From the Archives of Tradition

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

tradition-cabinetby 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.

link (PDF)

About Yitzchak Blau

Rabbi Yitzchak Blau is Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Orayta and also teaches at Midreshet Lindenbaum. He is the author of Fresh Fruit and Vintage Wine: The Ethics and Wisdom of the Aggada and an Associate Editor of Tradition.


  1. 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.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

The latest weekly digest is also available by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter



%d bloggers like this: