Last time I wrote about Rabbi Andrew Hahn a.k.a. Kirtan Rabbi I began by saying:
Though I usually scoff at anyone attempting to meld Jewish and Eastern spirituality, Kirtan Rabbi caught my ear.
It still catches my ear and his live CD is still on my Shabos Zmiros playlist, which I listen to all day on Friday every week to prepare for Shabat.
So he just came out with a new track of Kadish, which you can download from his site here.
As an aside, I don’t scoff at anyone attempting to meld Judaism and Easter Spirituality anymore. I read The Jew in the Lotus over the summer and challenged a lot of my conceptions of intentional syncretization of Judaism. I still scoff at most people trying to do this.
I don’t know anything about Hahn’s reasons for melding Jewish prayer with Kirtan, which Hahn described as a “call-and-response devotional chant, originally developed in India,” but I know that it does make for really great listening and mood-setting.
And now, Kadish. I have some pretty strong feelings about the Kadish. A regular reader of this blog will not be surprised by that. The liturgical tradition I come from plays fast and loose with the Kadish. In the Reform world, we usually treat Kadish as some sort of triviality. We’ve been without Kadish Shalem since 19th century German reformers lobbed it out the window. Kadish D’Rabanan made its Reform re-appearance recently with the advent of Mishkan T’filah. We’ve had Chatzi Kadish (oddly re-dubbed “Reader’s Kadish”), but in places it doesn’t go (as a stand-in for Kadish Shalem) and we’ve gone without it in places it does go. We’re going to ignore Kadish Yatom (the mourner’s kadish) for now, but I’ll come back to it.
This is all because of what I believe to be the basic misunderstanding of how to make prayer accessible on part of the entire liberal Jewish world. The notion has long been, if we get people to understand the wording of prayers, or if we change the wording so they’ll like it better, we can get people to appreciate prayer more.
My idea is that Jewish prayer doesn’t function on a detailed, word-to-word basis. It functions on a larger prayer-to-prayer, idea-to-idea basis. The poetry of Jewish prayer is not to be found in individual words. Certainly there is poetry in the words, but I’m talking about the poetry–the grand sweeping meaning that encompasses the whole service structure.
One of the challenges to this idea that confronts me is how do you get bite-size bits of liturgical structure across by saying a few words to at the beginning of a service? And that’s where the Kadish comes in. We’ve long ignored it as a meaningless trapping of structure, but if structure comes to the forefront of our effort toward understanding, the Kadish is suddenly of paramount importance.
If we tell people the following three things, I think they’ll get a little bit more of the structure than they did before, simply by learning where the structural breaks are.
- Kadish Shalem means you’ve finished a major service division and are moving into something new.
- Chatzi Kadish means you’ve finished a service division of less importance and are, again, moving into something new.
- Kadish D’Rabanan means you’ve finished piece of the service intended to be some sort of text study and are now moving back into regular prayer.
- Aside from being a time to recognize those in mourning, the Kadish Yatom also indicated the end of the service as well as the break between Birkot Hashachar (morning blessings) and P’Sukei D’Zimra (verses of praise). (However, in some liberal communities the BH/PD division is marked with anothe Chatzi Kadish, which is fine by me.
To continue with the Birkot/P’Sukei division, I don’t think I knew that the division really existed or was significant as a kid because I grew up using Gates of Prayer, which doesn’t make much a big deal out of the change from BH to PD. Bit if we’d had a Kadish there, maybe I would’ve known. Whatever. The end of this post is feeling kind of anti-climactic.