Singular Kaddish = Incessant Bickering? Time For Another Look – האם המנהג הישן שרק אחד אומר קדיש מדי פעם הוא בהכרח גורם מחלוקת ומריבה? מבט שני

In previous posts (especially this one),  we have discussed the old minhog that only one person recites kaddish at a time, and how, in the modern era (circa the last two centuries), many congregations abandoned it, and adopted a different practice in which basically קדיש was ‘deregulated’, with preferences and limitations removed, under questionable circumstances. The posts engendered much attention and interest. This new, French revolution influenced, laissez-faire kaddish practice, was thought by some to be a panacea, offering great benefits, with little or no cost.

Time and experience, however, have shown us, that the new way was not an unalloyed boon, and has cost us dearly in terms of decline in quality of the kaddish experience. Essentially, we traded higher quality of kaddish recitation for higher quantity of same. Now that many decades and generations have passed, with the wisdom endowed by time and experience, it seems only logical and fair that we take a second look, and reassess the changes that were made. Were they really necessary? Should they be left in place? Or perhaps we should consider reverting, returning to the way of kaddish recitation of our ancestors, the singular kaddish.

QUESTIONABLE RATIONALE BEHIND THE CHANGE

One of the main justifications given for the abandonment of the old singular Ashkenazic kaddish minhog by those who did so was a claim that it caused many arguments and that allowing anyone to say kaddish would make them disappear. We know, of course, that גדול השלום, great is peace, the greatest כלי מחזיק ברכה (blessing containing vessel), as we are taught in the משנה.

This claim, however, I think needs to be carefully scrutinized. Is it necessarily, inherently so, that the old minhog causes מחלוקת? A re-examination of the matter is in order, I believe.

 TIME FOR A REALITY CHECK

There are various congregations that still, to this day, to one degree or another,continue to practice the old minhog. Some are of German-Jewish descent, who hold fast to minhag Ashkenaz. Others are very traditional Litvaks, for example followers of the Chazon Ish, the Telz Yeshiva, and ישיבת בית התלמוד in New York.  I am not aware of them being torn asunder with constant machlokes due to it. They have somehow managed to continue davening for decades without fisticuffs breaking out over kaddish every other day or week, as one might think would happen if you listened to the pessimists and the naysayers.

EXAGGERATED FEARS AND CHANGED TIMES

I think that a good case can be made that the claim that the singular kaddish caused a great deal of machlokes was exaggerated even centuries ago, when it was made, even if not entirely fabricated. I could understand that it may have been somewhat of a problem on occasion, especially among Jews with little Torah education, עמי הארץ, who thought that the קדיש was the do all and end all means of honoring and assisting their dearly departed ones. In those days there were many such Jews among the frum masses.

But even if it was a large problem then, however, nowadays, thank G-d, אכשר דרא, the situation has changed for the better in terms of Torah education. We now have so many more Yidden with advanced Torah educations under their belts. תלמידים and תלמידי חכמים that can understand, with proper education, that kaddish is not the end all and do all of Yiddishkeit and doing for niftarim (see the section entitled Kaddish Is Not The Only Thing One Can Do For A Niftar here). בשלמא in the past, when the masses were not so educated and might seriously fight over kaddish…….but nowadays? Nowadays, when people voluntarily seek out various חומרות and הידורים (stringencies and beautifications) for their עבודת ה (divine service)? Why not here too, in this case, return to the old, preferred way of doing things?

As an aside, when discussing this, a friend of mine, Reb A., wondered what statement is made about Rabbinic authority and discipline in a place where people would not be restrained from falling into serious feuding if they wouldn’t get the kaddish assignment they wished. Another friend, Rabbi S., commented that the (Sepharadic) group kaddish can also cause arguments

GIVING THE SINGULAR KADDISH A TRY

Of course I realize that it would not be a simple matter to bring the singular kaddish back in places where it has been lost. Many people now are ignorant of it, and many others are so used to the new way of most congregations in recent generations, that change would be difficult.

However, I think that there might be some מנינים, some congregations, perhaps newly starting out, perhaps of בני עליה, spiritual seekers, who would be open to considering adopting the singular kaddish practice as their standard. And who knows, perhaps if it worked well for them, others might follow as time goes along.

THE SOLUTION: EDUCATION, NOT ALTERATION

The singular kaddish is viable nowadays just as it has been for centuries. To stubbornly maintain a defeatist attitude that no one nowadays can handle it, and that by definition even fine Jews will descend into regular feuding due to it is wrong, and unduly pessimistic.

Just as other כיבודים (synagogal honors), such as aliyos to the Torah, which are given only to a select few, do not regularly set off rioting by those who weren’t chosen for them (at least not where I daven😉, so too those who don’t get exactly what they may wish in terms of kaddish recitation can control themselves and wait for a time when they will be chosen for such.

A strong, thorough, and comprehensive educational campaign should accompany the singular kaddish, to gain the understanding and cooperation of the ציבור involved. If people are properly educated and led, the singular kaddish can have a future and could even regain ground and market share it has lost in recent times, with the consent and desire of congregations.

In a future, companion post ,אי”ה, I hope to go more into detail re resources, educational and otherwise, supporting congregations who practice the singular kaddish. For now I will stop here and let you mull over the above.

A singular kaddish for a singular nation. Sounds like a good match to me.🙂

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8 Responses to “Singular Kaddish = Incessant Bickering? Time For Another Look – האם המנהג הישן שרק אחד אומר קדיש מדי פעם הוא בהכרח גורם מחלוקת ומריבה? מבט שני”

  1. PloniEY Says:

    One shul in my neighbourhood (in Eretz Yisroel) had this as one of its takanos since its founding.

    In practice, one of the biggest challenges faced in keeping to it was dealing with guests who weren’t aware of the minhag/takana, in time to make appropriate allocations of kaddish. In a case where some people are not saying kaddish because it is not their turn, but don’t really agree with the takana, and then someone else (in ignorance) says kaddish along with the one who is meant to say it alone, those who were silent get resentful. In light of this sort of thing the current Rav has relaxed the takana for Shabbos only. I think this is a shame but I can understand.

  2. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    Thanks for visiting and thanks for your comment.

    I am curious what kind of a Shul it is, if you wish to say. For example, is it a Yekkishe Shul, Chazon Ish Yeshivish type, other?

    Your point is well taken re difficulties when visitors are not familiar with the Shul policy. I think it is very important to make sure there is adequate signage at such a Shul.

    That is what I had in mind for a future companion post, אי”ה. To discuss and give illustrations of signs in use for such Shuls, as well as publications explaining their kaddish policy. I have a couple of examples to share, but would be interested in any others in use as well. Anyone who has such info is cordially invited to share it with the virtual tzibbur here.

  3. tziki kedera Says:

    How about a discussion about the קדיש after krias hatorah which has been usurped by all sorts of people that it doesn’t belong to?

  4. Richie St Says:

    Visitors coming to a shul, where only one person says Kaddish, makes for a challenging situation. It should be the role of the Gabbai to approach all visitors to explain this Minhag.

    However, this does not lend itself to being a very friendly way of introducing yourself to the visitors as in “Shalom Aleichem, are you an Aveil?”

    The fact that the Aveil goes to the front of the shul to say Kaddish, and according to Minhag Frankfurt donning a Tallis, even for Mincha and Maariv, helps to emphasise this Minhag to visitors.

  5. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    Thanks for your comment.

    Your points are well taken.

    I think that the main introduction of visitors to the fact that the minyan maintains the singular kaddish minhog should be via well placed and easy to read signs.

    Secondarily, a publication, such as the comprehensive booklet on kaddish that Khal Adas Yeshurun (“Breuer’s”) in NY has.

    After those, the gabbai(m), Rav, and mispallelim of the congregation, have an important role in introducing and maintaining the minhog, of course. But I think the first introduction to the minhog for strangers should be via printed matter.

  6. Tziki kedera Says:

    How about a post on the geshem -gashem controversy?

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Thanks for the suggestion.

      Due to limited time, energy, and knowledge, I try to give priority to original or not so well known material. In a case like geshem vs. gashem, where others have already dealt with it at length some time ago (though perhaps not so much in English), I tend to assume it is already sufficiently known, and can be explored elsewhere.

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