The Medieval Origins of the Kaddish

While the kaddish may be the best known piece of Jewish liturgy, particularly in its function as a prayer for the dead, there is no mention of mourners reciting it until the 12th century, and then only in texts from France and Germany. David Shyovitz, questioning previous theories of the prayer’s origin, suggests his own:

The fact that a prayer for mourners would have been newly introduced in [12th-century Ashkenaz] seems logical. After all, the year 1096 had witnessed a deeply traumatic series of massacres inflicted on the Jews of the Rhineland by armies of Crusaders headed east to the Holy Land, who thought it expedient to wipe out the enemies of Christ living within their borders before pursuing foes beyond them.

The throngs of newly grieving mourners, in this telling, required a ritual outlet, and found one in the kaddish, with its stirring proclamation of divine majesty and promise of impending redemption. . . . This explanation, . . . however, is wholly unsupported by the sources.

The custom is first attested in a copy of Maḥzor Vitri, the liturgical guide composed in the 12th century by Rabbi Simḥa of Vitri, a student of Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi), and the overt and explicit rationale for the practice in this text is not commemoration but . . . redeem[ing] the souls of deceased relatives from suffering in hell. The martyrs of the Crusade massacres were the last people who would have been thought to require such posthumous assistance. . . .

A more compelling explanation for the rise of kaddish as a mourner’s prayer emerges from an analysis of the tale that accompanied the earliest halakhic discussions of the practice. . . [T]his story describes [the 2nd-century sage] Rabbi Akiva’s run-in with a dead man suffering in the afterlife on account of the sinful deeds he committed during his lifetime.


More about: Afterlife, Crusades, Kaddish, Prayer, Rabbi Akiva, Religion & Holidays

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security