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T’hillim 30

A psalm of David.  A song for the dedication of the House.

At this point in the Shabbat Shaḥrit service we have completed our daily prayers and readings and prepare now to enter into prayers and readings specific to the weekly Shabbat.  Our first reading, T’hillim 30, directs our attention to the jubilant dedication of our Holy Temple.

Imagine the excitement as we awaited the dedication!  For over 400 years we brought sacrifices to temporary structures, always aware that one day HaShem would reveal the location of Ha Makom (“the place where the L-rd your G-d will choose as a dwelling for His Name”).  Then, in a series of supposedly unrelated events, HaMeleḥ David bought a threshing floor so he could build an altar to stay a terrible plague (2 Shmu’el 24).  

That seemingly nondescript threshing floor was Ha Makom, the Temple Mount.  Some time later David declared to HaNavi Natan, “Here, I’m living in a cedar-wood palace; but the ark for the covenant of Ad-nai is kept under a tent!” That same night Natan received a vision and reported back – David is forbidden to build the House, yet due to his great desire to do so HaShem promises that David’s house and throne will last forever (1 Chronicles 17).  David, known as the man after G-d’s own heart, spent his final years gathering supplies and amassing treasures for building a House that he did not live to see. 

2 Chronicles 5 – 7 describe HaMeleḥ Shlomo’s dedication of the House as a majestic seven-day celebration replete with Levitical music, impassioned prayers, and sacrifices in abundance. Coincident with Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret (Tishrei 15 – 21, 22), “on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly, having observed the dedication of the altar for seven days and the festival for seven days.  Then, on the twenty-third day of the seventh month, he sent the people away to their tents full of joy and glad of heart for all the goodness Ad-nai had shown to David, to Shlomo and to Isra’el His people.” (2 Chronicles 7:9-10)

As we read through T’hillim 30, notice how the center section feels like a private struggle in the midst of HaMaleḥ David’s public song.  His inner conflict is familiar to anyone who has embraced a task of great magnitude or eternal consequence – exultation (“I shall never be shaken”) interspersed with despondency (“Can dust thank You?).  This t’hillah, read without the center section, is inspiring and triumphant; the center section, though, is what makes it personal, palpable, real. 

“I will exalt You, L-rd, for You have lifted me up, and not let my enemies rejoice over me. 

L-rd, my G-d, I cried to You for help and You healed me.  L-rd, You lifted my soul from the grave; You spared me from going down to the pit.  Sing to the L-rd, you His devoted ones, and give thanks to His holy name.  For His anger is for a moment, but His favor for a lifetime.  At night there may be weeping, but in the morning there is joy.

“When I felt secure, I said, “I shall never be shaken.”  L-rd, when You favored me, You made me stand firm as a mountain, but when You hid Your face, I was terrified.  To You, L-rd, I called; I pleaded with my L-rd: “What gain would there be if I died and went down to the grave?  Can dust thank You?  Can it declare Your truth?  Hear, L-rd, and be gracious to me; L-rd, be my help.”

“You have turned my sorrow into dancing.  You have removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may sing to You and not be silent.  L-rd my G-d, for ever will I thank You.” [T’hillim 30]

Through T’hillim 30 we traverse Har haBayit; it surrounds us, eclipsing awareness of everything else as we “enter His gates with thanksgiving, enter His courts with praise.”  We have ascended the Southern steps; as we continue now through the Gates to the Courts we see the House within which the Heiḥol and the Kodesh Kodeshim are located.  Standing at a height of 100 cubits (approximately 150 feet), the House towers over the familiar walls (40 feet) which surround the Old City of Jerusalem.

After the celebration’s finale, after everyone has been sent home, HaShem visited HaMaleḥ Shlomo (2 Chronicles 7).  This is the famous exchange during which HaShem grants Shlomo his world-renowned measure of wisdom.  HaShem’s parting words, so abrupt and unexpected, described the future destruction of our magnificent Temple.

How poignant that HaShem chose to foretell the destruction of His House on the night following one of the grandest celebrations in recorded history.  Yet because of this we relate to T’hillim 30’s mix of grief and joy, of despondency and hope; because of this we can celebrate the Holy Temple, mourn its loss, and anticipate the time when it again will stand during the reign of Mashiaḥ.

Kaddish (Kaddish d’Rabbanan)

Kaddish d’Rabbanan is said after completing a section of study, at the conclusion of a siyyum, and at the closing of a Jewish grave.  This is our first encounter with a Kaddish (there are five versions, see Siddur > Shaḥrit article “Kaddish: Introduction”) in our series on the morning service.

We have just completed studying “Offerings” and “Yishma’el’s 13 Principles” which include readings from the Torah along with pertinent selections from the חז״ל (ḥazal).  Ḥazal, an acronym for the Hebrew “Ḥaḥameinu Ziḥronam Liv’raḥa,” meaning “Our Sages, may their memory be blessed,” refers specifically to the sages of Israel who lived during an 875 year period (250 BCE through 625 CE).

A siyyum is the completion of any unit of Torah study or a tractate of the Mishnah or Talmud.  Followed by a celebratory meal, many people may be familiar with siyyums as a study on minor fast days, as the celebratory meal also ends the fast.

The closing of a Jewish grave is also called an “unveiling.”  Held within the first year after burial, this is a formal unveiling of the tombstone or grave marker; an indicator that the official time of mourning is over.

Kaddish d’Rabbanan includes the following section on behalf of Israel and Israel’s teachers and students, past and present, who engage in Torah study:

“To Israel, to the teachers, their disciples

and their disciples’ disciples,

and to all who engage in the study of Torah,

in this (in Israel add: holy) place or elsewhere,

may there come to them and you great peace,

grace, kindness and compassion,

long life, ample sustenance and deliverance,

from their Father in Heaven – and say:  Amein.”

The concluding line, אבוהון די בשמיא is translated, “[their] Father in Heaven.”  Found in both Kaddish Shalem and Kaddish d’Rabbanan, this hearkens back to the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer.  This is the third occasion of a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer tracing back to prayers in the traditional Siddur.  (See Siddur > Shaḥrit articles “Birkat HaShaḥar,” “Kaddish”).  These may be indications that the Lord’s Prayer is a collection of corporate prayers, each referenced by key words from each selected prayer.

Notice that Kaddish d’Rabbanan reserves all praise to HaShem.  Our requests for provision and blessings on Israel and on those dedicated to Torah study confer somber recognition that Judaic observance, especially Torah study, is all too often a dangerous endeavor.  HaShem is and must ever be our sole and unwavering focus as we prepare to recite T’hillim 30, the psalm leading up to Pesukei d’Zimrah.

Kaddish (Introduction)

Composed in Aramaic, the lingua franca of ancient Judaic culture so that all would understand what they were saying, Kaddish is believed to have originated during our exile in Bavel.  There are five versions of Kaddish.  Each Kaddish, for comparison purposes, is included in this introduction, with unique verbiage for each in italics.

Recited in its various forms at least 13 times during a traditional service, Kaddish serves as a transitional vehicle as we journey through the service’s prayers and studies.  Similar to steps in a staircase or to rungs of a ladder, each Kaddish marks our progress as we ascend to and return from the Amida, the Standing Prayer during which we commemorate the Temple sacrifices, the pinnacle of the synagogue service.  A minyan is required in order to say Kaddish.

As we encounter each Kaddish during our journey through the Siddur we will focus on the language specific to each.  Our attention is presently on the language common to all versions of Kaddish. 

Every Kaddish begins, יתגדל ויתקדש שמה רבא which is translated, “[great and] Holy His Name.”  When translated into Old English we encounter the familiar, “Hallowed be Thy Name” which brings to mind the Lord’s Prayer, echoed by the congregation’s response, “May His great Name be blessed for ever and all time.”

Kaddish is our proclamation that HaShem’s name was, is, and will ever be holy and blessed; we acknowledge that His Name will never be erased or diminished.  We are beckoned to feel how all of creation is permeated with G-dliness, transcending all levels of creation, all worlds, all ages, all eternities, all levels of awareness both within and beyond time/space.

Ḥatzi Kaddish (Half Kaddish)

Magnified and sanctified may His great name be, in the world He created by His will.  May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel, swiftly and soon – and say: Amein.

            May His great name be blessed for ever and all time.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, raised and honored, uplifted and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond any blessing, song, praise and consolation uttered in the world – and say: Amein.

Kaddish Shalem (Full Kaddish)

Magnified and sanctified may His great name be, in the world He created by His will.  May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel, swiftly and soon – and say: Amein.

            May His great name be blessed for ever and all time.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, raised and honored, uplifted and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond any blessing, song, praise and consolation uttered in the world – and say: Amen.

May the prayers and pleas of all Israel be accepted by their Father in Heaven – and say: Amein.

May there be great peace from heaven, and life for us and all Israel – and say: Amein.

May He who makes peace in His high places, make peace for us and all Israel – and say: Amein.

Kaddish d’Rabbanan (Rabbis’ Kaddish)

Magnified and sanctified may His great name be, in the world He created by His will.  May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel, swiftly and soon – and say: Amein.

            May His great name be blessed for ever and all time.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, raised and honored, uplifted and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond any blessing, song, praise and consolation uttered in the world – and say: Amein.

To Israel, to the teachers, their disciples and their disciples’ disciples, and to all who engage in the study of Torah, in this (in Israel add: holy) place or elsewhere, may there come to them and you great peace, grace, kindness and compassion, long life, ample sustenance and deliverance, from their Father in Heaven – and say:  Amein.

May there be great peace from heaven, and (good) life for us and all Israel – and say: Amein.

May He who makes peace in His high places, make peace for us and all Israel – and say: Amein.

Kaddish Eḥar Hakvurah (Burial Kaddish)

Magnified and sanctified may His great name be, in the world that will in future be renewed, reviving the dead and raising them up to eternal life. 

He will rebuild the city of Jerusalem and in it re-establish His Temple. 

He will remove alien worship from the earth and restore to its place the worship of Heaven. 

Then the Holy One, blessed be He, will reign in His sovereignty and splendor. 

May it be in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel, swiftly and soon – and say Amein.

            May His great name be blessed for ever and all time.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, raised and honored, uplifted and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond any blessing, song, praise and consolation uttered in the world – and say: Amein.

May there be great peace from heaven, and life for us and all Israel – and say: Amein.

May He who makes peace in His high places, make peace for us and all Israel – and say: Amein.

Kaddish Yatom (Mourners’ Kaddish)

Magnified and sanctified may His great name be, in the world He created by His will.  May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel, swiftly and soon – and say: Amein.

            May His great name be blessed for ever and all time.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, raised and honored, uplifted and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond any blessing, song, praise and consolation uttered in the world – and say: Amein.

May there be great peace from heaven, and life for us and all Israel – and say: Amein.

May He who makes peace in His high places, make peace for us and all Israel – and say: Amein.

Yishma’el’s 13 Principles

Torah study is a constant theme throughout our daily prayers found in the traditional Siddur. Within these prayers we speak of our desire to attach ourselves to the Torah and we beseech HaShem to whet our appetite for Torah study.  While a full description of Rabbi Yishma’el’s thirteen principles of Torah study is beyond the scope of this introduction, we do wish to understand and appreciate why they are included as part of our daily morning prayers.

Born in 90 CE, twenty years after the Second Temple was destroyed, Rabbi Yishma‘el ben Elisha lived during the last decades of the revolt against Rome, a turbulent period which included the Bar Koḥbah rebellion and the final national defeat at Masada.  Of the House of Shammai, he was a contemporary to Rabbi Akiva (during the period of the Tanna’im) and a prominent member of the Sanhedrin at Yavne.  He is also thought to be one of the Ten Martyrs lamented during Yizkor on Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Yishma’el’s 13 principles provide a consistent framework within which we can glean halaḥah from the words of Torah.  Greater in detail than the earlier 7 Rules of Hillel, the structure provided through his principles bring to mind the analytical training inherent to law school studies.

The focus of the 13 principles is specifically for determining halaḥah as the framework for building the nation of Israel with Torah as our constitution.  In Parashah Yitro (Shmot chapter 18) we see the implementation in our recently born nation of a multi-tiered court system in which simple cases are resolved locally, more difficult cases move up the system, and the most difficult cases are brought to Moshe.  This is the formal beginning of our national halaḥah – how we, as a nation, determine together how to “live” Torah.  

The natural inclination of anyone not raised within observant Judaism is to graft a bit of Torah into their existing lifestyle.  By contrast, the nation of Israel was formed in the wilderness by Torah – resulting in a worldview and culture unique from all others.  In addition to providing the socioeconomic structure for our nation, Torah observance builds “G-d consciousness” by infusing our daily lives with verbal and physical expressions of our love and dedication to HaShem.  The Torah is our instructions for living a life pleasing to HaShem.  This is our national heart’s cry.

“All scripture is G-d breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults, and training in right living; thus anyone who belongs to G-d may be fully equipped for every good work.” 

2 Timothy 3:16-17

It is we, not G-d, who need correction when scriptural passages appear to be contradictory.  We labor to distill our findings to only what HaShem intends, resolutely avoiding outside influences in order to gain a consistent interpretation of interrelated scriptural verses.  Yishma’el’s 13 principles guide us in detecting threads not only in neighboring passages but throughout the entirety of Torah in order to develop a consistent halaḥah.

“May it be Your will, Hashem, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that the Holy Temple be rebuilt, speedily in our days, and grant us our share in Your Torah, and may we serve You there with reverence as in days of old and in former years.”

The closing petition is a poignant reminder that our detailed studies merely pay homage to a life of long ago when our beloved Holy Temple stood.  We recite these same words throughout our days at the conclusion of each Amida, embracing that day when we will actually experience the times for which we yearn – when the Holy Temple stands once again.

We might initially assume that our day to day lives would undergo little enduring change; we would simply continue to live and work and raise our families.  We assume that routine daily concerns would encroach on the initial enthusiasm of even those who make aliyah to Israel as they eventually find it too burdensome to travel to the Holy Temple for all three Regalim, consistently, year after year.

Consider, however, how the rebuilt Holy Temple will utterly transform our entire reality.  Whenever we think of Jerusalem we will picture the rebuilt Holy Temple standing on Har haBayit.  When we recite the Amida prayers we will be commemorating actual services performed that day rather than generational memories of services from centuries past. We will be transformed from merely imagining to fully experiencing the fullness of life to which HaShem has called us.

May we dare to hope that we are the generation in which the Holy Temple is rebuilt.

Seder HaKorbanot Part Three

Routine Holiness, Detailed Laws, Solemn Designations

We now read The Order of the Priestly Functions as recorded in Yoma 33a by Abaye in the name of Abba Sha’ul.  We diligently recite each detailed description as though we are actually at work in the Holy Temple.  Each task, so exacting, is yet another example within our Siddur studies of the continual importance of “routine holiness.”

The chores of the Temple – arranging the wood, removing the ashes, cleaning the lamps of the Golden Menorah, preparing and arranging the offerings – are the heart and center of our national existence and identity.  This is עבודת הקדש (avodat hakodesh), i.e., holy work.

But, we are in exile – without the Holy Temple, even those living in Israel are in exile.  As we picture ourselves in the daily activities we also face the depth of our exile.  Heartbroken, we raise our voices,

“Please, by the power of Your great right hand, set the captive nation free. Accept Your people’s prayer. Strengthen us, purify us, You who are revered. Please, mighty One, guard like the pupil of the eye those who seek Your unity. Bless them, cleanse them, have compassion on them. Grant them Your righteousness always. Mighty One, Holy One, in Your great goodness guide Your congregation. Only One, Exalted One, turn to Your people, who proclaim Your holiness. Accept our plea and heed our cry, You who know all secret thoughts.

            “Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and all time.”

Finishing with the very phrase whispered at the end of the Shema, we cry in anguish, distraught over the Temple’s destruction.  We beseech HaShem for “the prayer of our lips be considered, accepted, and favored before You as though we had offered the daily sacrifice at its appointed time and place, according to its laws.”

Having just referenced the Laws of the Offerings, we now read about each one – and we note something curious – the offerings vary in holiness.  Each level of holiness controls where the offering is sacrificed, who may eat it, where it is to be eaten, and the period of time within which it must be eaten.  We ask, “how is an offering’s level of holiness determined?”

Holiness is a designated status.  The two yearling lambs selected each day for the Tamid offering aren’t any different from all the other yearling lambs in the Levitical herds – until the moment they are selected.  Through smiḥa we designate them as Tamid offerings.  Through smiḥa we designate other lambs as Todah, or Shlamim, or Pesaḥ offerings, etc.  The lambs may appear to be identical but they have been forever transformed for a specified purpose.

Judaism is replete with the concept of designations.  Designations are not merely labels; once something is designated through smiḥa a fundamental change takes place, and it never reverts back to its former state.  We have designated times, places, offerings, even people.  Each are “ordinary” until selected – then they are holy, set apart for HaShem.  

We don’t always think about such things in our casual transient Western society but this is a foundational concept within Judaism.  While we await the rebuilding of our Holy Temple our studies of the Seder HaKorbanot remind us of the daunting awesomeness of designations.  We experience Shabbat with greater reverence once we grasp the concept of HaShem’s sanctification of time.  Our heartache while visiting the Kotel (Western Wall) is deepened when we realize the eternal pricelessness imparted to that place by HaShem.  Through our study of the Seder haKorbanot we are invited to transform what could merely be an intellectual exercise to a constant daily awareness.