Posts Tagged ‘Minhog Ashkenaz’

New Issue of Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz Annual, Yerushoseinu 5772, Released – ירושתנו התשע”ב, ספר שנה של מכון מורשת אשכנז, יצא לאור

June 8, 2012

A new issue of the מכון מורשת אשכנז annual, ירושתנו, has recently been published.

As usual, it contains many interesting pieces, from a wide range of contributors. The English section contains an excellent, extensive (over seventy pages) article on  מורנו הרב לוי יוסף ברייער זצ”ל, Rabbi Dr. Joseph Breuer z”l, of Frankfurt and ק”ק קהל עדת ישורון, KAJ, of Washington Heights, by Rabbi Yaakov Lorch. The article is of great interest not only re the immediate subject, but also re his renowned ancestors, family members, kehilloh, etc. It is over seventy pages, and includes relevant photos, which most readers likely have not seen before.

All in all, highly recommended reading.

More info on this new Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz gem can be seen here. Many pages, from both the Hebrew and English sections, including the table of contents, are online for your sampling pleasure, and can be seen there as well.

יישר כחכם to all who labored to make the new work available.

א גוטען שבת


More Reasons To Reject The New Lag Baomer Practices – The Hidden Dangers Of New Customs

May 4, 2012

With less than a week to go, and the hype in the air, it is time to review the topic of Lag Baomer and build on last year’s post about it (

Earlier this week I saw a post from ארץ ישראל , which brought out, in a very clear way, very serious dangers, I mean סכנות, of the day in the way many people mark it at present (HT Rafi). These are very serious dangers, both in גשמיות and רוחניות, lurking then. Which have claimed victims, let us not delude ourselves. We know that חמירא סכנתא מאיסורא. That alone should cause people to reconsider what they do on that day, even if the post last year didn’t do the job. I think everyone should take a look at the post.

And there are even more dangers which that article didn’t get to, such as various dangers in the very crowded atmosphere in Meron, from pushing, to heat exhaustion, to פריצות, to issues for Kohanim, and further.

The Lag Baomer hypers are fond of repeating mantras like כדאי הוא רבי שמעון לסמוך עליו בשעת הדחק (R. Shimon is worthy of relying upon in time of duress) and (in Yiddish) רבי שמעון בלייבט נישט שולדיג ביי קיינעם (R. Shimon doesn’t remain owing anyone anything – meaning that he pays up). But however accurate they may or may not be, such sloganeering does not override basic Torah teachings such as אין סומכין על הנס and במקום דשכיח הזיקא שאני

 Update: More calls have come out echoing words above, e.g. from a leading Yemenite Rav in Eretz Yisroel, and others. Also, see this warning from authorities there.

Chassidim Who Stay Away From Meron on Lag Baomer

Another important point to note is that there are many frum groups that are not into going to Meron on ל”ג. In last year’s post we discussed the practice of Rav Elyashiv שליט”א, of never going to Meron. But some people might say what do you expect from a Litvak, after all? So for them I want to point out that certain very major Chassidishe Rebbes and their followers are conspicuous by their lack of participation in the event as well. For example, the largest Chassidic court in Eretz Yisroel is reportedly that of  חסידי גור, aka Gerrer Chassidim. Has anyone seen the Gerrer Rebbe and great masses of Gerrer Chassidim there in Meron on Lag Baomer? I guess there may be some, here and there, but proportionate to their numbers? I don’t think so. Correct me if I am wrong. And other very important Chassidic groups, such as Satmar, also have reservations about it, and are not seen there as they are at other events. So the point is that the matter is not simple at all, even for those who are not usually identified by the masses as being part of the מנהג אשכנז community, even for staunch Chassidim.

Update: It is being reported that the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Bnei Brak ordered his younger followers to stay away from Meron on Lag Baomer, without exception. Vizhnitz is one of the largest Chassidic groups in Eretz Yisroel. Sign can be seen here.

Chassidim Without Bonfires 

It seems that in the past, the lighting of bonfires was limited among Chassidim as well, especially in the diaspora (outside Eretz Yisroel). For example, it is reported that the old Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, did not have a ‘hadlokoh’ in the USA. The practice was only established by his successor, Rav Moshe Teitelbaum, the Beirach Moshe. The Stoliner Chassidim were reported to be pioneers in having a public bonfire at their center in Boro Park, in Brooklyn, which seems to be only in recent decades, if that far back. So it is seems that for many years, many Chassidim managed on Lag Baomer in the disapora without הדלקות

Update: I have been informed that at the court of the Gerrer Rebbe there is no הדלקה  (bonfire) at all. Despite the fact that it is located in Eretz Yisroel. That is quite significant, since Ger is reportedly the largest Chassidic group in ארצנו הקדושה, as well as being one of the largest and most influential in the world. Presumably the Rebbe is continuing in the footsteps of his predecessors in this regard.

Evolution and Spread of Various Lag Baomer Practices

From what I have seen, it seems that the bonfire lighting may have first been in Meron, the area of מערת רשב”י, over time spreading to other areas in Eretz Yisroel. And only later, gradually, and partially, to some places in the diaspora. I am thinking here of practices among groups who generally were inclined to adopt Sephardic practices, such as various Chassidic groups. Nevertheless, it seems that there was and is variation among them, and they did not all rush immediately to copy every Sephardic practice of the day. If a Chassidic group did not have a certain practice in its earlier days, under revered earlier Rebbes in the diaspora, it could be difficult for them to suddenly change, and make a giant bonfire lighting for example, when that was not their minhag previously, if they stress the principle of not deviating from old practices.

Not Wise to Leap On To A Mirage of a Moving Bandwagon That is Actually Not of Sturdy Construction

The above gives more than enough reason for any Ashkenazic Jew to rethink the practices under discussion, even if they have already engaged in them. But surely those that haven’t yet been swept up in the frenzy, including many in חוץ לארץ, should now feel more secure in standing firm against the innovations. If people in Eretz Yisroel are speaking out about the great problems associated with such practices, why would anyone of sound mind want to import them to chutz lo’aretz? Attempts to do so should be firmly rejected and resisted. Yeshivas should not innovate such new practices, as unfortunately some have done in recent years. It sends a wrong message about following our holy מסורה, which is in opposition to what a ישיבה should stand for. If talmidim need to have some recreation, they can go to a park, and engage in traditional innocuous pastimes there.

Broader Lessons Beyond This Specific Case 

And this lesson from Lag Baomer practices, about the dangers of new customs not in the path of the observances of אבותינו הקדושים, our holy ancestors, is a general lesson to keep in mind, not just for this particular case. לא ללמד על עצמו יצא, אלא ללמד על הכלל כלו יצא.

Those who want to mark the day in a special way can emulate מרן רב אלישיב שליט”א and have special סדרים in לימוד תורתנו הקדושה.

In the zechus of proper observance of ל”ג בעומר, may we be zoche to בשורות טובות ישועות ונחמות, במהרה בימינו, אמן!

The Case Of The Missing Tallis – Informality vs. Kavod Hatzibbur & Kavod HaTorah – הטלית האבוד : לבישת טלית לכבוד הציבור ולכבוד התורה בין האשכנזים

November 3, 2011

Ashkenazic tradition is to wear a טלית (gadol) in Shul even at times when such is not  generally worn by the congregation at large, for example at a weekday mincha davening, when one is carrying out certain tasks, e.g. acting as the שליח ציבור, or חזן, leading the prayers and representing the congregation. The same goes for when leading the evening tefilloh commonly referred to as ‘maariv’, when getting an aliyah or leining at תפלת מנחה of שבת, and other occasions.

This practice is faithfully followed to the present day in (German) Ashkenazic congregations, as well as elsewhere, for example Lithuanian type Yeshivos, and such type ‘Yeshivishe minyonim’.

In other places, e.g. many Eastern European Ashkenazic Shuls, there has been an erosion in this aspect of the Ashkenazic tradition, due to, it seems, Chassidic influence, as well as perhaps modern trends toward informality. In such places, one can see people going to the amud to lead the services at maariv, and sometimes even at mincha, without a tallis gadol. And also leining and going up for aliyos at mincha of Shabbos similarly.

Some people believe that they may not wear a tallis when standing before the amud at maariv it seems, with the reasoning being that לילה לאו זמן ציצית, evening is not the Biblically ordained time for tzitzis. But what they don’t realize is that a טלית is worn then according to minhag Ashkenaz, not for the mitzvoh of tzitzis, but rather, since it is the uniform of a shliach tzibbur, for the honor of the congregation. As an aside, I strongly suspect that those same people, while they are davening maariv, are wearing their טלית קטן, under their shirt, despite it being evening. That seems somewhat inconsistent.

What is even harder to understand is why such people don’t wear a tallis gadol when acting as shliach tzibbur for mincha, before nightfall, especially when they are davening some time before evening, e.g. if they are davening mincha, מנחה גדולה, during lunch break in an office building not long after chatzos hayom (midday). It is then broad daylight and far from night.

Wearing a tallis gadol during such occasions is an ancient and holy minhog, which brings a nice measure of majesty and respect to the divine services.

As the fine English Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz synopsis (translated by R. David Silverberg)  that came out around last Chanukah puts it, wearing a tallis at such times “serves as an expression of dignity and respect. In addition to its being the official garb of the chazzan……(it) also shows esteem for the Shekhina (Divine presence) and elicits a sense of reverence and awe.” The synopsis chapter concludes that people should then wear a tallis as an expression of respect for the congregation and הקדוש ברוך הוא.

Nowadays, thoughtful people are looking for ways to make תפילה more meaningful and less of a mechanical, rote practice. Here we have an ancient practice that can (ideally) significantly contribute to the above, which does not cost money – לית ביה חסרון כיס – as people already have talleisim. I humbly propose that this be considered in such a vein alongside other worthy measures. Hopefully, even if people have neglected it in the past, they will consider returning to it, as it is spiritually helpful and desirable, sends a  loud (though silent) message that there is something special going on where and when  it is practiced, is ancient מנהג, and is backed by great authority.

In the zechus of our actions to increase kavod hatzibbur, kavod hatefilloh, and kavod haTorah, may we be zoche that our תורה and תפלה become more meaningful, relevant, and powerful, and are נתקבל ברצון למעלה.

Sources – מקורות

In order to give more background to the above, here are some sources for the ancient minhog that every שליח ציבור wears a tallis gadol, not only in the morning (from the comprehensive twenty nine page chapter entitled טלית משום כבוד הציבור in שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק א).

Basis – the minhog is derived from the gemara, תלמוד בבלי מסכת ראש השנה דף יז, עמוד ב, where it is stated מלמד שנתעטף הקב”ה כשליח ציבור. That tells us clearly that a typical shliach tzibbur is נתעטף. No distinction is made there between שחרית, מנחה, and ערבית.

R. Avrohom Gombiner, the מגן אברהם, in שו”ע או”ח, סימן ח’, סעיף קטן ב, states “דכל עובר לפני התיבה צריך להתעטף כדאמרי’ מלמד שנתעטף הקב”ה כש”ץ“.

The ט”ז, R. Dovid HaLevi Segal, in או”ח סימן תקפ”א, סעיף קטן ב, in a discussion re a shliach tzibbur wearing a tallis at night, writes ” דודאי בלא עטיפה כלל א”א משום כבוד השכינה“.

R. Yechiel Michel Epstein, the ערוך השלחן, in אורח חיים, סימן י”ח, סעיף ז, writes, referring to the gemara cited above, דכל ש”ץ העובר לפני התיבה צריך להתעטף בציצית.

R. Yisroel Meir HaCohen of Radin, the חפץ חיים, in his Mishnah Berurah, in או”ח סימן י”ח, סעיף קטן ה, writes “ וכל העובר לפני התיבה צריך להתעטף“.

The Mysterious, Elusive, Elongated, Melodious Borechu – On The Trail Of A Lost Ancient Tradition – הברכו הארוך – חיפוש מנהג אבוד

September 19, 2011


Our תפלה בציבור is comprised of various components. One very important part is the recitation of things classified as דברים שבקדושה, which we are taught require a מנין (quorum) to be said. In this category are ברכו, קדיש, וקדושה. In this series of posts, we share some ideas to strengthen and make more meaningful these parts of davening, בעזרת השי”ת, based on the ancient holy wisdom and practices of our ancestors.

PART ONE – ברכו את ה’ המבורך

To start, let us turn our attention to ברכו.


ברכו את ה’ המבורך –  just four words – and another five, adding up to nine, if you count the response of ברוך ה’ המברך לעולם ועד. Yet these words pack a lot of power into them, and therefore have a special status in הלכה.

Perhaps because this utterance, the call to bless הקדוש ברוך הוא, at the beginning of davening/a section of davening/reading the Torah, is so short, and can be mistreated by running through it so fast that it is barely noticed (as we unfortunately see happening at times), with people not given sufficient time to focus on it, and not given the attention it deserves, there is an ancient מנהג to elongate the ברכו and extend its recitation.


However, nowadays, this minhog has been lost for the most part, in most places, outside of the precincts where מנהג אשכנז is practiced. Though interestingly, it is not only a minhag Ashkenaz, it has a place among (at least some) Sepharadim as well (כמבואר בספר כתר שם טוב). Despite it being featured in ‘mainstream’ halachic literature studied far and wide, where it talks of being מאריך בברכו, to have a special extended ברכו chanted by the חזן, especially at certain times, מוצאי שבת being a prominent example, nevertheless, surprisingly, for most people this minhog nowadays is such an enigma, such a mystery, to the extent that people can even be baffled by references to it.


ראש השנה and the ימים נוראים are approaching, where, for most of us, the last remnants of this old minhog resides. One of the most distinctive and beloved features of that time of the year is the special, elongated Borechu, with a special melody, that is used on those evenings. That beloved High Holiday Borechu is part of this general minhog.


There is a very comprehensive discussion of this inyan in שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק א, p.195-213, and I have been informed by רבש”ה that there will be important additions on the subject in the iy”H forthcoming new edition of the long out of print volume (anyone who would like to have the zechus of lending a hand to this important work, feel free to step up…). Those who want more info on it are directed there.


Perhaps it is time to consider bringing it back in places where it has been lost, beyond the ימים נוראים. Or are people nowadays too busy to spare the extra few seconds? 😉


While you contemplate that suggestion, you can listen to a few clips of special, elongated Borechus from various special times, as chanted by the חזן of קהל עדת ישורון in ירושלים עיה”ק, ר’ מיכאל פרידמאן שליט”א, to get an idea what they can sound like, and to see how they enhance the ברכו experience.


ברכו for a ‘regular’ Friday night.

ברכו on Friday night for a שבת where two ספרי תורה are read from in the morning.

ברכו for a regular motzaei Shabbos (this clip contains an extended והוא רחום as well)

In the zechus of being מאריך in ברכו, we should be zoche that the אריכות of our גלות comes to an end soon, אמן, כן יהי רצון לפני השי”ת.

P.S. I realize that I neglected to mention a related and associated minhog to this one, namely, the saying of יתברך וישתבח… while the חזן is being מאריך in ברכו. That is also discussed extensively and comprehensively in the aforementioned section of שרשי מנהג אשכנז. It is interesting that it is still printed in siddurim today alongside ברכו despite the fact that almost nobody seems to say it, at least in most Shuls! There are grounds for the extended, elongated ברכו even without the ציבור saying it concurrently, but it definitely is related and relevant to this discussion.

Reverting vs. Converting – The Halachic Basis For Returning To Lost Minhogim – להחזיר עטרה ליושנה בעניני מנהגים – הבסיס ההלכתי

September 13, 2011

If one has, for one reason or another, lost touch with his מנהג, his ancestral, family custom, and grew up with a different one for an extended period, but later becomes more aware and wants to return to the former, may he do so? After all, we prize tradition, מסורה, so much, and typically gaze with suspicion at changes.

Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l, מחבר of אגרות משה and world renowned poseik, addresses a variation of this question in a famous teshuvoh, in Igros Moshe on אורח חיים, ב:כד.

The question posed to him was if an Ashkenazic Jew, who came from a ‘nusach Sfard’ family, but grew up davening nusach Ashkenaz, was allowed to do so. After all, we are taught אל תטוש תורת אמך – not to forsake our traditional minhogim. So could such a change be countenanced?

Rav Moshe responded that he was allowed to adopt נוסח אשכנז, since, as an Ashkenazic Jew, by doing so he was really going back to his old mesorah, as the practice of some Ashkenazic Jews to daven ‘nusach Sfard’, was only a recent change innovated by the Chassidic movement (without a clear halachic basis that Rav Moshe was aware of), which was a departure from Ashkenazic tradition. So if this man wanted to go back to his pre-Chassidic familial tradition of davening nusach Ashkenaz, it wasn’t a deviation, but rather a return to his roots and authentic ancestral custom (minhog). He was not converting to a different, foreign minhog – rather he was reverting, going back to his old, family custom.

It seems, נראה לעניות דעתי, that this תשובה has broader implications than just the narrow case of nusach hatefilloh addressed. לכאורה the same principle should apply in general to cases of going back back to minhogim that were somehow lost over time, particularly, if an acceptable basis for departures from them is unclear, as in this case.

So, for example, let’s say a congregation wants to go back to the old minhog that only one person says kaddish at a time? Seems to be countenanced, based on this teshuvoh. If it wants to go back to singing LeDovid Boruch on Motzaei Shabbos? Ditto. To having the chazan say a special, long, melodious ברכו at certain special times? Ditto.

This lays the ground for some ideas I wish to write about, בעזרת השי”ת, and hope to post on soon.

P.S. Thanks to my friends and readers for granting me such a generous summer vacation ;-). One needs time to learn and think and reflect, to have, בעזרת השי”ת, worthwhile things to write about. Now that אלול has arrived and the new year is approaching, it is time to get back to work here.

It was and is encouraging to me to see the statistics of the many visits to this site, even during the summer vacation period, when there were no new posts for a long time. It shows that there is a great thirst and demand for ‘דבר ה in the areas of מנהג and מסורה discussed here. Thanks for your support, and may we continue to progress together.

Consumer Alert: Minhog Scammery On The Rise! Mislabeled, Cheap Middle Eastern Imports Flooding In, Threatening To Overwhelm Natives!

June 15, 2011

One of the more difficult challenges we face in keeping the holy minhogim of our Ashkenazic ancestors is posed by present day unrestricted imports from Eretz Yisroel, of Sepharadic minhagim posing as Ashkenazic ones.

With so much travel these days between Eretz Yisroel and the diaspora lands, instant worldwide communication, so many youngsters as well as more mature students studying in the Holy Land, and massive amounts of Judaica produced in and exported from there, we are faced with a virtual invasion of foreign customs.

As we have touched on in the past, many Ashkenazic Jews in ארצנו הקדושה, whether due to past compulsion or present proximity, practice some questionable Sepharadic minhagim (actually they may not be really Sepharadic, but for descriptive ease, I am referring to them that way now), that are not in accordance with their heritage.

When people are aware that practices are not from or in accordance with the holy מסורה of אשכנז, they can more easily be on guard against their infiltration. But when they are depicted as Ashkenazic, and even more so, from the holy Ashkenazim of  ארץ ישראל, the people that some think have a constant virtual halo around them, especially if they are of the ירושלמי variety, people can let their guard down and think that they are 100% acceptable for Ashkenazic Jews. But it ain’t so. The minhogim of the אשכנזים in חו”ל (the diaspora) are actually often more authentic and accurate than those of their cousins in Eretz Yisroel.

So first and foremost, people have to be alerted about this dangerous phenomenon. And then hopefully they will take steps to counter this dangerous fad, and reject the foreign adulterated customs, בעזרת השי”ת.

I will list here a few examples of such dangerous foreign imports, the mislabeled practices that need to be exposed for what they are, Sepharadic minhagim posing as Ashkenazic minhogim. Some of them have been written about previously, while others will perhaps אי”ה will be the subjects of future posts.

1) Chalaka (a word of Arabic origin), also known as Upsherin in Yiddish.

2) Bonfires and other questionable Lag Baomer activities. I wonder if there is a relationship between the widespread Lag Baomer bonfires in Eretz Yisroel and the new problem of an outbreak of Charedi juvenile pyromania there. השם ירחם.

3) Expanded version of the last part of Rosh Chodesh Bentching, starting with יחדשהו, as we have touched on in an earlier post. סידורים from ארץ ישראל can be vehicles for spreading such foreign nuschaos. Hey, the בני ארץ ישראל need to make a פרנסה, I know they sell siddurim overseas, but if they want to sell them to us, they can make them according to our מנהג.

4) Kaddish after Krias HaTorah being given to any aveil, rather than being said by the בעל קריאה, as per the classical minhog.

5) Cheap Judaica trinkets, e.g. Sepharadic/Oriental Shivisis and Hamsas. The former are sometimes purchased by well meaning people and given to Shuls, where sometimes unwittingly they are accepted and hung, usually at the amud, despite being against Ashkenazic practice. The latter may be hung or worn by individuals.

6) Finger pointing (pinky or other) at the sefer Torah during hagbah. The minhag Ashkenaz is to bow toward the sefer Torah then, an earlier recorded minhog mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, a gesture of reverence and respect toward the holy Torah. But now one sees quite a few people in some places doing the easier finger pointing which lacks the type of giving of kavod to the Torah that bowing shows.

7) Hallel in Shul on Pesach night. Minhag Ashkenaz is only to say it at the seder later.

People have to be aware of this serious problem, take a stand, and refuse to go along with the adulteration of our holy Ashkenazic heritage, which happens when people accept such customs. And then אי”ה we will be hopefully be able to get the אשכנזים of ארץ ישראל to go back to their old minhogim, ולשלוח המנהגים הנכריות , and return to the ways of their ancestors before they came under foreign influences.

יה”ר שנזכה לכך בב”א, ובזכות השבת מנהגי האבות החביבים והקדושים אל הבנים נזכה ל”והשיב לב אבות על בנים ולב בנים על אבותם” בקרוב, אכי”ר

‘Sephardic Yekkes’ – Western Sepharadim And Some Of Their Yekke minhogim – מנהגי אשכנז אצל הספרדים של מערב אירופה, וצפון ודרום אמריקה

May 22, 2011

A great sefer for research on minhogim, among other things, is the sefer כתר שם טוב, penned by the Chacham R. Shem Tov Gaguine, a great Sepharadic talmid chochom, who was a Rav in England, among other places. Some of the volumes are available via the great website.

I have recently become more acquainted with it, and have found some very interesting things there.

I have seen a number of cases, where, surprisingly, the minhogim of Spanish and Portugese Sepharadic communities discussed there are the same as those of Yekkes. The Western European Sepharadim are a community parallel to the Yekkes among Ashkenazim in a way and to a degree, in that they preserved certain old Spanish minhogim like the Yekkes have preserved old Ashkenaz ones. So that points to old traditions of ספרד and אשכנז  being in accordance with regard to those matters.

I assume that as time goes on I may אי”ה find even more such correspondences, but for now I will share a few such cases.

1) בריך שמיה is not said when the ספר תורה is taken out.

2) The section starting  רבונו של עולם הריני מוחל is not recited in the beginning of קריאת שמע על המטה (see footnote toward bottom of page).

3) Upsherin custom not known to them.

4) Tefillas Rav is not said in Rosh Chodesh bentching (footnotes).

5) It states that the old minhog in London was that on Shabbos it was announced who would say kaddish in the coming week (footnotes near bottom of page) (as only one person said kaddish at a time, as in מנהג אשכנז, as we have been discussing recently. So we see that Sepharadim practiced the singular kaddish in the old days as well).

This has bearing also with regard to early American Sepharadim and their congregations, such as the Spanish and Portugese Synagogue in NY, where some, if not all of the minhagim of the Western European Sepharadim are followed as well.

So we see that despite what people may think, Sepharadic and Ashkenazic practices are not always so different, and there can be surprising and significant convergences. After all, we are brothers, of course.

(There are other minhogim which a broader range of Sepharadim and Yekkes share as well, which רבש”ה spoke about in shiurim last time he was in the USA, which we may discuss in the future, אי”ה).

The Development of קדיש יתום – part II Recent Developments

April 15, 2011

(Continued from here)


Now, I’ll  prove to you that the conception of group kaddish did not (historically) exist in Europe, not even Eastern Europe, even in Chassidishe circles.

If you open any שלחן ערוך, with the רמ”א, מגן אברהם…., or if you open poskim, like the אור החיים, כנסת יחזקאל……and many others, you will find something called סדר קדימה. It delineates in great detail who has the right to say kaddish. If you have several people in Shul to say kaddish, it lays out what is the order, who has priority. We know that a בן שבעה (someone within the shiva) has priority over a בן שלושים,  (someone within shloshim) בן שלושים over בן יב’ חודש (someone within the twelve months of aveilus after a petirah), and a יארצייט (yohrzeit – someone marking the anniversary of a passing) priority over all of them. All these priorities. All the discussions among poskim (decisors) about who has priority. Someone may even have to wait a day, week, or month to say kaddish. Why? If there is a group kaddish, there is no need for all these priorities, because everybody could say kaddish, its open to everybody.

I remember once I came to Manhattan, a tourist from Israel. I had to daven מנחה. We went into a modern synagogue. I’m not used to this, I’m living in ארץ ישראל. People came in without כיפות – an ordinary mincha. It was very heartwarming for me to see so many people at a regular weekday mincha. They all stood around. Then, at the end of the תפלה, the penny dropped. I realized what was going on. Everyone said kaddish. I was the only one to answer this kaddish. Women said it too – everyone, except me and my wife. This is something that did not exist in the past.


As I mentioned already, Sepharadim accepted group kaddish first. Then Chassidim, who adopted nusach Sephard, and certain things from Sepharadim, were the second ones to accept it. And yet, even in the Chassidishe world, we find voices that were not happy about it. The sharpest is the Komarna rebbe. In his sefer, שלחן הטהור (תל אביב, תשל”ג, סימן קלב, הלכה ד, p.194), he says that if two people say kaddish together, הוא פגם וחטא גדול – it is a big sin. Not only does he not do a favor to the נפטר, not help him, but it could be that it even harms him, getting him down to a lower stage in גיהנום, חס ושלום, or in גן עדן. He says that it comes from ספרדים, is not really part of our heritage, and we should reject it. But you find that hardly anyone in Chassidic world obeys this.


But how did it come to the non-Chassidic world, which follows the משנה ברורה and does go by the rules of the פוסקים?

So we have a number of historical factors, from the beginning of the nineteenth century C.E. One was Napoleon Bonaparte. To some extent he is responsible for such a turn in our history, our religious history.

Now that’s puzzling! What does Napoleon have to do with our קדישים?

Well, Napoleon was a big conqueror, he conquered almost every part of Europe and he established new states, one of which was the Kingdom of Westphalia. He let his brother, Jerome-Napoleon, rule it. He had the new ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity (equality, freedom, brotherhood), and wanted to make the Jews equal to everybody else, and make their religion equal as well. So he established the Consistoire, which meddled in the religious lives of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. He opened churches for all three. The Consistoire, ruling Jewish life, instituted reforms, appointing reform motivated individuals to introduce all types of reforms, (relatively) mild reforms, in Jewish life. Amongst them was the group kaddish.

The group kaddish was very much an idea of democratization, and equality. You know, because of ideas of equality, of rights, they (also) forbade to call up to עליות to the Torah by names (יעמוד פב”פ) because some people are called up by titles (e.g. יעמוד מורנו הרב)……Inequality! Can’t fit in with the regime of Napolean Bonaparte! So they didn’t call up anybody by name – they gave out cards instead (of which practice there is a remnant in some synagogues today). Another thing they didn’t like was priorities in kaddish. Why should there be priorities in kaddish? We want everybody to have the right to say kaddish! They abolished the priorities in kaddish and forced the group kaddish on German Jewish communities under them. Obviously, as soon as this regime collapsed, after not so many years, it was rejected strongly by all the German rabbis – but it slowly leaked into Eastern Europe (see more on this  in הישיבה הרמה בפיורדא, v.II, p. 410-417).


And here we find an interesting part in this, played by the great master Rav Akiva Eiger. What happened? How does Rav Akiva Eiger come into this story?

In the year 1831 C.E. there was a great epidemic in Europe, which cost the lives of thousands upon thousands of people. Cholera. Hundreds of thousands died. It hit Jewish communities hard as well, including Posen, where Rav Akiva Eiger was the Rav. And Rav Akiva Eiger was confronted with strong pain, of people desiring to say קדיש for their loved ones. He was under enormous pressure to give them a היתר for group kaddish. So he gave them a heter. The great Rav Akiva Eiger. And he said, he writes in his own handwriting, ‘in chodesh Av in 5591/1831 when the cholera started here in our town, there were so many אבלים, they needed קדיש, I made a takanah allowing group kaddish, for one year only…..he gave a heter for one year only …and after that year, by the following ראש חודש אב,  boruch Hashem, the epidemic stopped, people stopped dying, the trouble was over, so I said now we stop it, it was a הוראת שעה (strictly temporary enactment). It was then not allowed any more generally, only one kaddish a day was still allowed as a group kaddish. So this was stated by Rav Akiva Eiger (פסקים ותקנות רעק”א, ירושלים תשל”א, עמ’ סג-סד, brought in note 114, on p.455 of הישיבה הרמה בפיורדא, חלק ב).

But then people came later and they said, if the great Rav Akiva Eiger could allow it in his town, in his time, so we can allow it in our time, unlimited, anytime we need a kaddish. If it’s good enough for R. Akiva Eiger, its good enough for us. There is a misconception, many people go around and say, if R. Akiva Eiger allowed it, R. Akiva Eiger allowed a group kaddish…..

But I have a discovery, which I found two days ago – I think you’re the first ones to hear of it. We found a manuscript of his son, Rav Shlomo Eiger, his successor in the רבנות of Posen, and he refers to this הוראה of his father,  re the group kaddish, and I read from this newly discovered manuscript, which has never been published (passage can now be seen in note 115, on p.455 of הישיבה הרמה בפיורדא, חלק ב) –

‘It’s clear to my mind that what my late father זכרונו לברכה, the great Rav Akiva Eiger, instituted for everybody to say kaddish together, it was not his wish at all, rather it was against his will. But he found a היתר to be מתיר an איסור – note that he refers to it as an issur (prohibition). There was a terrible psychological need for the common people. צורך ההמון he calls it – psychological need. At the time of the cholera people were panicking – trying to do anything they could to help the deceased. He says that we find a similar היתר also with a יאהרצייט licht that goes out בין השמשות, where you can call a non-Jew and it can be lit again through him, because of psychological need. But those תלמידי חכמים who say a group קדיש דרבנן after a שיעור? What is their היתר to say such a group kaddish? It is not meant for talmidei chachomim! It is meant for common people who have psychological need. Am haaratzim, המון עם. Don’t lean on my father Rav Akiva Eiger (for a general blanket היתר for group kaddish)! That is a discovery, which I must say, is an eye opener in the whole sugya of Rav Akiva Eiger and group kaddish.


Now, when the Consistoire in Westphalia came to introduce the group kaddish, as well as other new היתרים that never existed before, they tried to give it a halachic image, or to find halachic grounds to support them……… For example, they instituted that all אשכנזים should start eating קיטניות on פסח – not only they allowed them to, they forced רבנים by a decree to start eating it, as non-Ashkenazim do. They found an opinion that the issur of kitniyos did not logically apply to their times, and they claimed that in times of war, of shortage of food, it was okay, and went as far as forcing רבנים to eat it. They found the חכם צבי and רב יעקב עמדין, his son, who both stated their views that today it doesn’t make sense, because today the grains are not all mixed as in ancient times. However they themselves only brought up the idea that they believed there is no room for it anymore in our times, but didn’t introduce it practically, and did not rely on it themselves.

The same thing, with these two great gedolim, applies with group kaddish. They lived in Portugese communities, Spanish Jews, Marranos in their places, Hamburg, Amsterdam, London. Marranos who fled one hundred years after the great exile of Spanish Jews in 1492, and established beautiful flourishing communities in Western Europe. They were Sepharadic places, so they observed Sephardic practices, observing what might be worthy to learn from them. But again, they never practically introduced it, never said that it was proper for an Ashkenazi to rely on a Sepahardic heter.


But the Rabbis that were engaged in the Consistoire of Westphalia took advantage of the expression of Rav Yaakov Emden in this matter and they brought him down as the model for a Rabbi trying to practically institute it (למעשה).

Therefore I find it perhaps worth our while to bring the exact quotation of Rav Yaakov Emden on this matter, and see if he really wanted to institute it practically. So I will read it out for you, see what Rav Yaakov Emden really says. He says it in his סידור, the very famous רב יעקב עמדין siddur, perhaps the most important siddur of an אחרון. We find no acharon on his level who makes his own siddur. The siddur itself, and commentary on the siddur. He publishes his own siddur, in his own lifetime. In his own house. עמודי שמים and שערי שמים. Two volumes.

When it comes to kaddeishim, he says that he will not count out קדימות (priorities) in קדישים, which are given elsewhere……..כבר דברו בו מספיק גדולי האחרונים (it has already been sufficiently discussed by the great later authorities)………anyway, מה טוב ומה ישר הוא מנהג ספרדים, that more than one person says it. No מחלוקת, no competition….so you don’t have to go into all those דינים of who goes first. If you really want to know the קדימות, see שלחן ערוך, לבוש, other מפרשים, see there.

But after having said that, which is the passage proponents of group kaddish like to quote, they miss two points. Firstly, people miss out that he says go look it up (the קדימות)….he doesn’t say you don’t have to do it – he says look elsewhere for the information. He says I like it (the Sepharadic way), but he doesn’t say ‘I am a Sepharadi’. Additionally, he says, you know אשכנזים have a מנהג that the last day of saying קדיש in the אבילות year (called יום הפסקה- the day people stop saying kaddish), you know people say kaddish for eleven months, not twelve months, because we don’t want the deceased to appear as a רשע (wicked person), who we are taught has twelve months in גיהנום. On the last day of his קדיש, the last day of the eleventh month, he gets the top priority, he gets all the קדישים of that day, everyone else is pushed aside.

So this only applies only according to those who go by the Ashkenazic מנהג, that only one person says kaddish. Comes Rav Yaakov Emden and says, I want to warn you….When you finish the last day of the eleventh month, you should stop (saying kaddish) then, and not go by the practice of the Sepharadim who have a pesak that you can go on for another week and stop after eleven and a quarter months, a week later. So we see that Rav Yaakov Emden didn’t actually follow the Sepharadic minhag. He himself says that he stopped right after the eleventh month, like Ashkenazim….This same Rav Yaakov Emden who wrote that it was very nice what Sepharadim did, never tried to introduce the same among Ashkenazim.


The reason why in the German communities, like where Mr. Rosenberg came from, they did not go by this new היתר, is primarily because they knew exactly where it came from. It did not come from the רבנים like Rav Akiva Eiger, it did definitely not come from the חתם סופר. It was one of the early Reform steps, from the Consistoire.

Rav Yaakov Ettlinger was also a German Rav. You all heard of him, the ערוך לנר, his seforim are learned all over in Yeshivos. He was once queried about this by someone asking if it’s right for his community to adopt this new Sfardishe minhog of group kaddish, citing for support the words of Rav Yaakov Emden. His response was as follows. You call it a great תקנה to go along with the group kaddish? To change a מנהג ישראל which prevailed in אשכנז, prevailed in Europe, not only in Western Europe, but also in Eastern Europe, for hundreds and hundreds of years, ever since we had קדיש יתום, we had it that only one person said a kaddish, and you want to follow מתחדשים, the reformers who instituted this, and have changed so many other things of תפלה as well? No, no, no, one should not do it (תשובות בנין ציון, קכב).


And the interesting thing is, we think that, okay, some Yekkes still obey this rule, they don’t say group kaddish, some Litvakes still obey this rule, those that go by the Chazon Ish, for example,…but Sepharadim all do say it. However, we find that that even some Sepharadim, like those of the Tunisian Jewish capital, Djerba, according to their Rabbanim, even in our time they are very מקפיד that only one person says קדיש.

Anyway, I was trying to show the historical development, that initially everyone had the single קדיש, and then ספרדים started with group kaddish, then חסידים started it, then some  אשכנזים followed……………but there are still some pockets that do not go by Rav Yaakov Emden’s idea, but go by R. Yaakov Emden’s פסק, not to change, and they say a single kaddish.


Tonight, בעזרת השם – in America it’s not night yet – I’m sure that there will be people saying kaddish for Mr. Rosenberg. Whether they will be saying group or a single kaddish, I don’t know, but we all hope that the idea of kaddish, the power of kaddish is to get the people to answer אמן יהא שמיה רבה…. There’s a חתם סופר that says that the core of kaddish is to bring people to answer אמן יהא שמיה רבה. What is the idea of amein yihei shmei rabbah…? The great name of Hashem should be blessed in all worlds, at all times. By declaring that הקדוש ברוך הוא is the Almighty, all we have, by doing this, biezras Hashem, the נשמה should have a great עליה, the neshomo of Mr. Rosenberg.

And we should be זוכה…….the Yekkes have a beautiful ברכה on a יאהרצייט……….they say to a person who has the yohrzeit, they say to him….’עד ביאת הגואל’…and the בעל היאהרצייט answers ‘במהרה בימינו…אמן’. So we repeat together with them, ad bias hagoel, bimheira biyomeinu, אמן!

The Development of Kaddish Yasom – part I Fundamentals & History – From ancient times to the modern era.

April 10, 2011

Due to the great importance, power, and holiness of קדיש, and the great interest in the subject, I am posting some of what I was zoche to learn about it in a shiur a while back.

(Based on a comprehensive shiur delivered in ארץ ישראל a bit over a year ago by רב בנימין שלמה המבורגר שליט”א, edited and arranged by your’s truly)

It’s an honor for me to give a shiur לעילוי נשמת …the first יאהרצייט of החבר ר’ יחיאל ב”ר יוסף ראזענבערג, Mr. Max Rosenberg, who was, as Rabbi Vachsman mentioned, the chairman of the board of directors of Yeshiva R. Shamshon Rafael Hirsch in Washington Heights, New York. Therefore, this shiur tonight is going to be linked to a מנהג, an old minhog, which the whole כלל ישראל used to obey and observe, and is still being kept in that community of Washington Heights which we know as קהל עדת ישורון, the Breuer’s kehillah. This is the way of reciting a kaddish, קדיש יתום. Yahrzeit is a time for saying kaddish, therefore it is appropriate to talk about such a topic.

We all know that if someone is an אבל, or if he has יאהרצייט, then he is trying to say קדיש, or even better, to daven in front of the עמוד. And there’s a lot of competition to get the amud sometimes, and in the past there was also competition to get the kaddish. Why? Because the kaddish was never a group kaddish, rather a single kaddish….which leads to the development of how the single kaddish turned (among some) into a group kaddish, which we will discuss later on in this shiur. But first, some basics.


The first question which I would like to address, is how is it that an action or a deed that is taken after petira of a niftar, after a person is already deceased, can help him out of his trouble after he has already gone to the world of truth? So we find Sefer Chassidim (1171) explaining it very clearly. We find an expression in Chazal, ברא מזכי אבא (BT Sanhedrin 104a) – a son adds זכותים, adds merits to his father. How? If the father sinned, and he, at the same time, gave his son over to a Talmudic school, ללמוד תורה ומעשים טובים, he sent him to cheder, sent him to a Jewish school…….and there the son learns Torah, he learns how to behave himself properly, and do good deeds, הואיל ועל ידי האב זכה הבן, since this good behavior of the son is a result of the education which the father saw to, whatever the son does now as a result of this education, is bera mizakeh abba – that son adds zechusim to his father. And furthermore, if the father commanded the son, he left a צוואה to do this and that, to do something after his petira, הרי כשעשו הבנים כאילו יעשו האבות, what the son does based on that is as if the father did it, even though the father is not here anymore. From this comes the minhog that people give tzedokkoh לעילוי נשמת the deceased. Similarly, davening for niftorim, is also a תועלת – it does give help to them, because מה לי תפלה מה לי צדקה. What difference does it make to Hakodosh Boruch Hu if it is this מצוה or that mitzvoh, if all of it is done as a result of the father’s chinuch.


But here we don’t see anything about kaddeishim. We have plenty of midroshim which point out the special koach of the kaddish. But we have to keep in mind that קדיש is only one of many means to help a נפטר. There are plenty of others. Which brings us to the Yosef Ometz, a member of the Shelah’s beis din when the של”ה was a Rav in Frankfurt, Rav Yosef Hahn Nordlingen of Frankfurt, who wrote a ספר called יוסף אומץ. It’s a מנהג sefer and הלכה sefer. He writes a very important note. He writes that the idea of קדיש, ברכו, ברכת המזון, שיר המעלות, ולמנצח for aveilim, (going to the omud for ashrei, lamenatzeach, and uva letzion), going to omud for borchu (saying borchu is an expression for davening before the omud)…. also birkas hamazon, meaning the aveil getting zimun, which is also a zechus for the niftar, not seen so much nowadays…….מעלין המה על ידי הם מגיהנום (they raise the niftar through their actions from gehinnom). Of course, he says, davening the whole תפלה is better than bits of it. And of course kaddish is also very important. But the best thing, which people overlook however, he says, the best zechus, is לימוד תורה, learning Torah, which we do in this shiur. The other things, he says, tefillos, kaddeishim, borchu.. are mainly for עמי הארץ (unlearned people) – but if you can learn, you do learn, לימוד תורה מועיל שבעתים (limmud Torah helps seven times as much), than all these תפלות…. Through that, not only מעלין מגיהנום, but מכניסין לגן עדן (they take the niftar to gan eden), which is higher. And if the son goes further and he is מחדש חידושי תורה, he’s a למדן and is on that level that he can have his own חידושים? Then the kavod that his father gets in gan eden is even more. He cites the זוהר, that in such a case הקדוש ברוך הוא calls everyone in פמליא של מעלה, and says ‘come in, assemble, to hear the beautiful חידושי תורה of this person, the son of פלוני בן פלוני (true chiddushim, not just made up ones), the son of this neshomo’. So that is the greatest honor that one can give, to say חידושי תורה…


However, kaddish nevertheless is a big tool and everybody is after it……. Where does the kaddish come from? You are talmidei chachomim, you know גמרא…….Has you ever seen the nusach of kaddish in גמרא? In any gemara? Bavli? Yerushalmi? No. We only find a small mention in Bavli mesechta Shabbos, אמר ריב”ל כל העונה איש”ר מברך בכל כחו (רש”י – בכל כוונתו) קורעין לו גזר דינו , he answers the kaddish, which can mean koach hakovonnoh, according to Rashi and Tosefos, or with all his strength, according to a second peshat brought in Tosefos, his bad gezar din is torn up, what is written for him badly in the ספר החיים up there. We also find in מדרשים that Rabbi Akiva tried to help a נשמה he found in big trouble in עולם האמת, to get his son, to teach him to say ברכו and קדיש, to get him out of גיהנום. So kaddish is mentioned in gemara, and the midrash says that it can take people out of gehinnom. But the נוסח of the kaddish is not mentioned anywhere, not in midrash, not in gemara. The first time (place) we find it is in סדר רב עמרם גאון, the oldest siddur we have, a Babylonian siddur , an early siddur – and there we find the nusach of the kaddish, but without ויצמח פורקניה ויקרב משיחיה, like nusach Ashkenaz. That is the very first kaddish we find in Jewish literature. Veyatzmach purkonei we find in a later Babylonian siddur, that of רב סעדיה גאון. But just ויצמח פורקניה, not ויקרב משיחיה, so that must have been a later development.


So what is the purpose of kaddish? We find קדישים  besides kaddish yasom. קדיש יתום is a very particular kaddish that is said after a תפלה. But we have kaddeishim inside tefilloh as well. Comes the ספר האשכול, and says that we have the kaddish for the purpose of separation. He says that the first kaddish is to separate between פסוקי דזמרה and ברכת יוצר אור, in שחרית, that is the first kaddish, after ישתבח (the kaddish said nowadays after korbanos is very recent, we have to come back to that later). The second kaddish is after we finish שמנה עשרה, after shmoneh esreih we have תחנון, which is attached to it, so if there is tachanun we say kaddish after it, and that kaddish is a separation between the Shemoneh Esreih part of tefillah and the leining part. If there is leining, after that part as well, to separate it from אשרי ובא לציון, which is a new section. Then kaddish after ashrei uva litzion, קדיש תתקבל, which ends all קדישים. That is the halachic structure of kaddish.


Kaddish yasom, which has nothing to do with davening before the amud, was instituted later, perhaps in the beginning of the second millenium למספרם. We find it in מחזור ויטרי already, and it was introduced for יתומים קטנים that can’t go before the omud. He’s a minor, can’t help his father that way with kaddish, so they instituted it for them. But how many times does a yasom have a chance to say kaddish? Initially, not at all. After עלינו? No, it (Aleinu) was not said daily in the early days. After שיר מזמור לאסף? Some American Shuls say it, you may know it from them, some after shacharis, some have it even after maariv. But this did not exist in the time of the גאונים. So they instituted some מזמור after תפלה, and they said kaddish after that, for ketanim. At the beginning, this was not done on a weekday, it was only done on a שבת. Only on Shabbos was there kaddish yasom. We find on Shabbos that we say במה מדליקין after maariv, that’s what you find in chutz la’aretz, as used to be said in European countries. במה מדליקין, then אמר רבי אלעזר אמר רבי חנינא, which is אגדתא, then kaddish yosom. Nowadays people say קדיש דרבנן, but that is a late development. Initially this kaddish was a קדיש יתום for yesomim, kaddish for ketanim who can’t say kaddish during tefilloh. The second kaddish yasom they had was on שבת morning, after פטום הקטרת, after another אמר רבי אלעזר אמר רבי חנינא…. The third one, on מוצאי שבת after ויתן לך, after שיר המעלות אשרי כל ירא ה. So these were the only three kaddeishim in time of the ראשונים…….they eventually introduced kaddish yasom on weekdays as well……but that was even a later development. They started saying shir mizmor leasaf, after oleinu. שיר של יום developed much, much later. So the principle is that one can only say kaddish yasom after פסוקים – so we never find that after a shiur when קדיש is said, that they say kaddish right away, rather they say pesukim, רבי חנניא בן עקשיא אומר רצה הקב”ה לזכות את ישראל……or אמר רבי אלעזר אמר רבי חנינא…. but not after a mishnah. The kaddish said nowadays after the שלש עשרה מדות דרבי ישמעאל in the morning, before ברוך שאמר, is a disputed minhog because it doesn’t fit with ancient הלכה, only fits in with the system of the אר”י ז”ל, but that is not the topic for tonight. Now we come to another point..


Saying kaddish is a wonderful thing. חזרת הש”ץ is also a wonderful thing. What would you say, however, if someone said chazoras hashatz is a wonderful thing, I will say it twice. I will repeat שמונה עשרה twice. How would we look at such a person? Is he doing something good? He repeats shemoneh esreih twice. What if a person will have some Coca Cola, and say שהכל נהיה בדברו. And then have more, and say it again. And again, and again, after a sip or two. Is he more frum? Or if he says three times borei nefoshos – is he more religious? Or is it a brocho she’eino tzericha/berocho livatala? So here we come to the point that many poskim bring down, including the משנה ברורה, that just like we don’t like to repeat ברכות again and again, because the more you repeat them, the more difficult it is halachically, because of ברכה שאינה צריכה or ברכה לבטלה, the same way, we should not say one kaddish more than needed. According to simple הלכה in the Mishna Berura and earlier poskim, saying extra kaddeishim is wrong. And he says, כשם שממעטין לומר קדיש…… The ערוך השלחן comes out in very, very sharp terms against it. He says (אורח חיים נה, ג) that there are common people who believe that the more kaddeishim you say, the better. And how wrong are they. You don’t use the scepter of הקדוש ברוך הוא more than He allowed you to use it. There is a limit to the amount of usage. Because by saying kaddish you are crowning Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And if you repeat it again and again, it’s a zilzul, you’re degrading the divine. And we find the poskim saying that those who increase the number of kaddeishim are sort of weakening the divine kedusha of the great sacred name of הקב”ה.


But we find nevertheless that the desire is so great to say kaddish, it increased so much, that people increase it, not only the amount of times, but also in terms of the amount of people saying it, what we call nowadays a group kaddish, which we didn’t have in the past. Like we don’t have a group חזרת הש”ץ. Did you ever see two בעלי תפלה going to the עמוד and saying chazoras hashatz together? The same with group kaddish. It was made for ketanim, a katan he can’t daven before the amud, so now he has a kaddish he can say after davening. And now people join him! It’s like joining the shliach tzibbur! We have a klal that תרי קלי לא משתמעי (two simultaneous voices are not heard). Imagine if two people would be standing up here talking. Someone would join me talking. We would get confused. Same thing is with the kaddish. That is the conception of the classical poskim.


But we find that Sepharadim have believed so much in the power of kaddish that they found all kinds of היתרים to say a group kaddish. They invented the idea of group kaddish. And it went so far in some places of the Sepharadim, that in Iraq, we find the Ben Ish Chai recording (בן איש חי, שנה א, פ’ ויגש, סעיף טז) that in his town, in Baghdad, the minhag was that everybody used to say every kaddish possible during davening. They finished ישתבח… what happens after we finish yishtabach? Even in those places that have group kaddish, only the shliach tzibbur says kaddish and then says ברכו. But in Baghdad, the whole community stood up and everybody said קדיש. And that was not only that kaddish. Every kaddish. After shmoneh esreih, everybody stood up and said קדיש. He was very disgusted by it. Meileh kaddish yasom, he could still tolerate it. But every kaddish? He said that these people think that when they say kaddish they cause תחיית המתים. They believed so much in this kaddish, out of proportion, that they erred. And that’s how we find that a kaddish that at one time was only for the shliach tzibbur, like kaddish after leining, became a kaddish yasom by Sepharadim, and that has even spread to some Ashkenaz communities as well (in an article in ירושתנו א, קיג-קכה – Rav Hamburger  shows conclusively that this kaddish properly belongs to a shliach of the tzibbur, such as the בעל קריאה, not to just any anyone who wants it).


But we want to go back to that kehillah of the late Mr. Rosenberg whose yahrzeit is tonight. In Washington Heights, which still obeys the old rules. And they still give respect to the one saying kaddish yasom as deserved. He is treated as a שליח ציבור. The first thing of a shliach tzibbur is, that he goes to the עמוד. He doesn’t stand anywhere in the Shul and say kaddish, he goes to the omud. Seeing that by the עמוד is still the chazan, who still has to say some מזמורים or something, so the one saying kaddish stands next to the omud, in any Frankfurt’er kehilloh, Yekkishe kehilloh, he stands as close as possible to the omud. And this is brought down in several poskim, including the משנה ברורה. Second thing, I don’t know why it stopped in Washington Heights, I never found out why, is that everyone saying kaddish puts on a טלית, because he is like a שליח ציבור, and this is also brought down in פוסקים.

The Singular Way Of Saying Kaddish – How To Make Kaddish More Meaningful, Powerful, Effective, And Historically Correct

April 5, 2011

(Endangered minhog #2)

We know the importance and power of קדיש, and it’s focal point of אמן יהא שמיה רבא מברך וכו, from the words of חז”ל. One frequently cited gemara in this regard tells us אמר ריב”ל כל העונה איש”ר מברך בכל כחו (רש”י – בכל כוונתו) קורעין לו גזר דינו – whoever answers amein yehei shemei rabba with all his strength, which Rashi there explains means with total concentration, has his gezar din (evil decree against him) torn up.

There are campaigns to make people aware of this, and arouse them to the importance of saying איש”ר properly.  Sometimes they emphasize kavannah, as per Rashi cited above, while some others also emphasize answering loudly, as per a peshat which Tosefos brings there, after agreeing with Rashi. At the same time, however, another, ancient way, of increasing the focus, power, and meaning of kaddish, has almost disappeared, been ignored, and is in danger of fading away, חס ושלום.

What is this powerful tool of which I write? It is the age-old מנהג אשכנז way, in which saying kaddish is a singular experience!

In that ancient tradition, only one person says kaddish at a time. That enables the congregation to focus on, and tune in to the kaddish, and the kaddish reciter, with utmost clarity and concentration, thereby making the level of בכל כחו – בכל כוונתו much more within reach. This is especially so in the modern world, especially in large urban areas, where ears are under almost constant assault with a toxic cocktail of sounds. Despite all the talk nowadays of people multitasking (the folly of which is discussed here), the fact is that multiple simultaneous stimuli take a significant toll on people’s concentration (as well as מנוחת הנפש, but that is a different discussion). On the other hand, when one hears only a single voice (ideally properly paced and at appropriate volume, in an otherwise quiet Shul), that stands out, and enables increased focus and concentration. Without a cacophonious assault on one’s hearing, one can definitely better focus on the words of kaddish and their meaning.

Furthermore, in this way of doing things, the one reciting kaddish knows that the congregation is focused solely on him, and that energizes him to the power of what he is doing. He is the only one who is, so to speak, controlling the tzibbur at the moment, and this great power, the powerful spiritual tools of kaddish and איש”ר, are in his hands, and under his control. This ideally leads him to greater כוונה (focus).

ברוך השם, there are still some people and communities, including (but not necessarily limited to) the followers of מנהג אשכנז, טעלז, והחזון איש among אשכנזים who have retained this ancient, powerful tradition. There was even a well known Chassidishe Rebbe, R. Yitzchok Isaac of Komarno, who had this minhog as well, and felt very strongly about it. He went as far as to say (שלחן הטהור, או”ח סימן קל”ב) that more than one person saying kaddish at a time is a פגם גדול! And, believe it or not, there are also some Sepharadim that are makpid on it as well. It is the minhog of Sepharadim from Djerba, Tunisia, the ירושלים of that country (most of this paragraph is based on what I heard in a wide-ranging shiur from רבש”ה, which we may get into more later).

We can learn from those masters how to put the power back into our kaddeishim. Those of us who have lost touch with this ancient and simple, yet powerful practice, relatively recently, can explore ways to reincorporate this minhog into our observance, as our forefathers practiced it. If we do so, in the spirit of חדש ימינו כקדם, we can then beseech הקב”ה, to do the same, אכי”ר.

Let us learn from our ancestors a way to help us ramp up the power of the kaddish and איש”ר experiences, so that we can hopefully make them so powerful, that it will be said in heaven,

אשרי המלך שמקלסין אותו בביתו כך!

%d bloggers like this: