Kaddish d’Rabbanan is said after completing a section of study, at the conclusion of a siyyum, and at the closing of a Jewish grave. This is our first encounter with a Kaddish (there are five versions, see Siddur > Shaḥrit article “Kaddish: Introduction”) in our series on the morning service.
We have just completed studying “Offerings” and “Yishma’el’s 13 Principles” which include readings from the Torah along with pertinent selections from the חז״ל (ḥazal). Ḥazal, an acronym for the Hebrew “Ḥaḥameinu Ziḥronam Liv’raḥa,” meaning “Our Sages, may their memory be blessed,” refers specifically to the sages of Israel who lived during an 875 year period (250 BCE through 625 CE).
A siyyum is the completion of any unit of Torah study or a tractate of the Mishnah or Talmud. Followed by a celebratory meal, many people may be familiar with siyyums as a study on minor fast days, as the celebratory meal also ends the fast.
The closing of a Jewish grave is also called an “unveiling.” Held within the first year after burial, this is a formal unveiling of the tombstone or grave marker; an indicator that the official time of mourning is over.
Kaddish d’Rabbanan includes the following section on behalf of Israel and Israel’s teachers and students, past and present, who engage in Torah study:
“To Israel, to the teachers, their disciples
and their disciples’ disciples,
and to all who engage in the study of Torah,
in this (in Israel add: holy) place or elsewhere,
may there come to them and you great peace,
grace, kindness and compassion,
long life, ample sustenance and deliverance,
from their Father in Heaven – and say: Amein.”
The concluding line, אבוהון די בשמיא is translated, “[their] Father in Heaven.” Found in both Kaddish Shalem and Kaddish d’Rabbanan, this hearkens back to the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer. This is the third occasion of a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer tracing back to prayers in the traditional Siddur. (See Siddur > Shaḥrit articles “Birkat HaShaḥar,” “Kaddish”). These may be indications that the Lord’s Prayer is a collection of corporate prayers, each referenced by key words from each selected prayer.
Notice that Kaddish d’Rabbanan reserves all praise to HaShem. Our requests for provision and blessings on Israel and on those dedicated to Torah study confer somber recognition that Judaic observance, especially Torah study, is all too often a dangerous endeavor. HaShem is and must ever be our sole and unwavering focus as we prepare to recite T’hillim 30, the psalm leading up to Pesukei d’Zimrah.