Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kadish, or shall we say, Kadosh

Here's the Kaddish as it appears in the siddurim of the West London Synagogue, Britain's first Reform synagogue, established in 1840.

The text was translated by its rabbi, David Woolf Marks. The purported reason for the Hebrew version of such a famous Aramaic text is that it was meant to imply a sort of anti-Talmudic statement. Note that this is not the first edition of this text; the first edition contained some grammatical mistakes, such as יתגדל ויתקדש שם הגדול for יתגדל ויתקדש שמו הגדול, which were eventually corrected to what you see here.


  1. 1. Normative Hebrew would be וּבִימֵיכֶם, but who's keeping score, anyway?

    2. Interesting that they have Kaddish Shalem (traditionally a Schlusskaddisch) at the very beginning of the service.

    3. I notice that it's a Sephardic text. Were the first British Reformers themselves Sephardim, or just Sephardic wannabes (like the Ashkenazic Reformers in Hamburg)?

    4. Is this a sad service for Tish'a Be'ab (as done in traditional Judaism) or a happy service (as practiced by, say, Einhorn, or whatever his name was in America)?

  2. Most of them were Sephardim.

  3. OK, that answers only one out of four questions.

  4. Sephardim that broke away from Bevis Marks

  5. Were there four questions?

    4. You can read it here

    As you can see, it is sad. There is a reading of Eicha at night. And the morning even includes Tzion halo tishali.

  6. Anti Talmudic?
    It seems that the earliest nusach for kadish as recorded in Talmud Berkahot is Hebrew:
    ולא זו בלבד אלא בשעה שישראל נכנסין לבתי כנסיות ולבתי מדרשות ועונין יהא שמיה הגדול מבורך הקב"ה מנענע ראשו ואומר אשרי המלך שמקלסין אותו בביתו כך מה ...

    דף ג,א

  7. "Anti Talmudic?"

    See, that's why I wrote that this was "the purported reason." I know of no hard evidence that this was the intention - after all, regardless of the language, the Kadish itself is very much a rabbinic institution. However, the contention of the historians is that the attempt was made to purge the liturgy of Aramaic and as much rabbinic Hebrew as possible, to better reflect a biblical ethos. The London Reformers have often been described as Neo-Karaitic. Now, we of course no that even actual Karaites were not really biblical purists, nor so anti-Rabbinic that they purged out all rabbinic influence.

  8. Many medieval Karaites were well known for their antipathy to Aramaic and love for Biblical Hebrew. 8th c. Karaite sage, Nissi b. Noah, in the introduction to his work on the Decalogue writes:

    ועשיתי זה הספר מדברי כל חוזה מפורש...ביארתים בשפה ברורה בלשון צחות כדברי העבריים ולא בלשון אשורים וארמיים שהיא לשון חרפה לאנשי הגולה

    It's a bit ironic since the most famous of all Karaites (some say-erroneously so- founder of) wrote his mangnum opus in Talmudic style-Aramaic, I am speaking of course of Anan ben David and his ספר המצוות

    I should also point out that the study of Biblical Hebrew gained such importance in the Karaite religion that it made it into the "Ten Principles of the Karaite faith", a set of beliefs developed in 15th c. Karaite Byzantium and accepted by almost all communities.
    It states: "כל מי שהוא מזרע ישראל חייב לדעת לשון תורתנו ופירושהּ, ר"ל המקרא והפירוש

    You can see why the Karaites and Maskilim usually got on quite well in Eastern Europe (Firkovich wrote tenderly of Mendelsohn in one of his poems)..

  9. Absolutely. Interestingly, Rambam counts learning Hebrew as a מצוה קלה.

  10. Do you have the exact source, or better yet, the quote handy? thanks.



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