Looking at the Kaddish Shalem focusing on the words תִּתְקַבֵּל צְלוֹתְהוֹן, what is the etymology of the word tzelot-hon? Is this construct even hebrew? I found the root צְלָא meaning "pray" with explanation: "Aramaic, probably corresponding to צָלַע [tsala` ] in the sense of bowing". Come to think of it, there is a lot of construct in this prayer that doesn't coincide with biblical hebrew. Is the entire prayer in Aramaic? Is there any commentary on these obscure words?


3 Answers 3


The entire prayer, except for the last line, is in Aramaic.

צלי, צלא, or צלו are different constructs of the word meaning "pray". צלותהון means "their prayers".

As for the root, I believe it is likely correct that it is צלא, though a part of me wants to go digging in my old Aramaic text books to rule out the possibility that it is צלי.

I have never heard it suggested that it comes from a lost guttural (צלע), so I would like to see the source that you read about that.

  • 3
    I have never noticed this before, but צלא is exactly the same root as the Arabic word صلاة ("Sala") which also means prayer. I guess I shouldn't be surprised because Aramaic and Arabic share many roots, but that's a nice exact match.
    – Daniel
    Apr 28, 2013 at 15:07
  • @Daniel, they are very, very closely related. There are many exact matches, and many more cognate matches.
    – Seth J
    Apr 28, 2013 at 16:45
  • @SethJ Strongs #6739 suggests it is related to #6760 which ends with the ayin, phonetically so similar to the words you gave ending in vowels. Genesis 32:32 says ויזרח־לו השׁמשׁ כאשׁר עבר את־פנואל והוא צלע על־ירכו so that can mean to wobble or limp, very similar to the dovening motion. So I had been considering them all the same word, with an ambiguous final aspirant. Apr 29, 2013 at 1:50
  • @Gnarlodious, that sounds entirely unlikely to me, but I'm far from the expert I aspire to be.
    – Seth J
    Nov 12, 2015 at 18:22

The root of the word is צלי, which means "to turn" or "incline", and which has the sense of "pray" in many passages. For the former, see the Targum on Psalm 102:12 (where it corresponds to the Hebrew word of root נטה), and for the latter see Targum Onkelos on Genesis 12:8 (where it corresponds to the Hebrew word of root קרא). When it means "pray", it is always in the pael - which is an Aramaic stem that roughly corresponds to the Hebrew piel.

As a noun, however, it appears in Old Aramaic as צלו, and in Late Aramaic as צלותא, the latter being with the addition of the definite article for a feminine noun. You can find that word in Onkelos on Genesis 18:22, for example, where it describes Abraham occupying himself "in prayer" before God (with no corresponding Hebrew expression). The plural, צליין (or צלותיא, with the definite article) can be found in the Targum on Psalm 72:20, in which it corresponds to the Hebrew תפלות.

The word צלותהון comprises the singular noun, "prayer", plus a 3rd person masculine plural suffix (הון-), meaning "their prayer". The verb that appears before it in your nusach (תתקבל) is a 3rd person singular feminine imperfective: "may their prayer be received". I understand that it is usually translated in the plural ("may their prayers be received"), but while this would probably require the noun to appear as צלוותהון or צלייתהון (I'm not sure if these forms are attested), it would certainly require the verb to appear as תתקבלן, with a final nun.

  • I almost posted that it was צלי. Thanks for the detailed info. You sure that it's singular? Why would all of Israel have one prayer? Or is it more abstract? Like prayer in Israel generally speaking.
    – Seth J
    Apr 28, 2013 at 23:51
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    I don't know, @SethJ - it certainly makes more sense to me that it would be plural. I'm not certain that it isn't (mainly because I don't know whether or not the plural ever appears with a possessive suffix, so I can't compare), but I am certain that the verb, תתקבל, is singular.
    – Shimon bM
    Apr 29, 2013 at 0:12
  • (Also, @SethJ, I only answered in order to add the extra info. I thought your answer was perfectly fine, by the way, and gave it +1)
    – Shimon bM
    Apr 29, 2013 at 0:14
  • Hmm, good point. Tzarich 'Iyun. And thanks, likewise. Liked this answer.
    – Seth J
    Apr 29, 2013 at 0:26
  • Thanks for that exhaustive answer, Shimon. I notice that the "ון" suffix was also used in proto-hebrew like in Aramaic. For example, "הכהן הראשון" might mean "their head kohen". Or more linguistically accurate, "head kohen of theirs". So ראשון would mean not a cardinal number but rather the head of a plurality. I think this would agree with the Aramaic. But in modern hebrew, it seems like the "ון" suffix is used to refer to a thing possessing attributes. This would agree with @SethJ 's observation about a plurality of abstraction. Apr 29, 2013 at 17:51

צְלוֹתְהוֹן means praying in Aramic. Many other words of Kadish are also Aramic.

  • I'm not sure why this was downvoted. It's not a superb answer, but it satisfies the question.
    – Seth J
    May 6, 2013 at 14:02

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