Posts Tagged ‘Singular kaddish’

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.


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.


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.


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


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 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. 🙂


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 its 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.

‘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).

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….


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….


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).

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!

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