Archive for the ‘Ashkenaz Kaddish’ Category

The Yoshon Renaissance and Vintage Minhogim – החזרת עטרה ליושנה: אפשר או א”א? ישן ומנהגים ישנים

March 2, 2014

Can old minhogim realistically make a comeback?

There are some people, who, upon learning about vintage minhogim whose observance has been lost in some quarters, such as, let us take for example, the singular Ashkenazic kaddish, as well as others mentioned at the conclusion of the previous post, agree that ideally they should be reinstituted or reinvigorated. However, they feel that it can not be accomplished, it is too late, the cat is out of the bag, and so on. They have despaired of them coming back. They think that it is impractical to realistically think or dream such a thing, of such a restoration.

But is such a pessimistic attitude itself realistic/justifiable? Can we really ‘turn the clock back’? Has such a thing ever been done in recent times? The answer is a resounding yes!

The return of Yoshon observance

Leaving aside great modern Jewish examples along such lines of other types, such as those related to ארצנו הקדושה, Eretz Yisroel, let us just examine what has transpired in recent years with regard to the מצוה/practice of ישן/שמירת איסור חדש, in the diaspora, חוץ לארץ.

Consumption of grain products from plants grown after the beginning of Pesach, the time the korban omer was brought בזמן שביהמ”ק היה קיים, is proscribed by the Torah. In the past, in the exile, it was difficult to observe and there were heterim expounded to deal with the issue. Nowadays, in our modern era, ב”ה, it is much easier to observe, and a growing practice, especially among the more learned and pious, is to observe it without recourse to leniencies utilized in the past.

‘They said it couldn’t be done’, but now, the practice of Yoshon is solidly entrenched and frequently incorporated and respected by institutions, manufacturers, caterers, and individuals. I am not getting involved now in the details and different opinions/shitos about it, but rather am just observing how it is possible, and we have seen in our own time, something that was forgotten among the masses, making a remarkable comeback.

Analyzing the Yoshon return

How did it happen? אכשר דרא, a new generation, better educated in תורתנו הקדושה, ב”ה, better conditions of living, ב”ה, and so on. Education led to people here and there taking upon themselves the old-new altneu practice/הנהגה , and, after a while, things snowballed, and it became even better known, and headed into  ‘mainstream’ territory.

A return of Yoshon in the realm of minhogim

So why can’t a similar thing happen with important old practices of our ancestors, such as the Ashkenazic kaddish, the Ashkenazic way of reciting kedushah, LeDovid Boruch on מוצאי שבת, and so on, as well? Such things don’t happen overnight, of course, but to state with absolute certainty that the old ways are gone forever, seems much too pessimistic and misplaced.

Cycles, ebb and flow, in Jewish history

We are now at the beginning of a new chodesh, אדר שני. Rosh Chodesh is a time of renewal. The moon seemingly disappeared. Then there is an invisible rebirth, followed by a glimmer of light, a sliver of white, which proceeds to grow and increase. Just like the לבנה, practices that were neglected can become rediscovered, reestablished, and reinvigorated, like עם ישראל, the Jewish people, who are compared to the moon. Such things have happened many times in Jewish history.

In fact we see nowadays a great and growing interest in classic minhogim in general. There are more publications, seforim, articles, discussions about them, in places where you may not have expected such. In just the last year or so, I have noted in well-trafficked, highly popular fora, online, as well as in a well-known Chareidi newspaper, discussions about the old Ashkenaz way of saying kaddish, in which it was held up as a proper and superior practice, and serious grappling with the question of why it  is not universally followed today. I don’t recall such discussions at such a level growing up. This indicates a growing awareness and interest in such מנהגים ותיקים. And why should it be surprising? We are in a time when people are going back to practices of their ancestors in other areas, so why not here? It is a well-established general trend, going back to roots, חזרה אל השרשים. So why not in the area of minhogim as well? The groundwork, the foundation, has already been laid, conceptually, and in practice.

ב”ה, אכשר דרא באמת, תודה להשי”ת.

In the zechus of such renewal, may we be zoche to national renewal, בביאת משיח צדקנו, במהרה בימנו, אמן!

א גוטען חודש!

Gentrification and Retro-Ashkenaz: Back To The Future! ג’נטריפיקציה ורטרו-אשכנז: חזרה אל העתיד

February 13, 2014

In recent years, gentrification has become very popular , as well as one of  the ‘hottest’ trends in real estate, and living in general. In places around the world, old, run down areas and buildings, often in inner cities, have been rediscovered, renovated, improved, and resettled, in the process greatly increasing in valuation. People have gotten tired of continually moving further away from the city or city center, to more modern and newer developments. They have come to realize that older buildings and places can possess considerable charm and value, exceeding that of newer structures and locations at times. And that is even before factoring in the convenience of being closer to the center of things, rather than on the periphery.  In the wake of these trends, urban living has become popular again, and suburbs and exurbs have lost some of their shine.

People have come to realize that newer is not always better, and that the polish of old, solid quality can outshine more modern glitter, bringing about a sorely needed correction in perspective.

Spiritual Gentrification

In the spiritual realm as well, gentrification is something that deserves serious consideration. Instead of continually looking to newer ideas and customs, older and time tested practices of our ancestors and previous generations should be reexamined with a fresh eye, discarding preconceived notions that they are outdated, irrelevant, and inferior, to their newer competitors. Those who do so will often find themselves richly rewarded. It might take somewhat of a pioneering spirit to buck some current, modern trends at first, but, after a while, the vintage minhogim and teachings can become popular and mass movements, as they were in the past. We see stirrings of such trends developing now, with the growing interest in מנהגים ישנים מדורות קדמונים, as evinced in contemporary seforim, shiurim, and articles.

Practically Speaking

If a tzibbur is in need of some spiritual reinvigoration, they might consider incorporating some ‘spiritual gentrification’ into their lives. Trying some old minhogim of מסורת אשכנז, such as reciting kedushah in the derech of old Ashkenaz, saying kaddish the old Ashkenaz way,  singing לדוד ברוך on מוצאי שבת, and so on. The old minhogim may take some time to get used to for those new to them – like fine wine, they can be somewhat of an acquired/learned taste. But once you savor their special flavor, it can be addictive.

השיבנו ה’ אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו כקדם

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

December 19, 2011

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. 🙂

Will That Be Life Or Good Life? Understanding the Ashkenazic Kaddish – A Guide For The Perplexed חיים או חיים טובים? להבין נוסח הקדיש של האשכנזים

October 10, 2011
Why No Request For ‘Good Life’ in Our Kaddish?
Some aspects of the נוסח אשכנז kaddish seem to baffle certain people, especially outsiders who’s conception of קדיש is influenced by the נוסח ספרד version. Bewildered, they are at a loss to understand what seems to them the strange behavior of the Ashkenazic faithful, who still adhere to that ancient, holy rite, stubbornly refusing to change.
For example, they wonder why, toward the end of kaddish, their nusach is the ‘plain vanilla’ יהא שלמה רבה מן שמיא וחיים עלינו ועל כל ישראל, rather than the longer יהא שלמה רבה מן שמיא וחיים טובים עלינו ועל כל ישראל.

What is wrong with you guys, they think (though not usually voicing such thoughts aloud in polite company)? No request for חיים טובים from הקב”ה? Why not? Don’t you want a good life? Doesn’t everyone?

Understanding And Maintaining The Special Nature Of Kaddish

Actually, however, the Ashkenazic קדיש, in addition to preserving ancient nusach, also preserves the ancient view of kaddish associated with it, in a more pure manner. Here’s how.

Let us first remember what the idea of kaddish is and what kind of prayer it is. Is it like the שמונה עשרה, where we ask הקב”ה for personal needs (in designated parts of the tefilloh)? Or is it like other types of davening, such as praise, thanksgiving, exalting Hashem…. where personal petitionary prayer is not allowed?

The answer is that it is a prayer focused on the greatness of Hashem, praising the great name of הקב”ה. It is not a prayer to ask for needs such as פרנסה, רפואה, וכו. There are other places in davening designated for such requests.

So therefore, we can say that in the Ashkenazic view, the place to ask for chaim tovim, ‘a good life’, is דווקא, specifically, not in the kaddish, and therefore it is excluded. On the other hand, basic life is needed in order to praise הקב”ה, as it is stated, לא המתים יהללו קה, so that is acceptable there.

(As an aside, there are also issues regarding word and letter counts in our prayers being symbolic and corresponding to various things, as we have mentioned in the past, that need to be considered when contemplating our holy traditions.)

The special nature of kaddish is also reflected in its name and its designation as a דבר שבקדושה. Kaddish is not, to use the לשון of the Zohar, a prayer of הב הב, of personal requests, for a so to speak shopping list to ask of Hashem.

If people start adding requests to the kaddish, they can end up where the Sepharadic kaddish is, where the text for that segment reads יהא שלמא רבה מן שמיא, חיים, ושבע, וישועה, ונחמה,ושיזבא, ורפואה, וגאולה, וסליחה, וכפרה, ורוח, והצלה, לנו ולכל עמו ישראל, ואמרו אמן, twenty two words, as opposed to the twelve in nusach Ashkenaz, almost double the length!

Further Insight From Our ימים נוראים Tefillos
רבש”ה called to my attention (and generously shared with me some of his many resources on the inyan, from which I cite below) that additional insight on this matter, re chaim vs. chaim tovim, can be garnered from discussions surrounding some special additions to our tefilloh that we recite during the high holiday season, at the beginning of each year.

There are special insertions in the שמונה עשרה then, from the time of the גאונים. Let us focus on the first one, זכרנו לחיים מלך חפץ בחיים וכתבנו בספר החיים למענך אלקים חיים. We ask that הקב”ה remember us for life. Not good life. Just plain life. Even ardent nusach Sfard advocates here just request חיים, and not חיים טובים.

Various explanations are given for this.

The ערוגת הבשם explains that it is understood that we want חיים טובים when we make such a בקשה. That is the default, ideal form of chaim.

רבינו תם explains that הקב”ה gives then בעין יפה. We need only ask for plain חיים.

In the view of the mussar master R. Isaac Sher of Slabodka, we are asking for life סתם. Life in general. There are many types of life, with a great variety of conditions and challenges. Life is precious. Even if it is not what people may think of as ‘good life’. All types of life give us opportunities to serve Hashem and live fulfillingly. Life with significant challenges, that wouldn’t be generally viewed by the masses as ‘good life’, can also be very meaningful. It is not our place to demand from הקב”ה that we have only a certain type of ‘good life’.

May we be zoche to great and meaningful and holy life. שנת חיים ושלום to this virtual Ashkenazic community.

A גוט יום טוב, מועדים לשמחה, און א גוט יאהר!

Up For Grabs? The Contemporary Confusion About Kaddish After Krias Hatorah (Leining) – קדיש לאחר קריאת התורה – למי שייך? האם כל דאלים גבר

July 3, 2011

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.

Chasam Sofer Responds to Rav Yaakov Emden, Defends the Singular Ashkenazic Kaddish – החתם סופר מבאר ומצדיק מנהג אשכנז שרק אחד אומר קדיש

May 10, 2011

Looking at הישיבה הרמה בפיורדא, חלק ב, I discovered a mass of additional information related to The Development of קדיש יתום – part II Recent Developments, which was not covered in the shiur that Rav Hamburger gave. Of course, it was a relatively short shiur, so not everything could be covered in it, but ב”ה he incorporated more on the subject in the sefer.

One particularly interesting thing I found there was a citation of what the חתם סופר wrote in a teshuvoh, defending the old minhog Ashkenaz that only one person says kaddish at a time, and taking issue with the words of רב יעקב עמדין about it.

The analysis of the Chasam Sofer, contrasting the Ashkenazic singular kaddish minhog with the group kaddish practice, is quite enlightening.

He says as follows (last thirty-five lines in right column, starting with words עוד אני מדבר בכיוצא, my understanding and synopsis) –

That which Rav Yaakov Emden wrote re kaddish, that the minhag of the Sepharadim that everyone says kaddish together is easier, and many, e.g. a group, who do a mitzvoh, are better than individuals who do so….

CAN WE BLITHELY ASSUME THAT THE גדולי אשכנז CLUNG TO AN INFERIOR PRACTICE WITHOUT JUSTIFICATION?

So it is a wonder, astounding, that our ancestors, the great Torah scholars of Ashkenaz, to whom the Torah was an inheritance, as is stated in the responsum of Rabbeinu Asher, the רא”ש (which is brought by the great Sepharadic Rav, the Beis Yosef, in his commentary on Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah as well), didn’t follow such a practice. Can we merely lightly assume that they had an inferior and defective stance in this matter? And furthermore, how can we understand the סדר קדימה, the minhog that an aveil in shiva has precedence over one in shloshim, who has precedence over a בעל יאהרצייט, who has precedence over a an aveil in יב חודש? After all, if there are partners who find profitable merchandise, can one of them say, I need it more, give it all to me, and the others have no share in it? No, the partners divide it. So too, with kaddish, if several people need to say kaddish, they should share it and say it all together, rather than having just one say it.

So the חתם סופר explains that the main benefit to the נפטר (deceased) that comes from saying kaddish is not from the mere recitation of it, but  rather from the many responses of amein, and especially אמן יהא שמיה רבה, that it elicits from the ציבור (congregation). Since those come about via the aveil, the benefit accrues to the niftar.

(We could view this as a multiplier effect. If one person saying kaddish causes a tzibbur of fifty people, for example, to answer four ameins, one אמן יהא שמיה רבה, and one בריך-הוא, he has done so much more than just say kaddish with six responses of אמן, איש”ר, ובריך הוא. He has brought about three hundred such responses)

Therefore, explains the Chasam Sofer, it comes out that our minhog, the מנהג אשכנז that only one person says kaddish at a time, is beautiful and most potent. Because in the case where many say the kaddish at the same time, nevertheless, the bringing about of the responses of amein comes about through just one of them, and the others are just in the category of מסייע, those who extend a hand, which act is considered by halocho, as אין בו ממש, lacking in substance compared to one who is the clear cause of an action….

ANOTHER ANGLE AS TO WHY RECITING KADDISH AT A KEVER WITHOUT A MINYAN IS WRONG

P.S. It occurred to me that this important הסבר of the Chasam Sofer (actually, if you think about it, it is פשוט that the answering of the ציבור is the עיקר, rather than just the plain recital of kaddish, as when the gemara mentions אמן יהא שמיה רבה, and speaks so highly of it, it mentions and focuses on the responding of it by the ציבור, not the recitation of it by the individual. However, sometimes we lose sight of things and we need a gadol like the חת”ס to set us straight) is perhaps especially important in our day, to combat another distortion that has arisen.

Some people have adopted a practice of saying kaddish at a קבר (grave) without a minyan, at times alone, e.g. when visiting a קבר on a יאהרצייט (yohrzeit) or some other time. I assume it is found more among non-Orthodox, but I suspect that even some Orthodox (albeit unlearned ones presumably) may do so at times. They may be doing this because the stress among many has been the saying of kaddish, without realizing that it is the answering of kaddish by the many members of a ציבור – congregation is what gives kaddish it’s great power (of course, kaddish is a דבר שבקדושה, which requires a minyan, but I am thinking that the above explanation gives an additional angle to explain why such a practice is misguided).