Kaddish Shalem: “Kadam Avuhon… ve’Imahon?”

I’m in the middle of finally writing up the Shabbat morning service I went to at Romemu a month ago. The full write-up will be up later this afternoon, but I found something in my notes that deserved its own post. So here we go.

Rabbi David Ingber, when reciting Kaddish Shalem at the end of the Amidah, did a bit of egalitarian theological liturgizing (y’all like that word?) that is new to me.

Kaddish Shalem reads, in part:

Titkabel tzelotehon uva’utehon dechol (beit) Yisra’el kadam Avuhon di vishmaya.

Keep in mind that Kaddish Shalem is in Aramaic, so my translation skills are limited here, but here’s a translation:

May the prayers and supplications of the entire (Family of) Israel be accepted by their Father Who is in Heaven.

Ingber added one word, saying not just “Avuhon,” but “Avuhon ve’Imahon.”

I assumed at the time–and, honestly, until just now when I went to look up a translation–that this was an “Avot ve’Imahot” sort of thing. In other words, I thought he was adding the matriarchs to a mention of the patriarchs.

In fact, he was saying not just, “their Father Who is in Heaven,” but “their Father and Mother who is in Heaven.”

Which seems theologically odd. Thoughts, anyone?

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51 Responses to Kaddish Shalem: “Kadam Avuhon… ve’Imahon?”

  1. Todd Jelken February 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    Well there are different names for god, and some are in the feminine. So maybe it’s referig to the father and mother ASPECTS of god?

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 23, 2011 at 11:38 am #

      It would have to be. I don’t know Aramaic grammar, but in Hebrew I think the phrasing he used would make it unclear if whether you were saying “our Father and our Mother” or if you were saying “our Father-and-Mother,” if that makes sense.

  2. Rich February 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    I was in an egalitarian church once, which had a guest preacher who began the Lord’s Prayer “Our Father-Mother who art in heaven. . . “

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 23, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      Yeah, and as I said in response to Todd’s comment above, it’s unclear to me if the Aramaic grammar implies that “Father-Mother” hyphenated, all-in-one sense or if it implies “our Father and our Mother.”

  3. Jen February 22, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    *Please* email R’ Ingber and ask!

  4. David Ingber February 22, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    Odd to whom? Odd to a Zohar saturated Jew seeking to expand traditional liturgy to include more explicit uses of the Divine Feminine? Or odd to those mystics who claim G-d is beyond any and all gender? Maybe just odd to those who worship the inherited forms as ends in and of themselves… Do you mean theologically unfamiliar or un-Jewish or inconsistent or problematic? Which is it? It is clearly very Jewish ( meaning rooted in source texts).

    • Rich February 23, 2011 at 12:55 am #

      Or odd to those of us who take seriously “הוא אחד ואין שני?” Odd to those of us who regard Zohar as top flight Aggadic Midrash, but not necessarily a binding theological system. Odd, indeed, to mystics like Caro and Luzzatto who preserved and even codified the inherited forms.

      Splitting the Divine Unity into its masculine and feminine aspects and addressing them separately – how is that not dualism?

      • David A.M. Wilensky February 23, 2011 at 11:49 am #

        “Splitting the Divine Unity into its masculine and feminine aspects and addressing them separately – how is that not dualism?”
        One of my worries about this, exactly, Rich.

        But, Rich, I don’t think David–who can also speak for himself, I’m sure!–considers anything “a binding theological system.” I think he just likes the Zohar and I think that Renewal is the most mysticism-soaked of the liberal Jewish streams.

      • David Ingber February 23, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

        Calling Zohar “top flight Aggadic Midrash” while simultaneously assuming a ‘binding theological’ system exists is odder still, in my opinion. We might better understand one another should we all put our theological assumptions on the table. That being said, my intention is to expand the frames we use in addressing G-d. G-d as Father and as Mother, as Immanent and Transcendent. I won’t take your claim that “Caro and Luzzatto who preserved and even codified the inherited forms” too seriously. There is ample evidence for both liturgical and theological innovation from both of them.

        Let me say that splitting the Divine Unity is the opposite of what including the Divine Maternal Image does. Praying exclusively to explicit male images is a split for many and is the very meaning, kabbalistically, of “splitting the Divine Name”. אחדות included K”BH and Shechina. Btw, in response to Shaul, addressing ‘Father’ is more likely ‘Chochma’ and ‘Imma’ is ‘Binah’, not Shechina.

        For the record, this is an exercise in theological flexibility and inclusivity. I, for one, am more comfortable with ‘Father’ imagery and traditional forms. There is great healing that comes from this courageous action taken in alignment with many of our greatest mystics and thinkers.

        • David A.M. Wilensky February 24, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

          For the record, I don’t mean to sound judgmental about this innovation. I neither like nor dislike it. I am just interested by it. That was my intent in writing the post.

        • Rich February 26, 2011 at 11:50 pm #


          My real concern here is for מראת עין. To call God in one place נשמת העולם (Feminine) and in another אבינו שבשמים (Masculine) serves your liturgical need nicely. But to take a single term (אבוהון) and make it two (אבוהון ואמהון), makes it appear that you are taking that term’s referent (God) and splitting it into two. By itself, אבוהון may fairly be understood to mean “our Parent.” Sim Shalom renders “our Guardian,” which I don’t quite buy.

          While I understand your goal is to show the Feminine and Masculine aspects in dialectic, the effect is the appearance of dichotomy. The problem is fundamentally this: the Aramaic does not have the grammatical mechanics to support a gestalt like “Father-Mother” such as I heard in an egalitarian church setting (see my comment above). Recognizing that distinction, I think that liturgical innovation needs to be accompanied by care not to create something that can be theologically confusing.

          • Larry Kaufman March 4, 2011 at 12:20 am #

            Since I rarely have occasion to use Sim Shalom, I was unaware that it plays the same translation games that were rife in Gates of Prayer and still show up in Mishkan T’filah. In GOP, I assume it was to make the English palatable while accepting that anyone who understood the Hebrew would accept the meaning the Hebrew conveyed. In MT, which promised “faithful translations,” the faith sometimes has to bend to accommodate the sacred cow (or do I have to say sacred bovine) of gender neutrality.

            I agree that Our Parent would be a better way to render the Aramaic, albeit less poetic.

            • David A.M. Wilensky March 4, 2011 at 10:44 am #

              Indeed. In SSS, it’s frequently to translate around sacrifice stuff.

      • David Ingber February 23, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

        I might add another point here: Liberal Jewish movements have played with the codified forms repeatedly. For the majority of my congregants and, I would argue, the majority of Jews, liturgical health is not dependent on the factors David articulates. Liturgical health is simply access to the words and melodies, access to heart opening prayers.

        This deserves a longer post. Suffice it to say that it feels quite absurd to hear ‘codes’ invoked and those who would otherwise stand in shock at how far removed Liberal Jewish movements are from the Shulchan Aruch and Klach Pitchay Chochmah, being brought as opponents of simple liturgical changes. Not saying all of Psukay D’zimrah? Really? That option can be found in the Sh’A and the Mishnah Berurah. Not saying all of Kabbalat Shabbat? Wow. That feels like liturgical OCD, not really healthy at all.

        • David A.M. Wilensky February 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

          David, read around on this blog, especially some older posts, and you’ll find that I have no problem at all with playing with codified forms in liturgy. I, for one, am certainly not arguing with you from a place of not wanting change in liturgy.

          And I just like more liturgy better than less liturgy. That’s all.

          • David Ingber February 24, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

            David, I respect your love of liturgy. I am also a lover of liturgy. I too would love to establish some kind of liturgical health quotient but feel the art of davenning is whether people really connect to the liturgy we use and whether people are connecting to G-d through the prayer experience. Of course this would require approaching the ‘kahal’ and actually finding out if how they feel during the davenning.

            I personally feel that Heschelian exegetical prayer can only go so far. Doing mental back flips to read texts that intend to open the heart, to work the heart, can be laborious at best; completely irrelevant and downright alienating at worst. Do we have the courage to address the ‘prayer crises’ that lives outside the ‘Darchei Noam’ and Hadar landscape? Most educated, literate Jews, from many streams, find Shul meaningless and unmoving. Piyuttim are beautiful, as prayer and literature. The structure of our prayer is beautiful. But prayer, in my opinion, must be simpler, more direct. There must be a way to invite people to meet G-d, feel Jewish and connect with other that lowers the literacy bar while raising the spiritual practice bar. Niggunim, silence, chanting small pieces of the liturgy are all part of ‘davennology’, the art of prayer. We must do a better job of making prayer real.

            Thanks for this forum David.

            • David A.M. Wilensky February 25, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

              You’re welcome for this forum, David. I really can’t think of much that makes me happier than a lively discussion on one my posts.

              I grok that what I like about Jewish prayer and the mode of Jewish prayer that I like are not that same as what most people like. In other words, I know I’m in a minority.

              But I also know that it’s not a minority of one, unless we get too specific than is useful about my personal preferences. So as long as like davening the way I like davening, I’ll be here advocating it and trying to explain why it’s good to those who don’t agree.

              However, there are some things about my preferences that I know go beyond simply being my preferences. I know that an intellectually honest approach to prayer is an end in itself–just as much as you, David, seem to know that approach to go only so far.

              And I also know–and here, I imagine, we agree–that good music helps.

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 23, 2011 at 11:47 am #

      Thanks for your response, David!

      I mostly meant odd because it’s unusual and I’ve never heard it before.

      “theologically unfamilar”
      That’s not what I meant. There’s nothing unfamiliar about discussing God in the masculine and the feminine. It was just an unfamiliar particular instance in the liturgy.

      “un-Jewish,” “problematic”
      The jury is out on that. I need some grammatical clarification. Does the Aramaic phrasing of it imply “our Father-Mother” or does it imply “our Father and our Mother”? Or does it not imply one more strongly than the other? If it implies “our Father-Mother,” fine. If it implies an address to two entities, very much not fine. If it’s unclear, then I suggest new phrasing that clarifies the issue.

      Perhaps, but if there is inconsistency then it’s within Romemu’s liturgical minhag. I didn’t take careful notes on this particular aspect, but I recall a seemingly random approach to using different names for God throughout. I imagine there was a method to it that I did not detect, so I’m curious to know more.

  5. Larry Kaufman February 23, 2011 at 1:54 am #

    David, I do like your word liturgizing. You also had another coinage in one of your other posts from this prolific day, which I also liked, although I can’t remember now what it was.

    I was perfectly comfortable with Rabbi Ingber’s father/mother chiddush as a way to remind us that God is both and neither, and thus I don’t join Rich in defining it as dualism. But I am less comfortable now that I have read the liurgizer’s explanation, that seems to strengthen Rich’s point.

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 23, 2011 at 11:50 am #

      What about Ingber’s explanation seemed to strengthen Rich’s comment, Larry?

      • Larry Kaufman February 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

        The Divine Feminine and by implication the Divine Masculine might be read as the Feminine Divine and the Masculine Divine — i.e., a division rather than a fusion. Of course, the minute a conversation gets Zoharistic (I too can make up words!) or Kabbalistic, I tune out. (Although I do kind of like tzim-tzum.)

    • Rich February 23, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

      Indeed, Larry, my definition of it as dualism emerged from the liturgizer’s explanation, for precisely the reasons you note below.

  6. shaul February 23, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    i feel it overlooks the relationship that mother/ father is creating– which is simply put about prayer coming from the mother (shechina) towards father (who IS in heaven)…
    In the world of non-duality- there’s no prayer or words. There’s no lack or longing from which prayer to emanate from. So as long as we’re making Prayer services, it seem’s odd to try and get rid of the model of male/ female that distills these kinds of relationships.
    I’m all for making heaven a place on earth- but if the mother rises and joins the father- kabalistically- this world is complete and prayer obselete.
    So in Kaddish Shalem (said at the end of our prayer from this world) we ask Father to hear our words on behalf of the Mother… the prayers of ‘our family Israel” are the murmurings of the Shechina.. (on a good day)

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 23, 2011 at 11:51 am #

      Kudos. That’s significantly deeper than we usually get here in this particular peanut gallery.

    • David Ingber February 23, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

      I responded above to this comment. Your response is very thoughtful. I had Binah or Ima Ilaah in mind when I began saying “Imhon”.

  7. Larry Kaufman February 24, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    If we can go from liturgy to lexicography, this post is responsible for what appear to be three new words — liturgizing, Zoharistic, and davvenology. Zoharistic is probably the most ephemeral of the three; liturgizing and davvenology both appear to have a longer shelf life.

    • David Ingber February 24, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

      Davvenology was coined by a master of prayer, my teacher, R’ Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Shlita. It has had quite a long shelf life already. If you’re interested in his approach, I would be happy to recommend something related to ‘Davvenology’.

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

      I dunno. I think Zoharistic is no more or less ephemeral than the rest. And, as David points out, davvenology was not coined here.

      • Rich February 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

        “Zoharic” is a word coined by Daniel Matt, who is currently working on the Pritzker Zohar translation. His word, however, seems to have a slightly different meaning, i.e. accessible to the author of/characters in the Zohar. Its use typically is in a note in which the characters in the Zohar reference a text to which we do not have access. Such a text is said to be part of the “Zoharic library,” that is to say, the source texts that the Zohar draws upon.

  8. Meredith March 9, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    Hi, I’m rather shocked that Rabbi David is more comfortable with “‘Father’ imagery and traditional forms. ” This would imply that it is an effort for him to acknowledge the feminine aspects of the Divine. I find this deeply troubling in many ways.

    Peace, Meredith

    • David A.M. Wilensky March 9, 2011 at 11:32 am #

      Why is that deeply troubling? You get to pass judgement on the ways in which he most easily relates to God, while he makes efforts to help other people who relate to God in other ways?

      I think that’s troubling.

      • Meredith March 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

        Hi David,
        I believe there is a chasm of difference between lip service and intentionality. I believe in what I call radical authenticity or living a radically authentic life. I don’t believe in living lies on any level. I think the whole concept of “circumcising the heart” is calling us to open our hearts to live authentically. Which means not to do things just because they are the liberal or socially correct way of doing things, but rather our words and deeds should reflect what is true in our hearts and should reflect our connection to the divine which is meaningful to us.

        Peace, Meredith

        • David A.M. Wilensky March 11, 2011 at 1:19 am #

          But if the thing in Ingber’s heart is helping others to connect to God… what then?

          • Meredith March 11, 2011 at 1:25 am #

            Hi David,
            I would say he has reached his goal!

            Peace, Meredith

  9. David Ingber March 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    I wouldn’t call what I am doing, “lip service”, if by that you mean that I am living some kind of ‘lie’ on any level. In fact, I am completely transparent about my practices and my motivations. I am not advocating doing anything because it is ‘liberal’ or ‘socially correct’. In fact, it isn’t socially correct (unfortunately) to use feminine language or imagery. I think it is important and ‘theologically correct’ to introduce a more balanced approach to liturgy and acknowledge that for me, like many Jews who are used to a more traditional liturgy, it will be an emotional stretch. This is as it should be. It isn’t about authenticity or living a radically authentic life. It is about challenging our comfort levels and being willing to grow.

    I am also a bit surprised that you think that this isn’t authentic.


  10. Meredith March 11, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    Hi Rabbi David,
    Actually, I could argue that in the context of Jewish Renewal referring to the divine as both male and female is the social norm. Clearly the Renewal movement is only one small segment of Judaism as a whole. I know that Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi alternates in the same prayers between referring to G-D as He in one line and then She in the next line. I know this well for I use his Siddur twice a day. Since Reb Zalman is a leader of the Jewish Renewal movement, I would say that he is instrumental in setting the norm for the movement. For all I know perhaps, like you, he does not relate to divine feminine images as well and just does so to be more welcoming to feminists as myself.

    My intention was most certainly not to upset you in any way. Personally, I don’t care about theological correctness. My entire point here is that what matters to me is to be with people who are entirely genuine and truly work so their words and deeds match their intentions in life. It bothers me to know that you are not personally relating to what you are in effect preaching. That does feel inauthentic to me. It also surprises me, but perhaps I should be surprised. I certainly don’t want to hold any false images of you. Thanks for your honest response. I respect you for it and respect is 9/10ths of the battle.

    Peace, Meredith

    • David A. Ingber March 11, 2011 at 1:44 am #

      “It bothers me to know that you are not personally relating to what you are in effect preaching.”

      I am not sure you actually read my piece carefully. Please read it again. I am completely relating to what I am ‘preaching’. I am also working to expand my comfort zone for myself, not to appease or accommodate feminists, or anyone else for that matter. It feels like you are ‘picking a fight’ of some kind with me.
      I am a lover of G-d, I acknowledge how vital it is to relate to G-d with a plethora of ‘root metaphors’ and also am real about what is currently my natural comfort zone. Often I can’t relate to any ‘personal G-d’ or personified image, male or female. So? I still pray. It doesn’t feel inauthentic to me at all. By engaging myself in the act of prayer I am prayed by Spirit. By invoking the Feminine Face of G-d I am in relation to Her. Period. Acknowledging that I am consciously expanding my personal ‘comfort’ with multiple Divine personae and that I am still conditioned by my upbringing, is not inauthentic. It is deeply real.

      Honestly, I am not sure I really understand where you are coming from.


      • David A.M. Wilensky March 11, 2011 at 2:28 am #

        OK, new question: Why are all three of us up at this hour?

  11. Meredith March 11, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    Hi David and David,
    Rabbi David, I think it is wonderful that you are expanding yourself through prayer! I’m most definitely not trying to pick a fight with you! I’m sorry you’re choosing to see it that way. Maybe we should talk about it face to face some day…perhaps something is not coming through in print form. I do apologize if anything I said upset you in anyway.

    By the way, I’ve heard your last 2 Kabbalah Cafes on tape. I think you made some very interesting points about being out of alignment with your root in the last Cafe and how painful and disorienting an experience that is.

    Peace, Meredith

  12. David Ingber March 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm #


    I am not ‘upset’ but you wrote “It bothers me to know that you are not personally relating to what you are in effect preaching. That does feel inauthentic to me. ” I take issue with the assertion that anything here is ‘inauthentic’. That is the crux of the matter. Struggling to grow spiritually is what the path is all about.

    Shabbat shalom,

  13. Rabbi David Steinberg August 19, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Meanwhile, it all ends up being moot in congregations such as mine using Mishkan Tefillah, since MT doesn’t even have Kaddish Shalem in the siddur (Neither did GOP)….

    Shabbat Shalom,
    David Steinberg
    Temple Israel (URJ/JRF)
    Duluth, Minnesota

    • David A.M. Wilensky September 11, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      Tell the CCAR Press you want it to be in the new machzor!

    • Rich September 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

      David Steinberg, IIRC, your congregation also uses Kol Haneshamah. What language does it use?

      • Rabbi David Steinberg September 25, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

        just “avuhon di vishmaya” which is rendered in English as “their creator in the heavens”.

  14. Rabbi David Steinberg September 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Too late. We’ve already purchased the new Hillel machzor “On Wings of Awe” (2nd ed.) to replace the woefully outdated Gates of Repentance. We decided not to wait for the new Reform machzor to be published..,


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