February 26, 2013

Before and after we recite Mussaf, the Chazzan leads us in one of the most well-known prayers to Jews worldwide: the Kaddish. The word Kaddish is actually Aramaic and means Kadosh – Holy. There are several types of Kaddish, which can be a subject for another time.

The sages discuss why such an important prayer is recited in Aramaic and not in hebrew like the majority of our Tefillot. One answer advanced by the Tur–Rabbeinu Yaakov,1275-1340–is because the angels above do not understand the Aramaic language. We do not want the angels that praise God continuously in the heavens to be jealous that we, as human beings, have the capacity to say such a great prayer; therefore we say it in Aramaic.

A second answer maintains that one of the times Kaddish is said is after the rabbis would study Torah with the people. Since the studying was in Aramaic and many of the students did not understand Hebrew, the prayer following the study was also in Aramaic.

These two approaches as to why the Kaddish is in Aramaic represents our every day struggle with prayer. On the one hand, our prayers are so holy and elevated that they impact the heavens and the entire world. They are actually the envy of the angels! On the other hand, for prayers to be meaningful, he/she who is reciting them must understand them.

It is not enough to read the prayers; one must pray them as well. The Kotzker Rebbe used to say that when a Jew takes three steps back after the Amidah he should receive a Shalom Aleichem because his thoughts have been all over the globe.

Take Home Tip:

The recipe for meaningful prayer includes learning the meaning(s) of prayers, and practice praying them.

Millions of Jews may know the Kaddish; but not enough of them know what it means. Praying is not only an obligation; it is also an opportunity. Like all pursuits in life, to achieve in Tefillah one must make a conscious and valiant effort.