Today’s examination of the four forms of Kadish and their place and purpose in the service is a departure of sorts from the norm for a Lone Star Sidur Project post. I say this because I’m not offering the text of any form of Kadish because I won’t be referring heavily to the content of Kadish, but more to its structural purpose and role in services. I assume that most people reading this are familiar with Kadish anyway. If you are not familiar with it, Google it. It’s out there. Much of this post has changed since it was first posted due to the comments of readers.
Kadish comes in four forms. It’s most well-known is Kadish Yatom, which, literally translated, is the Orphan’s Kadish, but is more commonly called Mourner’s Kadish. Kadish Yatom is relatively the same size as Kadish Shalem, but some of the ending lines are different. Kadish Yatom does not refer specifically to death. Take from that what you will.
Kadish Shalem, which means Whole Kadish, is used during services to mark major transitions between distinct service sections.
The Chatzi Kadish is a shortened form of Kadish Shalem. It is used to mark minor transitions between service sections.
Kadish D’rabanan is a version of Kadish containing an extended series of lines praying for the good fortune of and praising teachers and students of Torah. It is said upon completing a study session, marking the end of that session, with the understanding that another study session will be had in the future. In the service, it appears in a variety of different places, depending on the choices of individual sidur editors.
All forms of Kadish are written predominantly in Aramaic and are meant to be said only in the presence of a minyan because Kadish is considered a specifically public form of praise.
Growing up with Gates of Prayer, I was only aware of the existence of Chatzi Kadish and Kadish Yatom. GOP’s approach to utilizing Kadish is extremely limited, but consistent. Chatzi Kadish, which GOP translates “Reader’s Kadish” (twenty bucks to anyone who can explain that translation to me!), appears once in every morning and evening service. In morning services it appears in one of its places between P’sukei D’zimrah and Sh’ma Uvirchoteihah. In the evening, it appears between what passes for Kabalat Shabat in GOP and Sh’ma Uvirchoteihah. Kadish Yatom appears at the end of every service. GOP makes no use of Kadish Shalem of Kadish D’rabanan at all.
Mishkan T’filah follows GOP’s example with one exception. MK has reintroduced Kadish D’rabanan. MK’s editors have elected to slip KD in between Morning Blessings and P’sukei D’zimrah. Because MK has reordered the Morning Blessings such that the section on study comes last, KD then serves also in the way that a Chatzi Kadish might, marking the minor transition from Morning Blessings to P’sukei D’zimrah. Although I like the traditional idea of using KD to conclude the Torah study section of Morning Blessings and I like the idea of using a Kadish to divide Morning Blessings from P’sukei D’zimrah, I dislike that MK has combined these two purposes into one by needlessly reordering the Morning Blessings. Haavodah Shebalev (Israeli Reform) follows MK without reordering the Morning Blessings.
The traditional locations of Kadish make little sense to me. Chatzi Kadish is supposed to appear at points of minor transition, yet it only appears at the transitions from P’sukei D’zimrah to Sh’ma Uvirchoteihah, before Maftir, and between the Torah service and Musaf. Kadish Shalem ought to appear at the site of a major transition, yet it only appears at the transition from Shacharit to Torah service and from Musaf to concluding prayers. I am mostly confounded by what seems to be an undefined notion of what major and minor transition points are.
I would keep Kadish mostly in its traditional places, with a few exceptions. I would remove entirely the notion of doing one before Maftir. Absolutely no transition is going there. That is simply the middle of the Torah service and it makes no sense. I would also follow MK’s idea of inserting a Kadish D’rabanan after the study section of the Birchot Hashachar.