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  • Letters to the Editor
  • Geoffrey Goldberg, Rabbi Micah Liben, and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

To the Editor:

I am sure many colleagues greatly appreciated Avram Israel Reisner’s offering of a creative substitute for the (Mourner’s) Kaddish on occasions when no minyan is present.1 This solution, a prayer built upon the neglected Al hakol, is quite brilliant since, while the opening words are so similar to those of the Kaddish, the prayer does not constitute a davar she-bikdushah, as Reisner points out. It comes as a welcome relief from falling back, for example, on Psalm 23, which is overworked and overused—as if this psalm only relates to death and mourning!

The statement of Elbogen, quoted by Reisner, that “[Al Ha-kol] is hardly used anywhere,” is somewhat surprising and calls for comment. Elbogen’s opinion probably reflected the liturgical and ḥazzanut practice of Berlin and German territories further east, namely, minhag polin. To the west and south, where minhag ashkenaz prevailed, Al Ha-kol was, on occasion, recited aloud by the ḥazzan. On Simḥat Torah and/or Matnat Yad2 it was frequently sung responsorially. In some communities it was chanted aloud at all services on the pilgrimage festivals.3 In England, Al Hakol was even sung to newly composed choral settings, although this practice has now been obsolete for at least half a century, if not longer.4 [End Page 118]

Recently, the editors of Va’ani Tefillati, the new prayer book of the Israeli Masorti Movement (2009), made an excellent attempt to create a substitute for Mourner’s Kaddish when no minyan is available.5 They provided a newly composed text that draws upon well-known verses from the Bible and the siddur, including a phrase from El malei raḥamim—all of which will sound familiar to users (p. 287). Going beyond the Kaddish-like words of Al Ha-kol, this text actually includes the opening words of the Kaddish:

The prayer reads sufficiently well also in English:

O God, Source of the breath of all flesh, in Your hand are the souls of the living and the dead, turn today in loving kindness and compassion to my prayer in memory of my loved one. Remember all the loving kindness and goodness that he (she) performed in this world. Grant him (her) perfect rest in Your sheltering presence, and may his (her) soul be bound up in the bond of life. Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’meih rabbah. Oseh shalom bimromav hu yaaseh shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael [v’al kol yoshvei teivel], v’imru amen.9

Either substitute formulation of the Mourner’s Kaddish is worthy of serious consideration by our colleagues, and hopefully will be adopted for use in our synagogues.

Geoffrey Goldberg
Rego Park, NY

To the Editor:

David Kunin’s essay regarding the “triumphalist and rejectionist prayers in our siddur”1 makes a persuasive argument for re-evaluating segments of the liturgy at odds with our values. I certainly hope that it is widely read and considered. However, in a tangential footnote related to the paucity of Conservative/Masorti t’shuvot dealing with liturgical change, I believe he misrepresents David Golinkin’s t’shuvah on the Amidah. The author states that Golinkin’s t’shuvah “forbids the inclusion of the Matriarchs,” [End Page 119] but in fact the opposite is true. Golinkin does rule against the common practice of adding the Matriarchs by altering the beginning and end of the Avot blessing; yet he also concludes that there is an “authentic” way to insert the names of the imahot into the Amidah: namely, through the use of piyyutim either in the middle of the Avot or the other blessings. Golinkin allows, and even encourages, the insertion of piyyutim for the sake of liturgical innovation; indeed, at Machon Schechter, where Golinkin serves as president, a piyyut about the Matriarchs (written by Einat Ramon) is recited at the discretion of the shatz. Here at Kellman Brown Academy, our Middle School students began including that same piyyut in the morning Amidah after studying Golinkin’s t’shuvah. I hope that both Kunin’s central thesis, as well as Golinkin’s t’shuvah...


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