Volume 65 Number 39 
      Produced: Sun, 29 May 22 15:52:09 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Av Harachamim on "Black Shabbos" 
    [Martin Stern]
Branches of Judaism? 
    [Carl Singer]
Chabad Officially Proclaims The Rebbe is Moshiach 
    [Prof. L. Levine]
Choosing Leaders 
    [Prof. L. Levine]
    [Prof. L. Levine]
Yizkor (was Kaddish) 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, May 26,2022 at 12:17 PM
Subject: Av Harachamim on "Black Shabbos"

Rabbi Binyomin Zev Karman wrote (Hamodia, Inyan, 25 May) in an article entitled
'Yizkor for the living':

> In some places in Germany, Yizkor was recited on the Shabbos before Shavuos,
> which was referred to as the "Black Shabbos", to commemorate the slaughter of
> the cities of Mainz, Speyer and Worms by Count Emicho during the first
> Crusade, which occurred in the year 4856 [Taten"u] / 1096 before and after
> Shavuos.'

This was the minhag in Western Germany (Minhag HaRhinus), where these massacres
occurred, but it was not the Yizkor, as is now generally understood, but the
recital of Av Harachamim, which was composed to memorialise the martyrs of
Taten"u, said in other Ashkenazi communities on most Shabbosos of the year. In
fact these communities only said it on the Shabbos before Shavuos and, later,
also on the Shabbos before Tisha be'Av.

In these communities Yizkor was only said on Yom Kippur as per the Mordechai
(Yoma 767) which Rabbi Karman quotes:

> The passuk (Devarim 21:8) states "Kapeir l'amcha Yisrael asher padisa ... -
> Forgive Your nation which You have redeemed ..." The Sifri expounds on this
> verse: Kapeir l'amcha is a request that Hashem forgive the living for their
> sins, while asher padisa refers to those who have departed. "The departed,
> too, need forgiveness, and they achieve this through the redemption performed
> by the living." Thus, the living can bring about the forgiveness for the
> departed by redeeming their sins through donating to tzedzkah. On Yom Kippur,
> the Day of Atonement, we recite Yizkor and daven for the neshamos of our
> departed relatives.

On the regalim, Matnas Yad, a similar pledge to tzedakah, was said  - and it is
to this rather than Yizkor that the Sefer Ko Bo is probably referring as Yizkor:

> Yizkor is recited on these days because the Krias HaTorah includes the passuk
> "Ish k'matnas yado - each man according to the donation of his hand" (Devarim
> 16:17) This is an allusion to giving tzedakah in memory of, and as a merit
> for, those who have departed."

Unfortunately, most people nowadays are unfamiliar with this history and omit Av
Harachamim on the "Black Shabbos", presumably because it generally falls on a
day when tachanun is omitted. In fact it has no connection to tachanun and
should definitely be said then. Since the "Black Shabbos" this year falls on
Erev Shavuos, even more communities are likely to make this mistake, so I would
like to draw attention to make a point of NOT omitting Av Harachamim on the very
day for which it was originally composed.

Martin Stern


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Wed, May 25,2022 at 05:17 PM
Subject: Branches of Judaism?

In response to Prof. L. Levine (MJ 65#38):

We seem to be enamored with labels -- not limited to identifying formal
religious organizations.

How about labels "Open Orthodox", "Chasidish", "Liberal" ... - the list goes on.

To what purpose is our expanded taxonomy?  Do we wish to further separate?
because "They're not like us." 

Or can we unite, focusing on commonalities?

Carl Singer


From: Prof. L. Levine <llevine@...>
Date: Mon, May 23,2022 at 02:17 PM
Subject: Chabad Officially Proclaims The Rebbe is Moshiach

If you think that the messianic movement within Chabad is dead, you are very wrong.

See the video, "Chabad Officially Proclaims The Rebbe is Moshiach" at


where it calls for viewers:

> Sign up, accept the Rebbe as Moshiach enabling him to redeem the whole world!

Note how it speaks of RMMS as though he were still alive.




From: Prof. L. Levine <llevine@...>
Date: Mon, May 23,2022 at 07:17 PM
Subject: Choosing Leaders

Today the Orthodox world is obsessed with judging people by externalities - 
hat or no hat, white shirt or colored shirt, crocheted kippah or velvet cappel,
etc. are often how people judge others. In view of this, I would draw attention
to the following from Second Thoughts by Rabbi Berel Wein (page 76):

> The problem of identifying potential greatness is a continuing and important
> one. How does a community choose the right leadership? In an election year,
> this is a crucial question. Yet there is apparently no magic formula to
> identify the hero and label the charlatan. How can one identify the right
> spouse, the correct spiritual leader, the truly good and loyal friend? Are
> these not the most important questions in life? By prejudging people, by using
> external, conformist criteria to judge others, by not looking at people in an
> open-minded and nonjudgmental fashion, we almost guarantee that we will miss the
> true hero, the potentially great leader, the "right" person for each and every
> one of us. In a world where such heroic people, scarce as they are, are
> essential for the meaningfulness of our lives, we can ill afford to overlook
> them.
> The leader of Israel came from Pharaoh's court and not from the protected
> environment of the Land of Goshen. One should never prejudge Heaven's choices
> in these matters. It is arrogant to believe that one knows for certain how
> Jewish leaders should look and what their backgrounds must be. Moses, more than
> anyone else, proves the validity of this point of view to us.

What do others think about this important question?



From: Prof. L. Levine <llevine@...>
Date: Sun, May 29,2022 at 12:17 PM
Subject: Kaddish

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 65#36):

> Saying kaddish was introduced at the time of the massacres during First
> Crusade [Taten"u - 1096] to create something for the many under-age aveilim
> who could not act as sheliach tzibbur [prayer leader] which was the original
> minhag. With the institution of saying Aleinu at the end of each tefillah
> after the massacre of Blois on 20 Sivan in 1171, the kaddish after it was
> generally fixed for an aveil - kaddish yatom.

The saying of Kaddish predates the First Crusade by centuries, as Rabbi Barry
Freundel points out in the final chapter of his book "Why We Pray What We Pray:
The Remarkable History of Jewish Prayer" (Urim Publications, 2010). Based on it,
Rabbi Gil Student wrote:


"Based on Midrash Mishlei (on Prov. 14:28) and Sotah 49a, R. Freundel argues
that Kaddish began as a prayer said after a study session. He dates the
initial use of a complete prayer to the Hadrianic persecutions of the second
century CE, when Torah study was forbidden by law, Aramaic was commonly
spoken, and a messianic redemption was urgently awaited. It seems, therefore,
that the Rabbis' Kaddish, or maybe the Siyyum Kaddish, is the oldest form of
the prayer.

"Masekhes Soferim (21:5-6) indicates that Kaddish first appeared in prayer
services as a conclusion to the Torah reading. It also mentions (10:6, 18:10)
Kaddish as the final prayer of the service. Over time, Kaddish began appearing
in abbreviated form (Full or Half Kaddish) at the end of sections within the
prayer service. Kaddish Tiskabel comes after a section of services containing
the Amidah, Full Kaddish at the end of a different section, and Half Kaddish
after an Amidah when there are intervening passages before the end of a section.
According to R. Freundel, these are all abbreviations of the longer, earlier

"Kaddish at a funeral was originally intended for the Torah words of the eulogy
or tziduk ha-din prayer (Teshuvos Ha-Geonim Coronal, no. 94). A remnant of
this origin is reflected in the practice of saying only a Full Kaddish and not a
Graveside Kaddish on festive days when eulogies are not given and tziduk ha-din
is not recited.

"At some point, Kaddish transitioned in popular perception to a mourner's
prayer. Masekhes Soferim (19:9) tells of the chazan in Jerusalem who, after the
prayer services on Shabbos, would bless mourners and recite a slightly abridged
Kaddish to console them. Rambam mentions Kaddish nearly forty times in his
Mishneh Torah but never states that a mourner leads it. However, a midrash from
the Heikhalos literature (in Eisenstein?s Otzar Ha-Midrashim p. 84 states that
when sinners in Gehenom respond to Kaddish, they are allowed entry to Gan Eden.

"This idea found its way into Medieval literature in the late 12th century.
Rokei'ach (Commentary on Prayer, no. 77) explains that when a child recites
Barekhu or Kaddish, he saves his parent from punishment in the Afterlife. This
idea is repeated in later works and reflects the introduction of the Mourners'

"Even the Rabbis' Kaddish is frequently associated with mourners, recited only
by a mourner or one who has been one. The Pischei Teshuvah (Yoreh De'ah 376:4),
writing in the 19th century, finds a need to state that anyone may recite the
Rabbis' Kaddish. Yet common practice today is to reserve it for mourners.

"R. Freundel directs readers interested in a history from where he leaves off,
in the 12th century, through the 16th century to R. Ovadiah Yosef's Yechaveh
Da?as 5:59). What R. Freundel shows is how the mystical and eschatological
language of a time of persecution is later found meaningful to mourners, leading
to a change in function and practice in the Kaddish prayer."

> Thus arose the unfortunate situation where the various aveilim would say
> kaddish in competition, so that it was often impossible to hear any single one
> at all. Since the main point of the kaddish was to prompt the tzibbur to
> respond "Amein, yehei shemeih rabba ...", the kaddish yatom [orphan's
> kaddish] became itself an orphan whom nobody could answer.

It is unfortunate that in almost all shuls today many people say Kaddish at the
same time.

There is a story about Rav Yisroel Salanter in the book the Mussar Movement
about his approach to saying Kaddish. In the minyan where Reb Yisroel davened,
only one person said each Kaddish. On the day when Reb Yisroel had Yahrtzeit for
his father, a fellow came into the shul who insisted on saying Kaddish for his
daughter. When he was told that only one person said Kaddish in the minyan and
that Reb Yisroel had Yahrtzeit,  this fellow became very upset.  Reb Yisroel
said that this person should say Kaddish.

After davening they went over to Reb Yisroel and said, "You are a regular here,
and he is not. You are a real chiyuv, and he is not. Why did you let him say
Kaddish?'"  Reb Yisroel replied, "I thought it would be a bigger zechus for my
father's neshamah if I let him say Kaddish."

Yitzchok Levine


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, May 29,2022 at 07:17 AM
Subject: Yizkor (was Kaddish)

I wrote (MJ 65#36):

> ...
> Thus arose the unfortunate situation where the various aveilim would say
> kaddish in competition, so that it was often impossible to hear any single one
> at all.
> ...
> On the other hand, one must recognise that the pull of saying kaddish has been
> instrumental in retaining many marginal Jews who would, otherwise, have
> completely assimilated, so one would have to be circumspect in criticising
> their lack of awareness of its true significance.
> The same applies to the recital of yizkor, attendance at which in shul, for
> many, is the most important aspect of Yom Tov.

Since we are approaching Shavuot when many congregations recite yizkor, perhaps
it is worth pointing out that it does not require a minyan. There is, therefore,
no need to go to shul to say it. This is something that it is worth pointing
out, especially to ladies with small children who might feel obliged to leave
them with, for example, an older daughter, given the widespread custom to send
out those with living parents for its duration. (The same could equally apply to
single fathers, perhaps even more so, who might be tempted to attend a minyan, for
example, to say kaddish while leaving children relatively uncared for.)

The guiding halachic principle must be "chamira sakanta mei'issura [we must be
more careful in avoiding potential danger than avoiding transgressions]".

Martin Stern


End of Volume 65 Issue 39