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Question: In the many shuls that I’ve attended, I observe that there are people who recite the Kaddish silently. Is this correct? I’ve also seen Kaddish recited by some at a cemetery without a minyan. Is there any reason to sanction this?

Charles Rosen
Via Email



Synopsis: We discussed the possibility that the Kaddish of those in the congregation who are reciting the Kaddish along with the chazzan should indeed correctly be recited in an undertone, as more than one voice at the same time is not heard. We duly noted the exception of the Megillah reading, where two voices may be heard. However, we noted that Modim in the reader’s repetition, Chazarat HaShatz, is always to be recited in an undertone. We also noted that the Kaddish is a means of sanctifying Hashem’s Holy Name – Kiddush Hashem, which was instituted to rectify the destruction of the Holy Temple. We also cited the Gemara (Shabbos 119b) that it is to be recited “with all one’s might,” and the two views as to what that means: Rashi – all one’s concentration – kavana; Tosafot – in a loud voice. We then cited the encounter of R’Yosi and Eliyahu (Berachot 3a) where he learned three things from Eliyahu; one must not enter a ruin; one may recite a prayer at the side of a road; and if so, he recites a Tefillah ketzara – a short tefillah. Eliyahu revealed to him Hashem’s reaction to our recitation of the Kaddish, how pleased He is and how it invokes regret on His part for having exiled us. Yet it was our sins that brought the exile upon us.

We then reflected on the anomaly of this prayer being recited in Aramaic as opposed to Hebrew – the Holy Tongue. We explained that at the time of its composition the masses were not fluent in Hebrew as they all spoke Aramaic, and the importance of this one prayer was such that one reciting it should be able to truly express and comprehend the message of the Kaddish. In order to facilitate this, we translated the entire text of the Kaddish Shalem into English. We also noted two unique aspects of Kaddish: that the prayer that seems to most sanctify Hashem’s Name is not recited in the Holy Tongue but rather in Aramaic, the language that was most spoken in the time of the Sages, and that not a single one of Hashem’s Holy Names is contained therein.

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Answer: Now, as to the ten Kaddish recitals every day, there are four variants that we recite every day. The first is Kaddish Derabbanan that we recite after the korbanot, right before Pesukei Dezimra – this is a Kaddish that always follows a Torah learning, which is what korbanot is. The second is Kaddish Shalem – whole Kaddish (for Ashkenaz it is recited after Mizmor Shir Chanukat HaBayit); it is also recited after Aleinu by the mourners. The third is chatzi Kaddish – half Kaddish; this follows Yishtabach at Shacharit; Tachanun at Shacharit; Hallel on Chanukah when there is no Musaf and following Keriat HaTorah, the Torah reading, weekdays and the Sabbath. When there is Musaf, such as Rosh Chodesh, then following Hallel we recite a fourth type, Kaddish Titkabel. This Kaddish during the week usually follows Ashrei u’Va’Letziyyon. Titkabel is a supplication: “May our prayers be accepted.”

Each Kaddish recital, no matter which of the four we have enumerated, represents a sanctification of Hashem.

Each of these Kaddish recitals is of such significance that there must be a minimal quorum of ten adult males, a minyan, for them to be recited. Therefore, what you may have seen was either a recital of Kel Moleh or a non-Orthodox service that included the women in the minyan.

Even where a minyan is present and they concluded learning, Aruch HaShulchan is emphatic that Kaddish be recited when all have been engaged in learning. He is very critical of individuals who learn alone and then recite a Kaddish. The Kaddish is specifically recited where a tzibbur engages in Torah learning.

Rabbi Tukaccinsky (Gesher Chayyim chap 30:10) in his discussion of Kaddish notes an important aspect that concerns the unique and proper conduct during its recitation. He notes that “most [authorities, he is actually citing Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chayyim 51:sk7 in the name of those authorities] follow the practice of bowing five times during the recital of Kaddish. We shall enumerate:

  • 1) Bow with the opening words Yitgadeil v’Yitkadeish.
  • 2) Then bow at Ba’agala u’B’zman Koriv.
  • 3) Next, bow at Yitborach v’Yishtabach.
  • 4) Then again at Shmei d’Kud’sha Brich Hu.
  • 5) Finally, when reciting [Da’amiran B’alma V’imru] Amen.

According to Rav Nachshon Gaon, four of these bowings are obligatory, and one is optional. Thus, in his view, the first four enumerated are those that are obligatory. However, in his view, the optional one is at the conclusion of the Kaddish: Oseh Shalom Bi’meromav Hu Ya’aseh Shalom Aleinu v’Al Kol Yisrael, v’Imru Amen.

On the other hand, there is the view of Kol Bo and Avudraham (both cited by Beit Yosef to Tur, Orach Chayyim 51 sv “minyan ha’chriyot”) that is slightly different, namely as to the location of the second bow:

  • 1) One is to bow with the opening word, Yitgadeil.
  • 2) Then when saying Yehei Shmei Rabbah.
  • 3) Next, one is to bow at Yitborach v’Yishtabach.
  • 4) Then again at Shmei d’Kud’sha Brich Hu.
  • 5) Finally, when reciting [Da’amiran B’alma V’imru] Amen.

Lastly is the view of Sefer Hapardes (also cited by Beit Yosef ad. Loc.):

  • 1) One is to bow [and remain so] all the while reciting Yitgadeil v’Yitkadeish Shmei Rabbah B’alma di’ vroh [this constitutes one bow].
  • 2) Then at Ba’agala u’B’zman Koriv.
  • 3) Then when one begins to recite the seven praises starting Yitborach v’Yishtabach … Shmei d’Kud’sha Brich Hu one is to bow [and to remain so throughout].

4) Then, lastly, bow at Tushb’chota v’Nechemota.

5) The final bow, which is not obligatory, is at Oseh Shalom Bi’meromav.

A casual observation shows that very few people seem to follow the practice of “most” authorities and do not bow at all, during the Kaddish! They are in fact following the view of the Gr’a that we do not add to those [in the Amidah – Shemoneh Esreh] that were enumerated by our Sages.

(To be continued)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.