Specific questions regarding Jewish prayers

Before posting this, I looked up an old thread on whether Catholics could say Jewish prayers, but it got confusing in a hurry because some of the people posting were Jewish converts who were preserving their heritage through saying the prayers, and also there was talk of doing entire Jewish rituals such as Seder.

My questions are more specific, as follows, so if someone can address just the specific questions that would be helpful.

Specific question 1: Is a Catholic who was not previously Jewish permitted to say the Jewish prayers of Shema and Kaddish?

Specific question 2: Is there a reference (either online or in a book) for a selection of Jewish traditional prayers that Catholics can say without violating any tenets of their Catholic faith?

Thank you for your guidance.

I have looked up the prayers you mentioned. The Kaddish seems to be essentially a prayer praising God and making intercession for various causes. I can see no problems with it.

The Shema comprising of Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37–41, all of which the RC accepts as canonical scripture and which starts with the verses that Jesus cited as the greatest commandment “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your means.” No problems here.

Of interest is the Christian practice from the early days:

2767 This indivisible gift of the Lord’s words and of the Holy Spirit who gives life to them in the hearts of believers has been received and lived by the Church from the beginning. The first communities prayed the Lord’s Prayer three times a day, in place of the “Eighteen Benedictions” customary in Jewish piety.


This is what I and my family follow (have great love for the early days of the Church)

I wouldn’t say there is anything necessarily objectionable to saying the Shema or even the Kaddish. The Shema and much of the Kaddish is taken from the Old Testament, which we believe to be scripture, and due to it being scripture Catholics are obliged to believe it. As Catholics though, we must realize that we are in a new covenant and understand that we must continue our traditions. Catholicism, though we have our roots in Judaism, and share much in common with the Jewish people, and indeed we worship a Jew, Judaism and Christianity are separate religions. Christianity and Judaism diverged in the late first century, and we have developed our own theology and ways of life.

Thank you, yes, I myself do not have any Jewish heritage and have been a Catholic since birth. I would not be following all their traditions or probably doing anything other than just saying a couple of prayers from time to time. This is also not to “replace” any Catholic prayers but rather as an addition from time to time to my normal Catholic prayer routines.

I do not want to inadvertently say any prayer frowned upon by the Church, so while the Shema and Kaddish seemed OK to me too, I wanted to get some additional opinions.

Christians recite Jewish prayers and songs/canticles all the time. One of my favorites is from the Book of Exodus:

The Lord is my strength and my song
and has become salvation…

Anyway, if you are looking at liturgical prayers from Judaism, I would only advise you to be respectful. The Kaddish, for instance, is recited by mourners, and is one of the most heartfelt and beloved prayers they pray. Please don’t usurp it out of context.

Are you learning Hebrew and Aramaic?

I would be respectful. I also understand there are different versions of Kaddish.
I have a Jewish friend who can help me with what is appropriate to say and what is not, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t doing anything “wrong” before I asked her. I am not currently learning Hebrew. If necessary I could learn enough to say a short prayer.

Which is part of what your discussing.

I would note that I am already praying the Lord’s Prayer multiple times a day and am not looking to “replace” it with any Jewish prayer. It’s interesting what the early Christians did, but I am not really seeking to imitate them either.

Specific question 2: Is there a reference (either online or in a book) for a selection of Jewish traditional prayers that Catholics can say without violating any tenets of their Catholic faith?

The Jewish people pray from a prayer book called a “siddur”. It contains the daily prayers said at morning, afternoon, and evening, as well as certain prayers said for certain life events (marriage, etc.) and daily activities (prayers before and after meals, etc.).

You can purchase a Jewish siddur in English and Hebrew. There are several versions depending on Jewish affiliation - Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc. Art Scroll publishing prints the Art Scroll Siddur, which is one of the most popular siddurs among the Orthodox. It comes in English with Hebrew, sometimes transliterated depending on which siddur you choose. (Note - Siddur should not be confused with the term “seder” referring to the Passover “seder” meal.)

I have privately read and prayed from an Orthodox Jewish siddur for many years and generally find very little to be objectionable. On rare occasion, you will find a rabbinic commentary to the prayers that are critical of the Church, but these are very rare. In fact, it has been very enriching to read these texts in that it has answered a lot of my questions about Catholicism, shedding light on areas I never understood. Most of the prayers in the siddur are from the Bible, with many verses are taken from the Psalms.

Interestingly, most of the prayers in the traditional Latin Mass have much in common with the Jewish siddur. You can actually find many, many similarities. Whether we realize it or not, most prayers said at Mass are actually Jewish prayers or derivations thereof.

Thank you all for your responses, it’s been very helpful.
I will consult with my Jewish friend to make sure I do not say any prayers inappropriately.
I like the idea of the siddur as perhaps adding another dimension of understanding to the Catholic faith.

I think it is very good to embrace what those early Christians did. Who were rather close to the time of transition from Jewish prayers.

They replaced those Eighteen Benedictions prayed three times at particular times in the day - with the *Lords Prayer *-prayed the three times during the day. Think more on this.

Also as I recall there were some prayers introduced “against Christians” within those daily prayers…

I have delighted to study these very early prayer times and practices- first the Jewish (Shema and the Tephilla) - then then (for life too) the Christian (the Lords Prayer). To me it is really wonderful to know what the early Christians did - and that the *Lord’s Prayer *was used in this way - to pray during those times of prayer - those “hours of prayer” -as Christians.

Was added as part of the Eighteen Benedictions in the later first Century - seen as being against Christians the “Naziarim” (from the first days Christians were called Nazarene (see Acts 24:5). And also the “Minim” (heretics).

“If Jesus Prayed Judaism’s 18 Benedictions, Why Don’t We?”


(there in he gives some of the reasons why we do not)

Seems too he has a book that touches on this topic among other books:

"Through, With, and In Him: The Prayer Life of Jesus and How to Make It Our Own" 

Has an intro from Mike Aquilina and endorsements by various persons (Bishops etc). I think I will look into it further.

Also the fact that the edition of the Eighteen Benedictions (Tephilla) that is post destruction of the Temple (it seems we do not have any full texts of it prior to this edition) include those words against Christians that are part of the those prayers since the later part of the first century…so Christians who sought to pray the Eighteen Benedictions would be in part praying the prayers against the Christians as part of doing so…

(even if modern Jews give it different meaning and noting the above is not to set something between us and our elder brothers…much has been done to bring us closer to each other and there is love and respect between us …but it is important to note that such is the case in terms of the text as it has come down from the alterations of the first century).

(Regarding the Shema see also the Liturgy of the Hours for Night prayer - Saturday).

I personally see no problems with this. As a former Messianic, I’ve seen those prayers used in both Protestant and Jewish contexts. Both of them affirm two very big Catholic beliefs: the oneness of God and the desire to praise Him in all circumstances!

This piqued my interest as I’ve never heard of Art Scroll…Koren Publishers is(was) the one Jewish publishing house that I’m aware of/read. Have you read a siddur by them or the Tanakh and how does it compare to Art Scroll, in terms of quality, commentary, text size etc. Any thoughts.

This piqued my interest as I’ve never heard of Art Scroll…Koren Publishers is(was) the one Jewish publishing house that I’m aware of/read. Have you read a siddur by them or the Tanakh and how does it compare to Art Scroll, in terms of quality, commentary, text size etc. Any thoughts.

I have a copy of the Koren siddur, but have only skimmed through it.

I have several editions of Art Scroll publications. They carry dozens of commentaries, including full editions of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds with English translation, the complete Mishnah (oral Torah), and Midrash (biblical commentaries).

For myself as a Catholic unfamiliar with the Torah, I found Art Scroll’s editions enormously helpful as they are written in very simple explanatory English with insightful commentaries. I’ve gained a great appreciation and respect for Judaism, Jewish scholarship in general, and a better understanding of the theological disputes between Christ and the Pharisees through this reading.

Stone Edition of the Chumash is a commentary on the first five books of the Bible from various rabbinic scholars.

Their full edition Tanach (i.e., full Hebrew Bible) is lighter in commentary, but again, you can actually purchase specific books in the Bible with extensive commentary.

I find Rashi’s commentary on the Torah to be very particularly insightful.

Text size is very readable. You can purchase various siddur versions - large font, smaller pocket size, transliterated, interlinear, etc.

Thanks a lot for the info. I checked out Art Scroll’s site and like the fact they mention the pages are opaque, also the sizes of the books appear to be quite large. Nothing worse the super thin pages/semi-transparent pages. Yeah its the commentary that I’d love to read, I mean I have several Bibles so therefore Old Testaments(Tanakh) in various translations NRSV, ESV etc…but would like to get some insight/commentary from Rashi and other Rabbi’s on the text.

Thanks again.