by R. Yitzchak Blau
Some historians of the liturgy emphasize how communal practice has altered the original purpose of particular prayers. For example, individual supplications of various sages (Berakhot 17a) made their way into our formal liturgy. Kaddish, a prayer not essentially connected to mourning, became the prayer most associated with mourning. In this stimulating article from the Spring 1974 issue, Professor Gerald Blidtsein explains why these two historical developments, as well as two other liturgical examples, make religious sense. Perhaps we need to appreciate the quality of our communal religious instinct in these matters.
Another shift, more subtle than those in the article: Mi sheBeirakh used to be a way for a congregation to express the pain the felt for one of their own.
Now, with telecommunications giving us a chance to share names and stories from around the globe, it is a prayer of unity with other communities.
Micha: Or maybe the definition of “our own” has expanded.