"Kaddish" is the fifteenth episode of the fourth season of The X-Files.
A hate crime leads to a disturbing series of murders that may involve a being from Jewish folklore bent on revenge...
In Brooklyn, New York, a group of Hasidic Jews gather at a cemetery for the funeral of Isaac Luria (Harrison Coe), who had been beaten and shot to death by a gang of three young Neo-Nazis. The last to leave is Isaac's wife, Ariel (Justine Miceli), and her father, Jacob Weiss (David Groh). During nightfall, a dark figure enters the cemetery and crafts a man-shaped sculpture out of mud.
When one of Isaac's assailants is found strangled with the dead man's fingerprints on his body, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are called in to investigate. Scully suggests that the murder was an act of retribution, and argues that the evidence was staged to look like revenge from beyond the grave. When the agents visit Ariel and Jacob, their request for the exhumation of Isaac's body angers the old man.
Mulder and Scully then interview Curt Brunjes (Jonathan Whittaker), a racist owner of a copy shop across the street from the market where Isaac worked. Mulder tells Brunjes that the other two boys, who work for Brunjes, are in danger. Scully mentions that there is a rumor spreading that Isaac has risen from the grave to avenge his death. The two boys, who are eavesdropping on the conversation, are terrified at this prospect.
That night, the boys dig up Isaac's grave and find his body intact. While retrieving tools from the car, one of the boys is brutally murdered. The next morning, Mulder and Scully find a book on Jewish mysticism buried with Isaac's body; it mysteriously bursts into flames. On the book is Jacob's name. The agents search for Jacob, finding him in a synagogue with the strangled body of the last remaining boy. Although Jacob admits to both of the murders, Mulder believes that a Golem—a creature from Jewish mysticism—is the true murderer.
Later, Brunjes is found murdered and Mulder and Scully watch the shop's surveillance tape. They discover that the Golem has features similar to Isaac. Mulder deduces that, because Ariel and Isaac were not officially wed in a Jewish synagogue, Ariel created the Golem out of love to serve as a surrogate for her late husband. The two agents arrive at the synagogue to find Ariel and the creature exchanging wedding vows. After an intense fight, in which Jacob and Mulder are both wounded, Ariel declares her love for Isaac and returns the creature to dust.
- Isaac Luria, born on 6/10/71, lived at 1934 Avenue B, Brooklyn, NY. Scully says that this address is in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, but Luria's address and that of the print shop are both located in another neighborhood about 10 miles away, called Midwood.
- Dedication at end of episode states "In Loving Memory: Lillian Katz", Howard Gordon's grandmother.
- The character Isaac Luria is named for Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, also known as the Ari ("the Lion"). Luria lived in Safed, in what is now northern Israel, in the 15th century, and became legendary as a result of his mystical writings. Most of what is today called Kabbalah is based on his teachings.
- The Sefer Yitzirah ("Book of Creation"), which figures heavily in this episode, is a genuine Kabbalistic text. It is one of the oldest Jewish mystical writings in existence, dated by some to the 1st or 2nd century CE, and is considered the most important book of the Kabbalah next to the canonical Sefer HaZohar ("Book of Radiance").
- In an early draft of the script the Anti-Semites were black to mirror the actual situation in Brooklyn which involves tension between Orthodox Jews and their African-American neighbors.
- The episode title, "Kaddish" is the name of a traditional Jewish mourning prayer that is repeated daily for thirty days for a relative or spouse, or eleven months for a parent, following the day of burial. The prayer is also repeated on the anniversary of death. A mourner recites the Kaddish and a minyan (prayer-quorum) responds in unison with appropriate phrases. The minyan consists of at least ten Jews (traditionally, Jewish men) who have passed their Bar Mitzvah (usually age thirteen). "Kaddish" is also the title of episode 72/5-17 of Homicide: Life on the Street.
- Composer Mark Snow's music in this episode was influenced by the soundtrack of Schindler's List. Also, elements of "Fantasy on Greensleeves" by Ralph Vaughan Williams sound similar to the music used herein.
Isaac Luria is presumed to have returned as a Golem as it is described in Jewish folklore. However, this Golem differs from the original legend in many respects. Normally a being created for a specific purpose (often to defend or avenge), Luria is brought back from the dead simply to be "alive" again. Furthermore, Jacob suggests that it was Ariel (or the power of her love alone) that raised the Golem, when, in fact, this is an ability reserved for only the wisest and holiest rabbis. Last but not least, a Golem is traditionally activated by inscribing a holy word on the creature's forehead. In this episode, however, the Hebrew word for truth (Emet) appears on the corpse's and the golem's hand.
It became frustrating for the production to film the graveyard scene with the two agents and the mystical Jewish book, because it refused to burst into flames on cue. When it finally did, it burned with a sudden flame so huge that David Duchovny had to fling the specially rigged book to the ground and dash out of camera range. He and Gillian Anderson ended up spending hours working with the second unit on that particular and brief scene, but their experience became one of the best moments on the season's gag reel.
When Mulder and Scully are looking for Jacob Weiss in the upstairs of the Synagogue, after Mulder trips and Scully asks if he's ok you can see he has no clip in his gun.
After Ariel invites Mulder and Scully into her home the camera pans across a room filled with people and a red dot appears on the wall and seems to move with the camera until it disappears on Mulder's back.
The actress playing Ariel pronounces the Yiddish word "Tate" for father as "Taht ay", although it should sound more like "Taht eh" or "Taht ee". It is possible, however, that she has simply adapted the word to an English pronunciation (similar to the originally French word "fiancée"), since Ariel and her father are constantly speaking English when talking to one another.
At first the book found in Isaac Luria's grave, bearing a Hebrew (or possibly Yiddish) inscription, seems to be bound and signed incorrectly. However, that is not the case, because when shown for the first time, Mulder holds it upside down. The camera then focuses on the name of the owner and we can clearly see that it is placed along the lower margin of the cover. Had the book been bound on the left (i.e. like in books using Latin alphabet) the signature would have been inverted.
The Hebrew prayers featured in this episode are real, but recited incorrectly. The actors use modern Sephardic pronunciation, which is employed by most Jews in Israel and the diaspora. Hasidic sects like the one featured in this episode, however, are among the few that still employ the Ashkenazi pronunciation, which differs in several noticeable ways, particularly in its pronunciation of the letter "taf" which is a "t" in Sephardi but an "s" in Ashkenazi. This is apparent, for instance, in the Kaddish prayer which opens the episode, in which the first word is pronounced "yitgadal" ("become great"), whereas Hasidic speakers would pronounce it "yisgadal".
Cast and Characters
- Justine Miceli as Ariel Luria
- David Groh as Jacob Weiss
- David Wohl as Kenneth Ungar
- Channon Roe as Derek Banks
- Timur Karabilgin as Tony Oliver
- Jabin Litwiniec as Clinton Bascombe
- George Gordon as Detective
- Murrey Rabinovitch as 1st Hasidic Man
- David Freedman as Rabbi
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