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The Artscroll interlinear Siddur translates the words לעלם ולעלמי עלמיא - forever and for all eternity.

Don't "forever" and "for eternity" mean the same thing? What is the simple pshat in these words (I am not looking for kabbalistic explanations, which I assume will talk about multiple עולמות)?

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    There's clear allusions here to Daniel 2:20 and 7:18
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 2:21
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    If I recall correctly לעולם by itself can mean until a certain end albeit in the future with an unknown date, while לעולם ועד (or לעלם ועלמי עלמיא) means literally forever.
    – ezra
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 7:48
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    @Chatzkel the English "forever and ever" is similarly 'unnecessary' -- maybe the pshat is a stylistic/poetic one.
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 14:27
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    The Ibn Yahya has as his explanation, "וינחלוהו עד עמוד העולם הזה ולעולמי עולמים מהעולם הבא"
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 14:31
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    The Malbim interprets Daniel 7:18 in a similar fashion to the Ibn Yahya that עָלְמָא is olam hazeh = this temporal world (העולם הכלה ונפסד) and עָלַם עָלְמַיָּא is olam haba = the future permanent world (העולם הנצחי). The Metzudos there has a different approach and writes that עָלְמָא here = "for a long time" (eg. eved Ivri serving until yovel). עָלַם עָלְמַיָּא = permanence and would mean "forever" so the pasuk would imply - not merely for a long time but even forever.
    – EraserX
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 15:26

1 Answer 1

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To reformulate my earlier comment into an answer as per the request of @ezra:

The phrasing of the kaddish here is most likely taken from דניאל ז:יח (as implied above by @Double AA)

עַד עָלְמָא, וְעַד עָלַם עָלְמַיָּא

The equivalent in Hebrew would be עד העולם, ועד עולם העולמים and in English would be until the world, and until the world of worlds.

The following are two different approaches on how to interpret the phrase.

1) יוסף אבן יחיא (as noted by @rosends) and the מלבי"ם write that עָלְמָא is olam hazeh and עָלַם עָלְמַיָּא is olam haba.

To quote Ibn Yahya:

עד עמוד העולם הזה ולעולמי עולמים מהעולם הבא

The Malbim provides a sharper contrast between the future permanent world (parallel to עָלַם עָלְמַיָּא) which will follow the temporal world (parallel to עָלְמָא):

עד העולם, ועד העולם הנצחי שיבא אחרי העולם הכלה ונפסד

2) The מצודת דוד on that pasuk takes a different approach and writes:

עד עולם וחזר ופירש עד עלם עלמיא ור״ל עד עולם ממש כי לפעמים יאמר עולם על זמן ארוך כמו (שמות כא:ו) ועבדו לעלם

Meaning that עָלְמָא here is equivalent to for a long time (eg. עבד עברי choosing to serve his master until יובל) and that עָלַם עָלְמַיָּא is equivalent to permanence and would mean forever so the pasuk would imply: not merely for a long time but even forever.

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  • shkoyach what a fine answer
    – ezra
    Commented Jun 10, 2022 at 18:21

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