Rabbi David Walk
Once in a while the Rabbis get it right. There are certain enactments that they decreed which have withstood the test of time and continue to work as originally planned, or, perhaps, even better. One example is the recitation of Kaddish. This rabbinic custom of chanting Kaddish for the beloved departed continues to keep shuls and minyanim humming to this day. Many synagogues wouldn't have a minyan without the Kaddish zoggers. Many places would have a minyan, but the regulars became regulars when they felt the need to say Kaddish. Not only that, but the Sages got the logistics right. They put two Kaddishes at the beginning of the service, so people come on time. Then they put two right at the end, so parishioners won't leave early. Pretty good planning! I mention this rabbinic innovation at this time, because I'd like to look at another rabbinic institution which, though successful, has been modified and even attacked by Jewish groups over the past centuries.
This week we read the first parsha in the book of Leviticus. That Latin name for the book reflects the fact that much of the material in the book relates to the work of the Cohamin and Levi'im in the
As a descendant of Lithuanian Misnagdim, I'm going to make a painful admission. Chassidim are better at pray. This has been true for a long time. There's a story from the eighteenth century about a young man who disappointed his parents because instead of going to Vilna to study with the great Gaon, he went to Mezeritch to follow the Magid (died 1772). The young man explained that in Vilna he'd learn how to study Talmud, but in Mezeritch he'd learn how to daven, which is harder. What do they get right that we are often missing? What do the liberal branches of Judaism miss?
Sometimes we think too much. When the Rabbis composed this alternative to the sacrifices, they wanted to replace what happened on the
In looking in the Nefesh Hachayim by Rabbi Chayim Volozhiner (1749-1821), I noticed an essential question about how we feel about prayer as a replacement for the
I don't know which approach is more meaningful or moving, but the point is clear: when we pray it's about getting closer to God. So, what's going to happen in the future isn't critical when I pray, and those who are so worried about it that they change the text to delete references to the
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