In the recent post about the problem of Sepharadic minhagim infiltrating into the Ashkenazic community via the Ashkenazim of ארץ ישראל with their Sepharadic influenced practices, one of the examples was the קדיש after קריאת התורה. Traditionally recited by the baal keriah, the practice in many Sepharadic places was changed in recent centuries, and it was given to mourners instead.
That issue deserves a post of it’s own, so people will אי”ה better be able to understand what is involved and what the fuss about it is, as it is important 1) on it’s own, 2) as a representative of the category, and 3) the discussion sheds light on other aspects of kaddish as well.
So I will try בעזרת השי”ת to explain what the problem is, based mostly on what I have learned from רבש”ה.
רבש”ה was asked, a number of years ago, in light of what is stated in the sefer פני ברוך (a popular contemporary work on אבלות, which has also been rendered into English and published by Artscroll under the title Mourning In Halachah, from which this mistaken practice is unfortunately given an additional platform to influence English speakers), that the kaddish recited after קריאת התורה belongs to mourners, what is the basis for the Ashkenazic practice that it is said davka (specifically) by the baal koreh (and not a mourner)?
He responded that the Ashkenazic minhog here is a continuation of the ancient practice that came down to us from the Gaonim and Rishonim (while the practice that the פני ברוך and Artscroll version thereof contains is a later distortion of Sepharadim,which some Ashkenazim adopted).
רבש”ה then makes a very trenchant observation. In various halachic literature, there is discussion about when there are multiple mourners, which gets preference. In those discussions, the different kaddeishim available for such are delineated (and distributed). However, notes רבש”ה, in all those discussions, not once is the kaddish after krias HaTorah included and allocated in such a framework! The reason being simply, because it was known that that kaddish belonged to the shliach tzibbur (baal kriah), and not to aveilim.
As was discussed previously, in some Sepharadic circles, due to the great desire of the masses to say kaddish, people engaged in questionable practices, such as saying kaddish together with the shatz, something that the Ben Ish Chai, complained about and tried to adddress. Until today though, in Sepharadic congregations, such practices continue.
The purpose of the kaddish after leining is explained by the ספר האשכול, האגור, והבית יוסף. In the words of the Beis Yosef…טעם על הקדישות שאומרים בתפלה..וקדיש אחר קריאת התורה, כי היא מצוה בפני עצמה. The kaddish is to make a separation between different segments of the davening. This kaddish serves the purpose of the tefillah, distinguishing between various segments thereof. It was not instituted to serve mourners by giving them a chance/place to say it, unlike other kaddeishim.
רבש”ה goes on to bring quotes from over thirty authorities, from the Gaonic era to the present day, which show that this kaddish belongs to the שליח ציבור (baal keriah). These authorities cover a very great spectrum of גדולי עולם, such as Rav Amram Gaon, the Machzor Vitri, the Rambam, ראב”ד, ראבי”ה, רוקח, אור זרוע, אבודרהם, מהר”ם מרוטנבורג,שבלי הלקט, מאירי, מרדכי, בעל הטורים, מהרי”ל, בית יוסף, יעב”ץ, בעל התניא, ר’ אהרן מקארלין, ר’ וולף היידנהיים, מהר”ם בריסק, דברי יואל (סאטמאר), אגרות משה, מנחת שלמה (ר’ שלמה זלמן אויערבאך), וכו
As time went on, some Sepharadim started to give this kaddish to mourners, mainly in parts of North Africa, and in the area of Eretz Yisroel. But other Sepharadic Rabbonim opposed this change. As time passed, it became more widespread among Sepharadim, to the point that it was seen as a sort of trademark Sepharadic practice, that Ashkenazim did not practice, as Rav Ovadya Yosef wrote in his שו”ת יביע עומר, ח”ג יו”ד סי’ כו אות ד.
In some Chassidic circles, where there already existed an inclination to Sepharadic things, they accepted to a limited degree this change, to transfer the kaddish after krias haTorah to a mourner. However, this was limited to a mourner that got the last aliyah, not a mourner that was not involved with the keriah, who just came over afterward to say kaddish. Over time though, that stipulation was forgotten and/or discarded (as sometimes happens when a limited heter is given, which may not be understood by the masses), with the great demand by mourners for oppportunities to say kaddish, and in some of these circles aveilim took over that kaddish in general. However, even in the Chassidic camp, important and powerful figures, such as the דברי יואל of Satmar for one, were makpid that only the shatz (baal keriah) should say this kaddish, and this הקפדה among some Chassidim continues to this day.
As stated earlier, in the area around ארץ ישראל this new Sepharadic practice took root, despite the fact that earlier Sepharadic authorities didn’t have it (see what R. Shem Tov Gaguine writes about it in Kesser Shem Tov here, that in London and Amsterdam that kaddish was said always by the שליח ציבור). And it spread to some Ashkenazic immigrants to Eretz Yisroel as well, as we have mentioned in the past, that some of them adopted certain Sepharadic practices. On the other hand, others, such as the family of Rav Chaim Brisker, held fast to the old Ashkenazic minhog that this kaddish belongs davka to the Shatz, cf מפניני הרב מד-מה
There seems to be a lot of confusion about this issue nowadays in some places, with practices shifting in some areas. If someone comes from ארץ ישראל, for example, especially if they are a ‘Yerushalmi’ (with the imaginary halo around them in some people’s minds😉, and they promote the practice, in some places that can suffice for people to allow their old, correct, ancient practice to be pushed aside in favor of this new, incorrect one. People assume, incorrectly, that if something comes from someone from Eretz Yisroel it is automatically correct and superior to what they have been doing previously. Also, there is a natural attraction to new practices, especially if they can be seen as clever innovations.
Why does this matter so much? Well, it is a case where an improper practice is being adopted, overthrowing over a millenia of precedent the other way, throwing out over a thousand years of mesorah. It is plain wrong. Additionally, it often leads to a degradation of the particular kaddish recitation, as the shatz ofttimes recites it in a superior manner than a typical aveil (e.g. slower, and with appropriate nusach chant, as opposed to an aveil, who may have fallen into a habit of ‘rattling off’ kaddeishim). And once the door is open to such changes, other questionable practices can soon follow, ח”ו.
As stated earlier, this incorrect innovation is unfortunately being promoted by the powerful Artscroll publishing house. Not just via the Mourning In Halachah book however. Also via instructions in their siddurim. I assume that they just ‘fell into it’, and it wasn’t some giant conspiracy😉, but nevertheless, it is a big problem, and publishers who have millions of siddurim in circulation have a great אחריות (responsibility) on their shoulders. Hopefully they will correct this in the future, even if they don’t order an immediate recall now. Another reason why we have to be wary of publishers becoming ‘poskim’.
Personally, I have trouble understanding people who grew up with בעל קריאה saying it, how can they, all of a sudden, go along with taking it away from him? Do they assume that the practice for all the years until this new innovation came along was wrong?
I suspect they may feel uneasy, but don’t know what to say or think. Hopefully this post will help them know what to do if such a case arises, to point out the problem, and insist on rejecting such a deviation from the holy מסורה of אשכנז (as well as from the old מנהג ספרד).
Finally, another thing I have trouble understanding about it, is that when I have seen this new practice, as far as I recall, only one person (e.g. aveil) said the kaddish, even if there were several people saying קדיש at other points where kaddish yasom is said, e.g. after עלינו. Now if these people claim that the kaddish after krias haTorah is a kaddish yasom, not the kaddish of the shliach tzibbur, so why is it only said by one of the kaddish sayers and not by all of them (although as we have discussed earlier, properly according to מנהג אשכנז only one person at a time says kaddish, in these places they follow the modern Sepharadic practice of ‘group kaddish’. So why not here too)? I suspect the answer may be because somehow, under the surface, it is known that this kaddish is really not just a regular קדיש יתום, that it is different. Anyone have another explanation?
May we be zoche, in the zechus of saying kaddish properly, that we should see the fulfillment of the words in it, בב”א.