The Five Types of Kaddish

We’ve all seen it (or lived it). It’s the Saturday night prior to a holiday, so there’s no recitation of Vayehi Noam. The chazzan says “Half Kaddish” as one usually does at that point and half the room yells out, “Tiskabeil!” indicating that he should continue through the end of “Whole Kaddish.” But what are these different forms of Kaddish and why should different versions of what is ostensibly the same prayer be said at different junctures in the service?

There are five forms of Kaddish. Four of them are regularly recited in shul and the fifth is reserved for special occasions. The four recited in shul are commonly referred to as “Half Kaddish,” “Whole Kaddish,” “Mourner’s Kaddish” and “Rabbis’ Kaddish.”

The Half Kaddish (or “Chatzi Kaddish” in Hebrew) is the simplest form of the prayer. This version is recited as a separation between sections of a prayer unit. For example, Half Kaddish is recited in between Yishtabach and Barchu, indicating the completion of the Pesukei D’Zimra and the beginning of Shacharis proper. Similarly, in the example in our introductory paragraph to this article, it is recited between Shemoneh Esrei and Vayehi Noam on Saturday nights, delineating the break where the special post-Shabbos content is added.

Whole Kaddish (or “Kaddish Shalem”) is said upon the conclusion of the main section a prayer unit, typically the one that includes Shemoneh Esrei. This form of Kaddish is the only one that includes the phrase “tiskabeil tzlos’hon u’va’us’hon d’chol beis Yisrael” – “accept the prayer and the supplication of the entire Jewish people.” Accordingly, it is sometimes referred to as “Kaddish Tiskabeil.” This Kaddish may be recited immediately after Shemoneh Esrei (as is typically the case for a weeknight Maariv) or there may be other prayers in between (such as Tachanun and Ashrei-Uva L’Tziyon during Shacharis).

Mourner’s Kaddish (“Kaddish Yasom”) is essentially the same as Whole Kaddish except that, since it is not recited following the completion of Shemoneh Esrei, it does not include the phrase “tiskabeil…” This Kaddish is recited in the eleven months following the passing of a parent or other relative, as well as on the anniversary of their passing. As we discuss in the article “Why Do We Say Kaddish for the Deceased?” having an heir who serves as the catalyst for the congregation to praise God is a source of merit for the deceased.

The Rabbis’ Kaddish (“Kaddish D’Rabbanan”) is recited after a public lecture in the Oral Torah. There is an opinion that the primary practice is to recite this Kaddish after learning Aggadah, the non-legal portions of the Talmud or Midrash. This is based on Sotah 49a, which tells us that since the Temple was destroyed, the world endures because of the recitation of Kedusha in Uva L’Tziyon and the “yehei shmei rabbah” in the Kaddish after Aggadah. Accordingly, the practice has become to recite the Aggadic passage of “Rabbi Chananya…” (Makkos 23b) between a public Torah lecture and Kaddish. Since it is related to Torah study, the Rabbis’ Kaddish includes a passage on behalf of “the Jews, the teachers, their students, their students’ students, and all those who engage in the study of Torah.”

The final type of Kaddish is recited on two special occasions: when making a siyum upon the completion of a tractate of Talmud or an order of Mishna, and at a funeral. These two occasions are radically different, but there is something in common. The theme of this Kaddish is that, in the merit of Torah study, the world will be renewed, including the eventual revival of the dead. Therefore, it is appropriate for both a siyum (recognizing as it does the rewards of Torah study) and a funeral (as it contains within it the consolation that those who have passed on will someday return to us).

We see that each form of Kaddish has been specially selected for its appropriate place in the liturgy, properly addressing the needs of the congregation at different points and on occasions ranging from a public discourse to mourning to celebration.