JewFilter: Which Kaddish text am I looking at?
June 27, 2006 5:03 PM   Subscribe

JewFilter: I have a beautiful musical setting of (I think) a Chatzi Kaddish, written by Maurice Ravel. Given that it doesn't seem to be a mourner's kaddish (despite the mournful tone of the melody), when is it appropriate and when is it not appropriate to recite/sing this text, religiously speaking?

Comparing it to the traditional mourner's kaddish text found here, Ravel's Kaddish is missing all texts in bold:



Yeetgadal v' yeetkadash sh'mey rabbah

B'almah dee v'rah kheer'utey
v' yamleekh malkhutei,b'chahyeykhohn, uv' yohmeykhohn,
uv'chahyei d'chohl beyt yisrael,
ba'agalah u'veez'man kareev, v'eemru: Amein.

Y'hey sh'mey rabbah m'varach l'alam u'l'almey almahyah.

Yeet'barakh, v' yeesh'tabach, v' yeetpa'ar, v' yeetrohmam, v' yeet'nasei,
v' yeet'hadar, v' yeet'aleh, v' yeet'halal sh'mey d'kudshah b'reekh hoo

L'eylah meen kohl beerkhatah v'sheeratah,
toosh'b'chatah v'nechematah, da'ameeran b'al'mah, v'eemru: Amein

Y'hei shlamah rabbah meen sh'mahyah,v'chahyeem
aleynu v'al kohl yisrael, v'eemru: Amein

Oseh shalom beem'roh'mahv, hoo ya'aseh shalom,
aleynu v'al kohl yisrael v'eemru: Amein




If I am interpreting the kaddish Wiki article correctly, this is an Ashkenazi varient of the Chatzi Kaddish. (Please correct me if I'm misreading the wiki, or if the wiki is wrong). Now what place does this kaddish have outside of religious services? Should I be careful about where and when I sing this piece? If so, why (specifically)?
posted by sdis to Religion & Philosophy (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
That looks like the traditional mourners kaddish to me. It has no place outside the religious service (or funeral). It isn't something to just sing.

Typically, it is recited at the end of services, and said by mourners. Or maybe if someone who is mourning is in your thoughts? I'm not sure about the latter.
posted by necessitas at 5:25 PM on June 27, 2006


You're right -- without the bolded phrases, it's pretty much a Chatzi Kaddish. It's usually used to demarcate different sections of a prayer service, for example, between the Amidah and whatever immediately precedes it (with the exception of Shacharit, the Amidah of which begins without a kaddish). It's also recited after the reading from the Torah is complete (but before Maftir), and a couple of other places that I don't remember offhand.

Given its traditional use in the prayer service, there's not much context to a Kaddish recited or sung outside of a synagogue. (And indeed, according to tradition, Kaddish is not supposed to be recited except in the presence of a Minyan of ten congregants.) So, unless you're afraid of offending Orthodox Jews by reciting an illicit Kaddish, I wouldn't worry about singing it.
posted by greatgefilte at 5:44 PM on June 27, 2006


Well, it is certainly a variant on the mourner's Kaddish,
posted by galimatias at 5:46 PM on June 27, 2006


oops . . . there is more to that . . . I'll re-post
posted by galimatias at 5:46 PM on June 27, 2006


It is a variant on the mourner's Kaddish, but is not the "real" one. The real one, and all Kaddishim, contain the "Oseh Shalom" at the conclusion, and the bolded items above that were omitted have special significance - they are a blessing to G-d.

As a side note of interest, what separates the Mourner's Kaddish from the Chatzi is the omission of the "Titkabel" phrase, which asks G-d to accept our prayers. Obviously, a mourner is not thinking clearly and G-d will not answer a prayer to bring a loved one back to life. This prayer is omitted to spare the mourner additional pain of not having the prayer honored.

While the recitation of most Kaddishim are limited to prayer or religious purposes, as a Jew, I feel that any time you want to say the prayer (and genuinely mean it) you are permitted to do so.
posted by galimatias at 5:52 PM on June 27, 2006


galimatias, Chatzi Kaddish does not have the 'Oseh Shalom' at the end. It ends at "da'amiran b'olma v'imru amen." KAddish Titkabel is the one that has the Titkabel phrase.

/grew up Orthodox, should know these things! :)
posted by greatgefilte at 5:58 PM on June 27, 2006


That helps quite a bit. Thanks.

So, if a minyan is required for a Kaddish, conversely, can a Kaddish be recited as long as you have a minyan? Here are my potentially incorrect guesses as to what's required for a given minyan:

Orthodox: Need 10 male jews (do they need to be orthodox?)
Conservative: 1 male jew + 9 more jews (do they need to be conservative?)
Reform: Whatevs.

In the (very) hypothetical case that I propose to sing this in front of 9 other male jews, and one of them objects, saying that it's against jewish law, is he right? I have a minyan, unless he can decide not to be part of the minyan(can he?). What would a very formal interpretation of the law say in this case?

(Note: This is mostly just so I can better understand jewish law in this pretty narrow case, not so I can bully people who are feeling uncomfortable into submission)
posted by sdis at 6:55 PM on June 27, 2006


So, if a minyan is required for a Kaddish, conversely, can a Kaddish be recited as long as you have a minyan?

To tell you the truth, I don't know if that question's ever been touched upon in Jewish law, if only because not many have ever had a need to say Kaddish without a liturgical reason. I'm not aware of any particular prohibition against a spontaneous Kaddish -- it's just some words in Aramaic, and God's name is not even mentioned, so there's no question of using it in vain. I think Orthodox folks would just find it odd, and perhaps a touch inappropriate.

Orthodox: Need 10 male jews (do they need to be orthodox?)
Conservative: 1 male jew + 9 more jews (do they need to be conservative?)
Reform: Whatevs.


An Orthodox minyan requires 10 male Jews, but they don't have to necessarily all be Orthodox. The Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist movements generally allow women to be counted as part of the minyan (I would guess that one male is not necessary), although I believe they have divergent opinions on whether non-Jews count.

In the (very) hypothetical case that I propose to sing this in front of 9 other male jews, and one of them objects, saying that it's against jewish law, is he right?

Again, I don't think there's a definite yes/no answer to this. It can be legally permitted, but still frowned upon.

I have a minyan, unless he can decide not to be part of the minyan(can he?).

This is getting downright Talmudic! :)
posted by greatgefilte at 7:43 PM on June 27, 2006


>>To tell you the truth, I don't know if that question's ever been touched upon in Jewish law, if only because not many have ever had a need to say Kaddish without a liturgical reason. I'm not aware of any particular prohibition against a spontaneous Kaddish -- it's just some words in Aramaic, and God's name is not even mentioned, so there's no question of using it in vain. I think Orthodox folks would just find it odd, and perhaps a touch inappropriate.

yes it has: the kaddish (any single form, whether it be the Hatzie, the Kaddish Shalem, or the Mourners) is a direct conversation with god, a direct act of praising god in public, and therefore should not be said aloud unless you are in the presence of a minyan, and should not be said without your head covered in reverance to god. say the kaddish to yourself in your head, fine, as many times as you want. but aloud, no.

my family has a tradition of reciting the mourners' kaddish aloud without a proper minyan when we need solace and acknowledgement upon mourning. selfish and inappropriate, maybe. but years ago we consulted with our ragingly conservative rabbi who said: although it is improper to recite it aloud without a minyan, if it will help your suffering and help you bear witness to recite it, do as you wish.

>>So, if a minyan is required for a Kaddish, conversely, can a Kaddish be recited as long as you have a minyan?

you are taking jewish law into your own hands, so do as you please. if you feel you are breaking some sort of rule, don't do it. if you don't care, just go ahead and recite the thing out loud. just make sure you report back here if you break-out in boils or are plauged by locusts :)
posted by naxosaxur at 7:39 AM on June 28, 2006


Before you say kaddish, you should "study something"... say, the last Mishnah of Tractate Makos (3:16 ) which contains the famous statement of Rabbi Chananyah ben Akashyah: "Hashem wanted to make Israel worthy; therefore, he provided them with an abundant Torah and many commandments, as implied in the verse (Isaiah 42:21), 'Hashem chofetz I'maan tzidko, yagdil Torah V'yaadir' -- that Hashem desired to facilitate righteousness, and therefore made the Torah so great and glorious."

this is a standard short torah thought said before any kaddish which is not during prayer.

see also here for a special Tractate Siyum Kaddish...
posted by Izzmeister at 12:56 PM on June 28, 2006


And while not usually done, I don't believe a women saying kaddish goes against Jewish law.

and I have also seen orphans saying the Kaddish, many under the Jewish age of manhood (13).
posted by Izzmeister at 12:57 PM on June 28, 2006


yes it has: the kaddish (any single form, whether it be the Hatzie, the Kaddish Shalem, or the Mourners) is a direct conversation with god, a direct act of praising god in public, and therefore should not be said aloud unless you are in the presence of a minyan, and should not be said without your head covered in reverance to god. say the kaddish to yourself in your head, fine, as many times as you want. but aloud, no.

Right, that's what the question was -- with a minyan.
posted by greatgefilte at 3:34 PM on June 28, 2006


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