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Q&A: Priorities in Prayer, Part 2

November 22, 2014

Question: So, do I need to say Ein Keiloheinu?

Answer: If you take a look at older siddurim (prayer books), or even ordinary diaspora Ashkenazic siddurim, it is not there. Like Psalm 27, it was inserted into the siddur because some wanted to say it because they were told that reciting it has powers, and then once it was in the siddur, everyone thinks it is required. It is not, especially if one has already studied it as part of the order of the sacrifices before the prayers. (Like the B’rich Sh’meih passage when taking out the Torah. Many scholars did not say it, and it is still absent from many Sephardi siddurim.)  For some reason, many have also come to the belief that reciting this passage specifically from a scroll has even more efficacy. This practice is not yet mainstream, but if we do not remain vigilant, it may become so. I have also never understood why this passage from the Oral Torah should be written in a scroll as though it were part of the Written Torah.

Question: When should I take off my tefillin?

Answer: This also depends on a number of factors. I assume that like other morning commandments you try to fulfill it as soon as possible. According to the Sages, ideally one can wear them all day as long as he does not have to pass gas or relieve himself (“maintaining a guf naqi“). In the olden days, the masses wore their tefillin all day while working the fields, but temporarily removed them on a per need basis. Later, they started wearing them less and less, due to, I believe, the weirdness of how it would look, but there have always been those pious among us who strove to wear them for as much of the day as possible. Those who study post-medieval Qabbala sought other reasons or post-facto justifications about how and when one should remove his tefillin at the conclusion of the morning prayers, and later authorities created higher standards for those who would want to wear tefillin longer than others. Instead of requiring one to be able to maintain a guf naqi, he has to maintain perfect thoughts, and they denounced those who thought they could keep these standards as arrogant. The Vilna Gaon and Maimonides did not hold of these claims, but what can one do when the world is against him? R’ Schachter has said that you should wear your tefillin for at least an hour, and if the morning prayers don’t take that long, continue wearing them as you study after the prayers. I believe that you should wear your tefillin until you have to begin doing your daily business that might have the potential to get you dirty, or bring you too far from the synagogue, where the unknowing masses and judgmental scholars will wrongly view your performance of this commandment.

Question: What about the qaddishim at the end of davvening?

Answer: Qaddish is not what it once was. The idea that mourners and those observing yahrtzeihts  should recite the qaddish in the merit of the departed is not one of the Talmud nor of the Rishonim. (The Rishonim mention the recitation of the qaddish specifically at funerals as part of the tzidduq hadin, “the acceptance of the verdict,” but not as a prayer offered on behalf of the deceased. Instead, the qaddish is an expression of the mourner’s praise for god despite his grief.) Maimonides, for example, only codifies the half qaddish and full qaddish as part of the prayer services and the Rabbis’ qaddish at the conclusion of public Torah study. Although there is an ancient account of Rabbi Akiva telling the orphaned son of the wicked tax collector to lead the services, that story does not necessarily mean that the recitation of the qaddish somehow helped the father’s soul. Rather, the story seems to show how that the very fact that a son was able to cause others to praise God in the synagogue, not just through qaddish, indicates that the father at least did something right in his lifetime. After the publication of the Zohar, the popularization of specifically saying the qaddish in order to earn merits for the deceased came to be the mode in Jewish practice. (See footnote 8 here from Dr. Shapiro about how the the Kovno Rav was not so keen for the qaddish practice, and see here about how the idea that the living can  affect the judgment of the deceased does not fit with older, classical ideas about personal responsibility in the afterlife for one’s own actions in this world, and how death prevents one from ever earning future atonement for sins. This idea goes hand in hand with the classical Jewish schools of thought that never conceived of reincarnation. You only get one chance to live, and your share in the next world is in accordance with what you made of it.)  If you look in the Mishna Berura, a mainstream halachic text of not so long ago, you will notice an interesting mini-work included in mark 132 : Quntres Ma’amar Qaddishim, or the Treatise on the Recitation of Qaddish. In it, the Chofetz Chayim describes the up-until-two-generations-ago customs concerning distribution of the qaddishim. Some background: A few hundred years ago, when it became fashionable for every mourner, etc. to lead the services in order to recite the two or three qaddishim that were included, sometimes conflicts developed, and a number of men wished to lead the services. For the morning service a practice developed to allow the service to be divided among them. I recall seeing some places in New York where another leader took over for ashrei/uva l’zion and the final qaddish. The great halachic authorities used to subscribe to the rule “ein l’harboth b’qaddishim,” no reciting extra qaddishim, as the proclamation of “May His great name be blessed for ever and ever” is one of God’s seals, so to speak, and it should not be over used. When there were even more mourners, etc., the authorities allowed for additional qaddishim to be recited after the service, for example after, aleinu. The Ari and the Vilna Gaon, for instance, recommended that if necessary, one qaddish be recited after aleinu, or after both aleinu and the song of the day, but not both. But what are we to do? Unfortunately, Jewish history has seen episodes of large scale killings, and it became common for daily services to always have even more mourners, etc., who wished to say qaddish. As such, the rabbis would allow more instances of additional qaddishim to creep in to the services so that each mourner who wanted could say one of the qaddishim on his own. Have you ever seen parishioners draw lots for the right to recite qaddish? The Mishna Berura considers that to be an ordinary occurrence, because the qaddishim that were part of the service were not enough to go around, and it was also considered highly improper for multiple people to recite the qaddish simultaneously. The group qaddish recitations you see in synagogues every where today is a new phenomenon in Jewish practice. 

Let’s look  at a practical example. On a Wednesday morning, five men who wish to recite qaddish will be present. The Mishna Beruara gives the classical hierarchy of who gets to recite qaddishim. (e.g., one still within the first 30 days of mourning has priority over one observing the ensuing months.) The gentleman with highest priority will lead the service and recite all three qaddishim. Another fellow will say the Rabbi’s qaddish after the recitation of the order of sacrifices which precedes the actual service, another will be allowed to recite qaddish after the introduction to p’suqei d’zimra, and the other two will recite the qaddishim after aleinu and the psalm of the day, respectively.  This was the not-so-perfect-yet recommended manner of doing things. Nowadays these rules and standards have been forgotten and ignored, and mourners, for example, think that it is their obligation to both lead the service and recite every single additional qaddish at every single opportunity that presents itself, instead of just reciting one per service. You thus see an unfortunate soul mourning the loss of a parent and reciting qaddish eight times in the morning, the three qaddishim of the service that the Sages actually ordained, and another five that were only included in the prayer book in case there was a necessity for more qaddishim to go around: two before the service, and the three after aleinu, the psalm of the day, and, because we live in Israel, the order of the incense. This phenomenon should be put to a stop, as it is in utter contradiction of the halacha. Or you might have a latecomer, who’s just “saying qaddish” for some distant departed relative, but still recites all thee qaddishim that follow the service! This should also not be. Later authorities have already said that one qaddish is sufficient “for all the departed of Israel.”

(It must be firmly stated that it is only appropriate to recite the Rabbis’ qaddish if the minyan of ten men actually studied the material together. Otherwise, doing so would be prohibited, as that qaddish, unlike the others, is not there to divide sections of the public prayer. I have heard the claim that that qaddish is now considered part of the prayers, and should be recited no matter what, and I have even attended a synagogue where the rabbi delivers a class before the service, and after the class the rabbis’ qaddish is recited, and then it is immediately followed by the baraythaRabbi Yishma’el Omeir” and then yet another Rabbis’ qaddish. I can not see any justification for this practice. If both the class and the recitation of the baraytha require a final Rabbis’ qaddish, one should suffice at the conclusion of everything. The claim that both deserve their own qaddish, the first because it follows actual Torah study, and the second because it is there in the siddur, does not make sense. The qaddish is only there in the siddur to make it easier for those wish to recite qaddish! The same is true for Rabbis speaking between Qabbalath Shabbath and Arvith: one qaddish should be recited after both bameh madliqin and the speech, and it it does not matter which of the latter two comes first.)

Bottom line: If one who has not led the service wishes to recite the qaddish, one before or after the service is sufficient according to all opinions, and additional recitations are not allowed. It is the responsibility of individual pulpit rabbis to educate their congregants and make sure that they do not recite the qaddish too much. 


From → halacha, original

  1. yigal saperstein permalink

    Wednesday mourning is a great freudian typo.

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