Friday, August 19, 2011

The Structure of the Kadish

In Kadish (shaleim) we say: yisgadal...shemei divera chirusei veyamlich uvizman kariv. And here we say: ve-imru amein. We continue: yisbarach...da-amiran be-alema ve-imru amein. This is followed by: tiskabeil...kadam avuhon divishmaya ve-imru amein. Then comes: yehei yisrael ve-imru amein. Finally: oseh kal yisrael ve-imru amein.

Notice that the reciter is constantly importuning the congregants to say amein. Why does he have to do this? Couldn’t the congregants answer with amein without being asked by the reciter to do so (each and every time!)?

Perhaps, you will say, not. The congregants are answering in response to the reciter’s elicitation. To this I offer the rejoinder: it is not in every case that the congregants’ reply of amein comes in response to the reciter’s importuning. Consider the amein that is said at the beginning, right after yisgadal veyiskadash shemei raba.

In response, you will likely say that this instance is indeed aberrant. Not only is it perplexing why this amein, unlike all the others throughout the Kadish, is answered uninvitedly; it is, on the face of it, strange that amein should be said here at all. The problem is that the thought has not yet been completed. It is being interrupted in mid-course for a response of amein. Why should this be so? Why shouldn’t the reply of amein patiently await the conclusion of the thought: ba-agala uvizman kariv?

Here you might interject: the verse of yisgadal is a composite of two disparate thoughts. One comprises the words yisgadal veyiskadash shemei raba be-alema divera chirusei. The other, then, comprises the words: veyamlich malchusei bechayeichon...ivizman kariv. But the rejoinder to this is that, first, if this were so, the amein shouldn’t be said until after the words veyamlich malchusei. Why is it said as soon as after shemei raba?

And second, it seems incongruous in the extreme to suppose that here being inserted as an entirely independent clause (if you will). Why should the recital of the praises of the Kadish be interrupted by a prayer for the restoration of His Kingdom. It seems far more natural to suppose that the stream begun by veyamlich is a continuation of the larger stream begun by be-alema. What is being asked is that: His great Name should be glorified and sanctified in the world that He created according to His desire and in which His Kingdom will be restored...speedily. It is as if the verse had read: yisgadal veyiskadash shemei raba be-alema divera chirusei veyamlich BEI malchusei...

But on reflection, I don’t suppose this is right. I think that there is no missing bei. The verse is to be read as saying, yisgadal veyiskadesh shemei raba be-alema divera chirusei. And veyamlich malchusei bechayeichon...

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