venekhemata||וְשִׁירָתָא תֻּשְׁבְּחָתָא וְנֶחֱמָתָא|
|15||that are spoken in the world; and say, Amen.a||daamiran bealma veʼimru amen||דַּאֲמִירָן בְּעָלְמָא. וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן|
|The half kaddish ends here.|
|Here the "complete kaddish" includes:|
|16||eLet them be accepted: the prayers and supplications||Titqabbal tzlothon uvaʻuthon||תִּתְקַבל צְלוֹתְהוֹן וּבָעוּתְהוֹן|
|17||of the entire House of Israel||dekhol bet yisrael||דְּכָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל|
|18||before their Father in Heaven; and say, Amen.a||qodam avuhon di bishmayya, veʼimru amen||קֳדָם אֲבוּהוֹן דִּי בִשְׁמַיָּא וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן|
|Here the "kaddish of the rabbis" includes:|
|19||Upon Israel and its rabbis and their students||ʻal yisrael veʻal rabbanan veʻal talmidehon||עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל רַבָּנָן וְעַל תַּלְמִידֵיהוֹן|
|20||and upon all their student's students||veʻal kol talmidey talmidehon||וְעַל כָּל תַּלְמִידֵי תַלְמִידֵיהוֹן.|
|21||and upon all those who engage in the Torah||veʻal kol man deʻos'kin beorayta||וְעַל כָּל מָאן דְּעָסְקִין בְּאוֹרַיְתָא.|
|22||in this [holy]z place and in all other places||di beatra [qadisha] haden vedi bekhol atar veatar||דִּי בְאַתְרָא [קַדִישָא] הָדֵין וְדִי בְּכָל אֲתַר וַאֲתַר.|
|23||may they and you have much peace||yehe lehon ulkhon shlama rabba||יְהֵא לְהוֹן וּלְכוֹן שְׁלָמָא רַבָּא|
|24||grace and kindness and mercy and long life||khinna vekhisda verachamey vechayye arikhe||חִנָּא וְחִסְדָּא וְרַחֲמֵי וְחַיֵּי אֲרִיכֵי|
|25||and plentiful nourishment and salvation||umzone reviche ufurqana||וּמְזוֹנֵי רְוִיחֵי וּפוְּרְקָנָא|
|26||from before their Father in Heaven [and Earth];||min qodam avuhon di vishmayya [veʼarʻa]||מִן קֳדָם אֲבוּהוּן דְבִשְׁמַיָּא [וְאַרְעָא]|
|27||and say, Amen.a||veʼimru amen||וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן|
|All variants but the half kaddish conclude:|
|28||fMay there be much peace from Heaven,||Yehe shlama rabba min shmayya||יְהֵא שְׁלָמָה רבָּא מִן שְׁמַיָּא,|
|29||[and] [good] life||[ve]khayyim [tovim]||[וְ]חַיִּים [טוֹבִים]|
|30||and satiety, and salvation, and comfort, and saving||vesava vishuʻa venekhama veshezava||וְשָֹבָע וִישׁוּעָה וְנֶחָמָה וְשֵׁיזָבָה|
|31||and healing and redemption and forgiveness and atonement||urfuʼa ugʼulla uslikha v'khappara||וּרְפוּאָה וּגְאֻלָּה וּסְלִיחָה וְכַפָּרָה,|
|32||and relief and deliveranced||verevakh vehatzala||וְרֵוַח וְהַצָּלָה|
|33||for us and for all His people Israel; and say, Amen.a||lanu ulkhol ʻammo yisrael veʼimru amen||לָנוּ וּלְכָל עַמּוֹ יִשְֹרָאֵל וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן.|
|34||fHe who makes peace in His heights||ʻose shalom bimromav||עוֹשֶֹה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו,|
|35||may He [in his mercy]g make peace upon us||hu [berakhamav] yaʻase shalom ʻalenu||הוּא [בְּרַחֲמָיו] יַעֲשֶֹה שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ,|
|36||and upon all [his nation]h Israel; and say, Amen.a||veʻal kol [ammo] yisrael, veʼimru amen||וְעַל כָּל [עַמּוֹ] יִשְֹרָאֵל וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן.|
Text of the Burial Kaddish
|#||English translation||Transcription||Aramaic / Hebrew|
|37||in the world which will be renewed||B'ʻal'ma d'hu ʻatid l'itchaddata||בְּעָלְמָא דְהוּא עָתִיד לְאִתְחַדָּתָא|
|38||and He will give life to the dead||ulʼachaya metaya||וּלְאַחֲיָאָה מֵתַיָא|
|39||and raise them to eternal life||ulʼassaqa yathon l'chayyey ʻal'ma||וּלְאַסָּקָא יָתְהוֹן לְחַיֵּי עָלְמָא|
|40||and rebuild the city of Jerusalem||ulmivne qarta dirushlem||וּלְמִבְנֵא קַרְתָּא דִירוּשְׁלֵם|
|41||and establish his temple within||ulshakhlala hekhleh b'gavvah||וּלְשַׁכְלָלָא הֵיכְלֵהּ בְּגַוַּהּ|
|42||removing foreign worship from the earth||ulmeʻqar pulchana nukhraʼa m'arʻa||וּלְמֶעְקַר פֻּלְחָנָא נֻכְרָאָה מְאַרְעָא|
|43||and the Heavenly service shall return||v'laʼatava pulchana dishmayya l'ʼatreh||וּלַאֲתָבָא פֻּלְחָנָא דִשְׁמַיָּא לְאַתְרֵהּ|
|44||and the Holy One, blessed is He||v'yamlikh qudsha b'rikh hu||וְיַמְלִיךְ קֻדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא|
|45||in his kingship and splendour ...||b'malkhuteh viqareh||בְּמַלְכוּתֵהּ וִיקָרֵהּ|
- Bracketed text varies according to personal or communal tradition.
- (b) On line 1, some say Yitgaddel veyitqaddesh rather than Yitgaddal veyitqaddash, putting these words into a Hebrew rather than an Aramaic form.
- (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).
- (e) Line 26: Oriental Jews say malka di-shmaya ve-ar'a (the King of Heaven and Earth) instead of avuhon de-vi-shmaya (their Father in Heaven).
- (f) During the "complete kaddish" some include:
- (g) Line 35: "b'rahamav" is used by Sephardim in all versions of kaddish; by Ashkenazim only in "Kaddish deRabbanan".
- (h) Line 36: "ammo" is used by most Sephardim, but not by some of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews or Ashkenazim.
- (z) In line 22, the bracketed word is added in the Land of Israel.
The Kaddish immediately before Barechu is often sung by the officiant to a rhythmic tune. Every other Kaddish in the service, except for the Mourners' Kaddish (see next section), is usually chanted by the officiant as a recitative. In all cases the congregation makes the necessary responses. In Spanish and Portuguese synagogues, the entire congregation sings Kaddish Yehe Shelama in arvit of Yom Kippur.
In Sephardi synagogues the whole congregation sits for Kaddish, except:
- in the Kaddish immediately before the Amidah, where everyone stands;
- in the Mourners' Kaddish, where those reciting it stand and everyone else sits.
- a Half-Kaddish in Arvit on Shabbat is chanted communally while standing (Spanish-Portuguese tradition only).
In Ashkenazi synagogues, the custom varies. Very commonly, in both Orthodox and Reform congregations, everyone stands; but in some (especially many Conservative) 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 Mourners' Kaddish is often treated differently from the other occurrences of Kaddish in the service, as is the Half Kaddish before the maftir.
Some Reform synagogues have dropped all use of Kaddish except the Mourners' Kaddish, though in many there is now a move to reinstate it before Barechu and/or the Amidah.
"Mourners' Kaddish" is said at all prayer services and certain other occasions. 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 parent, child, spouse, or sibling it is customary to recite the Mourners' Kaddish in the presence of a congregation daily for thirty days (eleven months in the case of a parent), and then at every anniversary of the death; and in what follows, a "mourner" means any person present at a service who has the obligation to recite Kaddish in accordance with these rules.
Customs for reciting the Mourners' 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, the earlier custom was that one mourner be chosen to lead the prayer on behalf of the rest, though most congregations have now adopted the Sephardi custom. In many Reform synagogues, the entire congregation recites the Mourners' 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. In some congregations (especially Reform and Conservative ones), the Rabbi will read a list of those 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, similar to the Misheberach. Some synagogues try to multiply the number of times that the Mourners' Kaddish is recited by, for example, reciting a separate Mourners' Kaddish after both Aleinu and then each closing Psalm. Other synagogues limit themselves to one Mourners' Kaddish at the end of the service.
It is important to note that the Mourners' 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 Maleh Rachamim," which specifically prays for the soul of the deceased.
Leonard Bernstein's Symphony No. 3, Kaddish, for Orchestra, Mixed Chorus, Boys' Choir, Speaker and Soprano Solo, 1963 (revised in 1977), is a dramatic work dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy. Some interpret it as reaction to the Holocaust, but there is no documentary evidence for this view.
Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg (1894-1956) is one of the most famous and celebrated poems of beat poet Allen Ginsberg
"Kaddish" is the title for a work by W. Francis McBeth for a concert band, based on the chant of the prayer. McBeth composed this work as a memorial for his teacher J. Clifton Williams.
"Inspired by Kaddish" is a fifteen movement musical composition by Lawrence Siegel. One of the movements is the prayer itself; the remaining fourteen movements are stories of the experiences of a number of Holocaust survivors Lawrence interviewed during his research for the piece. It was debuted by the Keene State College Chamber Singers in May, 2008 in Keene, New Hampshire.
Ravel also composed a piece titled "Kaddish". Written in 1914 at Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
Uses in the arts
- "Kaddish" is the title of an episode of the television show The X-Files (season 4, episode 15), in which a Golem is avenging a murder.
- "Kaddish" is the title of an episode of the television show Homicide: Life on the Street (season 5, episode 17), in which detective John Munch (Richard Belzer), who is Jewish, investigates the rape and murder of his childhood sweetheart.
- The Mourner's Kaddish can be heard being recited by Collins and Roger during the song "La Vie Boheme" in the musical Rent.
- In the television series Drawn Together, Toot recites the Mourner's Kaddish in the episode "A Very Special Drawn Together Afterschool Special," after saying that her son was (metaphorically) dead.
- In Rocky III, Rocky Balboa recites the Mourners' Kaddish for Mickey.
- In Philip Roth's novel The Human Stain, the narrator states that the Mourners' 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."
- In Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, one of the antagonists goes by the name of Kadaj, possibly a take on Kaddish, which keeps in line with the common use of religious symbolism throughout Final Fantasy VII (Jenova is another example of this.)
- In Tony Kushner's play Angels in America (and the subsequent TV miniseries), the characters of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg say the Kaddish over Roy Cohn's dead body.
- In the television show Everwood, Ephram Brown recites the Mourner's Kaddish at his mother's unveiling.
- The Kaddish can be heard in the opening credits of Schindler's List.
- In Yentl, at her 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.
- Kaddisch is the first of Ravel's two songs Deux mélodies hébraïques.
- The fictional character Dan Turpin was killed by Darkseid in Superman: The Animated Series, and at his funeral, there was a Rabbi saying Kaddish. After the episode, there was a message that the episode was dedicated to Jack Kirby, a Jewish comic book artist, who influenced the entire comic book community.
- In Torch Song Trilogy, the main character Arnold Beckoff says the Mourner's Kaddish for his murdered lover, Alan, much to the horror of his mother.
- Kaddish For Uncle Manny" from the 4th season 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. Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin) takes to Alaska's airwaves and offers a cash stipend for Jews in KBHR's listening area to trek to Cicely in order to form a minyan, or the prerequisite ten adult males, to accompany his recital of the prayer. As strangers appear from nowhere, Joel realizes that his mitzvah to say Kaddish for his uncle is best accomplished through the presence of his new Cicely family, who although Gentile, are most near and dear to him as compared with ten 'mercenary' Jews who are unknown to him. The episode ends with Joel leading the townspeople through the service.
- Nobel prize laureate Imre Kertesz has written "Kaddish for an unborn child"
- 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.
- 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.
- Cyrus Adler, et al. "Kaddish". Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. pp. 401-403.
- Pool, D. de S., The Kaddish, Sivan Press, Ltd, Jerusalem, 1909, (3rd printing, 1964). David de Sola Pool
- Everything you need to know about Kaddish, including an online Kaddish trainer chabad.org
- Kaddish explanation at the Jewish Virtual Library
- MP3 Audio of Kaddish Prayer
- Kaddish & Mourning Information
- Inspiring Kaddish Stories
- A free kaddish service
- Free info on Jewish customs related to death, mourning, Kaddish, shiva, yahrtzeit, the soul, & the afterlife
- A great story about one man's heroic efforts to say kaddish for his mother
- Kaddish audio example
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