22 June 2008


I had some mildly interesting Shavuos reading, including "The "Mystery of the Kaddish". I saw the book mainly as a romp through medieval Tsurris such as pogroms and the crusades, but the author managed to turn it into a treatise on the Kaddish.

We all grow up having been exposed to the medrash of a man whose face is charred from the fires of Gehhenom, but his son saying Kaddish saves him from that. Or something like that. Also, we know that Kaddish is mentioned in the Gemarah and Mishna. And of course, Kaddish is said by by every Yasom, R"L.

"And if all the world were mine, I would give it willing to escape one hour, to be outside [hell], to cool myself, for my soul and body are burning" ... "What sin have you committed to merit this terrible judgement?" ... "And could someone save you from this judgement?" "No, but if I had a son who could say in public Barkhu and all of the Kaddish, I would be saved at the end of my year". - Otsar ha-Midrashim, Maasiyot 45;

So you put three & three together and think that mourners have been reciting Kaddish since the times of the Gemara. After all, nothing ever changes in OJ, right?

Well, surprise surprise!

I'm not going to get into into details (I'll leave that to S.) but the author traces the history of the mourners Kaddish as a response to the violence that occurred during the crusades in the 13th century. (Now compare this to the flak that modern day Jews get when establishing Yom Hazikaron and the difficulties in getting a Tishah Ba'ov Kinnah instituted on behalf of the holocaust.) Furthermore, initially, during the crusades, Kaddish Yassom was only recited by and on behalf of Torah scholars. Eventually, it spread to the common man.

Interestingly, early siddurim, from the Geonic times, such as R' Amram & Rav Hai Gaon, do not have Kaddish Yasom. The Rambam does not mention it either. Why? simply because Kaddish was not recited by mourners.

The author cites documentation regarding the Rosh and R' Shlomo Ben Shimon from Magenza (who?) regarding the evolution and acceptance of the Kaddish. At that time, there were also great debates whether Kaddish Yassom should be recited on Rosh Chodesh, Yom, Tov, Purim and other times of joy.

It seems that the current practice was not codified until the times of the Shulchan Aruch. It was R' Yosef Karo, who transformed Kaddish Yasom from minhag to Halacha.

So the next time you think of Halacha as set in stone, think Kaddish Yasom. I wonder what other "Halachos" we practice that are relatively new.

  • ===> Use Haloscan: |
  • Do NOT enter new comments here 1 comments Do NOT use. links to this post


    At June 22, 2008 2:34 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Use the Haloscan comments


    Post a Comment

    Links to this post:

    Create a Link

    << Home