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Why Craig’s translation of Kaddish is so remarkable

September 10, 2011

In a heart-breaking post, Craig has given us his translation of Kaddish.   I hope to show by example why Craig’s translation is so remarkable. 

First a few words of explanation – Kaddish is the basic “separator” prayer in Jewish prayer services.  Jewish prayer services are structured symmetrically, with the most elevated portion in the middle.  As the “ladder” is climbed up and climbed down, different portions of the prayer are marked-off by the Kaddish prayer.

In traditional Judaism, Kaddish requires 10 males Jews (a minyan) to recite (more liberal sects allow both men and women to be counted towards a minyan.)  When a minyan is present, the Shechinah (God’s presence) rests upon the worshippers, and the Shechinah is required to sanctify God’s name (the purpose of the Kaddish.)  (If you are interested in the traditional reasoning for this point, you may find this more detailed explanation useful.)

There are a variety of versions of the Kaddish prayer (e.g., the half-Kaddish, the Rabbinic Kaddish, the Mourner’s Kaddish) and different denominations use slightly different Hebrew versions of the prayer.   The Mourner’s Kaddish is recited for eleven months after the death of parent, and every year on the yahrzeit (annual anniversary according to the Hebrew calendar).

Now, I am going to show a variety of different translations below, ending with Craig’s translation.   A few differences arise from the different source material, but mostly because they use a very different approach to the material than Craig did.  I hope that by seeing these different translations in parallel, you can realize how remarkable and alive Craig’s translation is. 

ArtScroll translation:

May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified (Cong. – Amen.)  in the world that He created as He willed.  May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days, and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel, swiftly and soon.  Now respond: Amen.

(Cong. – Amen.  May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.)

May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.

Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He (Cong. – Blessed is He) beyond any blessing and song, praise and consolation that are uttered in the world.  Now respond:  Amen.  (Cong. – Amen.)

May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel.  Now respond:  Amen.  (Cong. – Amen.)

He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel.  Now respond: Amen.  (Cong. – Amen.)

Jonathan Sacks’s translation:

Mourner:  Magnified and sanctified
may His great name be,
in the world He created by His will.
May He establish His kingdom
in your lifetime and in your days,
and in the lifetime of all in the house of Israel,
swiftly and soon – and say:  Amen.

All:  May His great name be blessed for ever and all time.

Mourner:  Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted,
raised and honored, uplifted and lauded
be the name of the Holy One,
blessed be He,
beyond any blessing, song, praise and consolation
uttered in the world – and say:  Amen.

May there be great peace from heaven,
and life for us and all Israel – and say:  Amen.

May He who makes peace in His high places,
make peace for us and all Israel – and say:  Amen.

Chabad translation

Exalted and hallowed be His great Name. (Congregation responds: "Amen.")

Throughout the world which He has created according to His Will. May He establish His kingship, bring forth His redemption and hasten the coming of His Moshiach. (Cong: "Amen.")

In your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.

(Cong: "Amen. May His great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity, blessed.")

May His great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity. Blessed and praised, glorified, exalted and extolled, honored, adored and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He. (Cong: "Amen.")

Beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world; and say, Amen. (Cong: "Amen.")

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and a good life for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen. (Cong: "Amen.")

He Who makes peace (Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur substitute: "the peace") in His heavens, may He make peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen. (Cong: "Amen.")

Rabbinic Assembly translation:

May God’s great name be exalted and hallowed throughout the created world, as is God’s wish.  May God’s sovereignty soon be established, in your lifetime and in your days, and in the days of all the House of Israel.  And respond with:  Amen.

May God’s great name be acknowledged forever and ever!

May the name of the Holy One be acknowledged and celebrated, lauded and worshipped, exalted and honored, extolled and acclaimed – though God, who is blessed, b’rikh hu is truly beyond all acknowledgment and praise, or any expressions of gratitude or consolation ever spoken in the world.  And respond with:  Amen.

May abundant peace from heave, and life, come to us and to all Israel.  And respond with:  Amen.

May the One who brings harmony on high, bring harmony to us and to all Israel [and to all who dwell on earth.]  And respond with:  Amen.

Joseph G. Rosenstein’s translation:

May God’s great Name be hallowed
and enhanced through all creation!
May God’s dominion soon be manifest
in our lives – and in those of all Israel!  And say:

[Congregation responds, reader repeats and continues:]
Amein!  May God’s great Name
be blessed forever, and through an infinity of worlds and eternities.

Bless God!
Praise God!
Hallow God!
Worship God!
Acclaim God!
Honor God!
Thank God!
Exalt God!

Blessed be the holy God!
Blessed be God beyond all words and songs
and tributes that human beings can utter!
And say:  Amein!

May God provide an overflow of life and peace
to us, to all of Israel,
and to all humankind!  And say:  Amein!

May the One who makes peace in the heaves
create peace in our world as well,
peace for us, peace for Israel,
peace for all people and peace for all peoples!
And say:  Amein!

Craig Smith’s translation:

Yitgadal v’yitkadash shemai raba . . .

Great and holy is your great Name
in this world you created by your will!
May your true reign begin
in our lifetime,
in our days,
in the lives of all who Struggle—
swiftly—
soon!

Let your great Name be blessed
for all ages to come—
blessed, praised, glorified, exalted,
extolled, honored, lifted up, lauded
be the Name of the Holy One,
blessed be you,
far beyond all blessings
and hymns and praises and consolations
that are spoken in the world.

Let great peace descend on us from the heavens!
Let life be renewed for us and for all who Struggle!
You who make peace in the heavens,
make peace for us.

Make peace for all who Struggle.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2011 6:14 pm

    Thanks for showing these. Yes Craig’s is remarkable and stands out. “all who Struggle” is quite significant in itself (as Suzanne also pointed out)!

  2. L.T. permalink
    March 11, 2017 8:38 pm

    Based on a Reform Judaism translation:

    Let the glory of God be extolled.
    Let God’s great name be hallowed in the world whose creation God willed.
    Let God’s rule prevail, in our own day, our own lives and the life of all Israel, and let us say Amen.
    Let God’s great name be blessed forever and ever.
    May the name of the Holy One, the Blessed One, be glorified, exalted and honored.
    Although God is beyond all praises, songs and adorations that we can utter, and let us say Amen.
    May the blessings of peace and the promise of life come true, for us and all Israel, and let us say Amen.
    May the One who causes peace to reign in the high heavens cause peace to descend on us, on all Israel, and all the world, and let us say, Amen.

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  1. An Episcopalian Says Kaddish for Her Jewish Aunt

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