More on Kaddish: Resources and Notes

Additional notes and resources from the Temple Micah Siddur Study‘s recent session on kaddish.

Kaddish and Women

Several participants mentioned the press attention when Israeli Rachelle Fraenkel recited kaddish for her son, noting A) that Orthodox women’s recitation of kaddish remains newsworthy, and B) how the positive response signals shifting views. Here’s the Haaretz story: , When Rachelle Fraenkel recited the Kaddish, the chief rabbi said ‘Amen’, and here’s a related note from Amichai Lau-Lavie, of StorahTelling-LabShul:

Friday morning 7/11. The Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem, led by my brother Rabbi Benny Lau, hosted a special morning session  of learning, music and prayers for peace. I got there as the early morning prayers are about to end and the program start, finding a seat in front of the women’s section, a thin curtain separating us. Through the curtain I glimpsed a woman wrapped in tefilin and prayer shawl and chuckled to myself – how modern orthodoxy is slowly changing and becoming more egalitarian. Then the mourners’ kaddish was recited and behind me I heard it loud and clear and with intense intention – by a woman’s voice – still not a common thing in Orthodox synagogues. When I turned around a moment later I realized that the woman reciting the mourners prayers is Rachel Frankel [Rachelle Fraenkel], mother of one of the three dead boys so engraved in our hearts. The Kaddish she recited for her son at his funeral went viral – the first time a woman did so in Israel’s public arena, not as protest, but as true prayer. She just rose from Kaddish three days ago, and how she’s here, praying with all of us for peace.
— from “UNFRIEND PINCHAS: A Response to Jewish Racist Violence – Then and Now,” on the LabShul blog

(FWIW: Amichai Lau-Lavie and the chief rabbi who said “amen,” above, are cousins.)

For further study, here is some additional background, from the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, on women and kaddish.

And, on a related note, JOFA is planning a gathering on ritual innovation in November.

This un-conference will be a day of lectures, workshops, panels, text-based shiurim, and unstructured conversations shining a spotlight on ritual innovation and the diverse manifestations of the pioneering spirit in the Orthodox community. We will explore feminist reception, transmission, and transformation of Jewish rituals both private and public, individual and communal. We are currently accepting proposals for sessions.

Kaddish, the Dead, and Mourning

The story about Rabbi Akiva and the ghost, which we discussed but did not have handy, is from a medieval machzor; here’s one re-telling. Reuven Hammer, in his Or Chadash commentary, suggests that older concepts around reciting kaddish “for the dead” were more about taking the opportunity to perform a mitzvah, thus honoring the deceased, and less about redeeming the departed.

Suggested mourning and kaddish resources —
Brener, Anne. Mourning & Mitzvah, A Guided Journal for Walking the Mourner’s Path Through Grief to Healing (2nd Ed. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2001)
Available in ebook and trade paper.

Diamant, Anita. Saying Kaddish: How to Comfort the Dying, Bury the Dead, and Mourn as a Jew (NY: Knopf, 2007). Available in ebook and Google preview as well as trade paper.

Wieseltier, Leon. Kaddish. (NY: Vintage, 2000). Available in ebook and trade paper. First chapter is posted on and at Google preview. Several participants mentioned this book, noting that it is dense (and 600+ pages) but worthwhile.

Kaddish in Music

Kaddish tunes from around the world —

Several high holiday tunes —

Article with links to music discussed —

Kaddish and Posture

Usually, I find “Daily Halacha” to be clear and succinct. In the case of whether and why to stand for kaddish, however — through no fault of the site, I’m sure — the response reads like a version of the old joke about whether the custom is to stand or sit during the Shema [to wit: confusion is the custom] told at our kaddish session in this context. “Sephardic and Ashkenazic Practice: Do You Sit or Stand for Kaddish?” offers much the same, with more thorough source material.

This piece, from the Reform movement, captures the basic arguments about individual versus congregational standing for mourners’ kaddish.

Kaddish as Icon

We briefly discussed the iconic nature of kaddish in Jewish and non-Jewish culture. Here is a Jewish Journal article discussing how kaddish entered the film “The Business of Fancydancing,” written and directed by Sherman Alexie, and what it means there.

Have other examples from literature and film to suggest?

Toward Yizkor

Finally, one of the readings shared at the kaddish session was from Marcia Falk’s new book, The Days Between: Blessings, Poems and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season (Brandeis, 2014). The poem “Kaddish: Beauty of the World” is available in the Google Preview. It’s a good lead-in toward studying yizkor (September 27).

For those interested in obtaining the full text: The hardcover book is listed as “forthcoming August 2014,” although Barnes & Noble downtown DC claims they have a copy. An ebook is available already through Teaching for Change (which could use the support), and they will pre-order the hardcover, as will many other bookstores.

Yet more on kaddish and Aramaic soon.

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Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages, blogs on general stuff a and more Jewish topics at and

2 thoughts on “More on Kaddish: Resources and Notes”

  1. Beautifully done, Virginia. I read Kaddish trying to focus always on praising God, the Source of life.

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