Kaddish: Original Text and Narration by Bernstein  back to Texts & Notes

Symphony No.3
Sung in Hebrew; spoken in English
Speaker's text by the Composer

Movement I


O, my Father: ancient, hallowed,
Lonely, disappointed Father:
Betrayed and rejected Ruler of the Universe:
Angry, wrinkled Old Majesty:
I want to pray.
I want to say Kaddish.
My own Kaddish. There may be
No one to say it after me.

I have so little time, as You well know.
Is my end a minute away? An hour?
Is there even time to consider the question?
It could be here, while we are singing.
That we may be stopped, once for all,
Cut off in the act of praising You.
But while I have breath, however brief,
I will sing this final Kaddish for You,
For me, and for all these I love
Here in this sacred house.

I want to pray, and time is short.
Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mē raba ...



Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mē raba, amen
b'al'ma div'ra chir'utē,
v'yam'lich mal'chutē
b'chayēchon uv'yomēchon
uv'chayē d'chol bēt Yis'raēl,
ba'agala uviz'man kariv,
v'im'ru: amen.

Y'hē sh'mē raba m'varach
l'alam ul'al'mē al'maya.

Yit'barach v'yish'tabach v'yit'pa-ar
v'yit'romam v'yit'nasē
v'yit'hadar v'yit'aleh v'yit'halal
sh'mē d'kud'sha, b'rich Hu,
l'ēla min kol bir'chata
v'shirata, tush'b'chata v'nechemata,
da-amiran b'al'ma,
v'im'ru: amen.

Y'hē sh'lama raba
min sh'maya v'chayim alēnu
v'al kol Yis'raēl
v'im'ru: amen.

(Magnified and sanctified be His great name, Amen
Throughout the world which He hath created
according to His will;
And may He establish His kingdom
During Your life and during Your days,
And during the life of all the house of Israel,
Speedily, and at a near time,
And say ye, Amen.

May His great name be blessed,
Forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised and glorified,
And exalted and extolled and honored,
And magnified and lauded
Be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He;
Though He be beyond all blessings,
And hymns, praises and consolations,
That can be uttered in the world.
And say ye, Amen.

May there be abundant peace
From heaven, and life for us
And for Israel;
And say ye, Amen.)

SPEAKER Amen! Amen! Did You hear that, Father?
"Sh'lama raba! May abundant peace
Descend on us. Amen."

Great God,
You make peace in the high places,
Who commanded the morning since the days began,
And caused the dawn to know its place.
Surely You can cause and command
A touch of order here below,
On this one, dazed speck.
And let us say again: Amen.

Oseh shalom bim'romav,
Hu ya-aseh shalom alēnu
v'al kol Yis'raēl
v'im'ru: amen.

(He who maketh peace in His high places,
May He make peace for us
And for all Israel;
And say ye, Amen)

Movement II


With Amen on my lips, I approach
Your presence, Father. Not with fear,
But with a certain respectful fury.
Do You not recognize my voice?
I am that part of Man You made
To suggest his immortality.
You surely remember, Father?—the part
That refuses death, that insists on You,
Divines Your voice, guesses Your grace.
And always You have heard my voice,
And always You have answered me
With a rainbow, a raven, a plague, something.
But now I see nothing. This time You show me
Nothing at all.

Are You listening, Father? You know who I am:
Your image; that stubborn reflection of You
That Man has shattered, extinguished, banished.
And now he runs free—free to play
With his new-found fire, avid for death,
Voluptuous, complete and final death.
Lord God of Hosts, I call You to account!
You let this happen, Lord of Hosts!
You with Your manna, Your pillar of fire!
You ask for faith, where is Your own?
Why have You taken away Your rainbow,
That pretty bow You tied round Your finger
To remind You never to forget Your promise?

"For lo, I do set my bow in the cloud ...
And I will look upon it, that I
May remember my everlasting covenant ..."
Your covenant! Your bargain with Man!
Tin God! Your bargain is tin!
It crumples in my hand!
And where is faith now—Yours or mine?

CHORUS (Cadenza)
Amen, Amen, Amen ...

Forgive me, Father. I was mad with fever.
Have I hurt You? Forgive me,
I forgot You too are vulnerable.
But Yours was the first mistake, creating
Man in Your own image, tender,
Fallible. Dear God, how You must suffer,
So far away, ruefully eyeing
Your two-footed handiwork—frail, foolish,
My sorrowful Father,
If I could comfort You, hold You against me,
Rock You and rock You into sleep.


Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mē raba, amen ...

Rest, my Father. Sleep, dream.
Let me invent Your dream, dream it
With You, as gently as I can.
And perhaps in dreaming, I can help You
Recreate Your image, and love him again.

Movement III


I'll take You to Your favorite star.
A world most worthy of Your creation.
And hand in hand we'll watch in wonder
The workings of perfectedness.

This is Your Kingdom of Heaven, Father,
Just as You planned it.
Every immortal cliché intact.
Lambs frisk. Wheat ripples.
Sunbeams dance. Something is wrong.
The light: flat. The air: sterile.
Do You know what is wrong? There is nothing
to dream.
Nowhere to go. Nothing to know.
And these, the creatures of Your Kingdom,
These smiling, serene and painless people—
Are they, too, created in Your image?
You are serenity, but rage
As well. I know. I have borne it.
You are hope, but also regret.
I know. You have regretted me.
But not these—the perfected ones:
They are beyond regret, or hope.
They do not exist, Father, not even
In the light-years of our dream.

Now let me show You a dream to remember!
Come back with me, to the Star of Regret:
Come back, Father, where dreaming is real,
And pain is possible—so possible
You will have to believe it. And in pain
You will recognize Your image at last.

Now behold my Kingdom of Earth!
Real-life marvels! Genuine wonders!
Dazzling miracles! ...
Look, a Burning Bush!
Look, a Fiery Wheel!
A Ram! A Rock! Shall I smite it? There!
It gushes! It gushes! And I did it!
I am creating this dream! Now
Will You believe?

I have You, Father, locked in my dream,
And You must remain till the final scene ...
Now! Look up! High! What do You see?
A rainbow, which I have created for You!
My promise, my covenant!
Look at it, Father: Believe! Believe!
Look at my rainbow and say after me:

The colors of my rainbow are blinding, Father,
And they hurt Your eyes, I know.
But don't close them now. Don't turn away.
Look. Do You see how simple and peaceful
It all becomes, once You believe?




Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mē raba, amen.

Don't waken yet! However great Your pain,
I will help You suffer it.

O God, believe. Believe in me
And You shall see the Kingdom of Heaven
On Earth, just as You planned.
Believe ... believe.

See how my rainbow lights the scene.
The voices of Your children call
From corner to corner, chanting Your praises.

b'al'ma div'ra chirut? ...

The rainbow is fading. Our dream is over.
We must wake up now, and the dawn is chilly.


The dawn is chilly, but the dawn has come.
Father, we've won another day.
We have dreamed our Kaddish, and wakened alive.
Good morning, Father. We can still be immortal,
You and I, bound by our rainbow.
That is our covenant, and to honor it
Is our honor ... not quite the covenant
We bargained for, so long ago,
At the time of that Other, First Rainbow.
But then I was only Your helpless infant,
Arms hard around You, dead without You.
We have both grown older, You and I.
And I am not sad, and You must not be sad.
Unfurrow Your brow, look tenderly again
At me, at us, at all these children
Of God here in this sacred house.
And we shall look tenderly back to You.

O my Father, Lord of Light!
Beloved Majesty: my Image, my Self!
We are one, after all, You and I:
Together we suffer, together exist,
And forever will recreate each other.
Recreate, recreate each other!
Suffer, and recreate each other!

Y'hē sh'mē raba m'varach ...

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