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Mystery of the Kaddish: Its Profound Influence on Judaism

Mystery of the Kaddish: Its Profound Influence on Judaism

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by Leon h. Charney, Saul Mayzlish (With)

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The Kaddish is considered by millions of Jews to be a special prayer one recites for the dead. It isn't. This book contains much new information as it traces the evolution of the Kaddish.


The Kaddish is considered by millions of Jews to be a special prayer one recites for the dead. It isn't. This book contains much new information as it traces the evolution of the Kaddish.

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Library Journal

This thoughtful book is a refreshing walk through Jewish history, the legal practices of Judaism, and religious psychology. It is also a stoical, philosophic attempt to triumph over death and remove its sting by appealing to community in an age of alienation, fracture, and unsettledness. Attorney, author, and TV host Charney and Mayzlish trace the origin, history, and growth of the Kaddish, traditionally thought to be a prayer for the dead, to meet the spiritual needs of Jews across the ages. Their book is not a superficial cotton-candy examination of profound ideas in the Kaddish but a well-written, positive contribution to the subject in general; it will warrant space next to Leon Wieseltier's Kaddishas well as more popular books on the subject by writers such as Ari Goodman. While it is bound to be controversial, as more traditional scholars will opt for an earlier date than the Dark Ages for the wide practice of the Kaddish, it deserves to be read by all thoughtful Jews and non-Jews interested in ultimate transcendence over mortality.
—David B. Levy Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

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Barricade Books, Incorporated
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5.85(w) x 8.49(h) x 0.95(d)

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Mystery of the Kaddish: Its Profound Influence on Judaism 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an extraordinary book that should be read by anyone who has ever used the Kaddish or is dealing with loss.  It will help you understand how the Jewish people rely on the Kaddish to strengthen their faith in the face of great trails.  It tells us how the Kaddish became an important prayer for all who suffer though it was initially reserved for only certain scholars.  The book is great for anyone who is a fan of the history of religion or fans of the history of Judaism as well as anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the Kaddish.  
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Mystery of the Kaddish is an enjoyable and informative book. a must read for all denominations of Judaism
Guest More than 1 year ago
Leon Charney is a man of amazing gifts. As a lawyer, he guided President Jimmy Carter through the Camp David negotiations, leading to peace between Egypt and Israel. As a television host every Sunday, he fascinates hundreds of thousands of Americans with his intimate knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs and his close relations with some of the world¿s great statesman. Additionally, he delights his audiences and congregations, Jewish or not, with his ability as a Cantor and his masterfully trained beautiful voice. Now he has published a new book called, ¿The Kaddish¿ about one of history¿s greatest prayers, which has played a vital role in the tragic fate of Jews. His vast knowledge of the subject is amazing. His style shows the highest literary skills and the passion he shows for his people and their God is overwhelming. I was deeply impressed! Hans Janitschek, President United Nations Society of Writers
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Da Vinci Code meets the Torah! Cheers to Charney and Mayzlish for weaving together such a readable spiritual and historical journey. Once I picked the book up, I could not put it down. I found myself learning so much from the Crusades to the Bible to the plight of Judaism in the Middle Ages up until the Holocaust. And it's all poetically woven together around this one prayer and unraveling the mystery around its creation and development- the Kaddish a prayer that apparently unifies Jewish people all around the world- beautiful in its utter simplicity and reverence to God! I should note from the outset that I am not Jewish (at least not practicing). My father was Jewish and my mother Jamaican, but my father never practiced Judaism nor did I growing up. Reading this book therefore became a personal joy because it unlocked so much about myself that I had no idea even existed. Although it is clear from this text that many Jewish people too are unfamiliar with this history. Charney and Mayzlish run around the world- from America to Europe to Israel- speaking with primary sources to unravel a truth, until now unknown. And more importantly, this book is just great reading no matter what your background- Jewish, Christian, Muslim or academic! I would have never known. Can't wait for the movie!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Leon Charney needs no introduction. Yet most people I have told about his voyage and research into the Mourner¿s Kaddish, reacted with amazement. ¿Leon is not a Talmudic scholar¿, they say, ¿How can he research such a topic?¿ The amazement, however, should be turned on its head. One should rather wonder, how is it that generation of Halachic scholars have not raised the question concerning the origin of the Mourner¿s Kaddish, and took it for granted that it is part of an eternal tradition. For Leon ¿eternal tradition¿ is equal to ¿fossilized¿ tradition. Leon, who is an expert in law, public policy making, community action, communication and, to top all this, in cantorial music, has been recently bereaved of his mother. Having to join the tradition of Kaddish, he could not do it but in his own special Jewish way. Questioning. Today we celebrate with him a milestone on the road of his answers. What is the mystery of the Kaddish all about? Where was the Mourner¿s Kaddish born? Why has it attracted such great attention? The Mourner¿s Kaddish is written in the Aramaic and is recited at the burial ceremony and from then on, for 11 months, a few times during each of the daily prayers. A word concerning the Kaddish is in order. As Charney tells us, the origin of the Aramaic text is in the Talmud. In its first part, the Kaddish invites the congregation to assert the sanctification of God¿s name in the world. Its second part, however, relegates the sanctified name to the domain of the transcendent - beyond all blessings and consolations. The prayer addresses human reality, the need to glorify the Lord, yet it seals all hope for meaningful understanding of and commonsense consolation for the human lot. As such, this prayer demands of every ordinary Jew to adhere to a high church of believers who would not concretize the attributes of the Lord, and thus accept birth and death in metaphysical equanimity - not to be confused moral neutrality. This is a great lesson Charney wishes to teach us! And the lesson is timely. One of the most embarrassing situations in Jewish secular life is the attending of a funeral in Israel, becoming a living witness to the struggle of the mourner with the Aramaic text. Poetry is turned into a dyslexic experience. Most secular Jews fail to pronounce, let alone understand the sublime message the text in conveying. Charney tell us this text is a sort of internal letter transmitted within the Jewish community, endorsed for all mourners one thousand years ago, handed over from generation to generation since the time of the Crusaders. Till that time of the Crusaders, the Kaddish had been recited following the death of distinguished scholars only. The massacres of Jews by the Crusaders and, later on, the extensive losses during the black plague, forced the Rabbis to address the sorrow and frustration of the ordinary person. They borrowed on Christian burial rituals, tells the book, adapted a traditional and highly meaningful Talmudic text, thus aiming to sustain a Jewish community in the face of disaster. We, descendents of the Holocaust generation, know all-too-well the destructive impact the Eclipse of God can have on traditional Jewish life. According to Charney, the introduction of the Mourner¿s Kaddish into Jewish tradition was a democratic move taken by rabbinical authority. It was a concession to popular psychology. For, as you may know, Jewish festivities waive mourning rituals, except the obligation to recite the Kaddish! This was the decree of the school of Rashi in the 12th century, one endorsed by all Jewish legal codes. How is it, then, that a popular ritual, introduced in the 12th century in Western Europe, was endorsed over a short period of time by the whole of the Jewish world? Here is the book¿s innovation within the field of the sociology of Jewish law. One of the greatest commentators on the Talmud, who lived in Germany in the 14th centur