March 23rd, 2014

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Reciting kaddish

I learned from R. Chaim Weiner in a shiur some years ago that the reason for the multiple mourner's kaddishes at the end of an Orthodox service goes back to the Middle Ages, when there was only one mourner's kaddish, and only one mourner recited it. This would lead to fights for the privilege of reciting kaddish when there was more than one mourner present, so more kaddishes were introduced. Now, multiple mourners may recite kaddish together, but the multiple kaddishes remain (due to Orthodoxy's apparent inability to discard any established practice).

You know, I could sympathise with the old system; reciting kaddish alongside other mourners is a thankless task. During the week I have to try and keep up with seasoned mourners who gabble it out faster than you can say "Yankel Rubenstein"; on Shabbos, I try and pace myself to new mourners or people with yahrzeit, a process which involves looking at their lips rather than the siddur (so it's just as well I know the words off by heart), but invariably fail, because said other people are always halfway across shul, and reciting the kaddish in a low mumble rather than loudly and clearly enough for me to be able to hear where they've got to, and I end up getting told off as a result.

אוי ווי זמיר!

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(relatively) recent

אוי ווי זמיר

Follow-up to my last post: I only realised a few months ago that אוי ווי זמיר "oy vey zmir, which I first heard in between the lines of a Shabbos zemira, has got nothing to do with zemiros, but is short for oy vey iz mir.

I was just thinking about this just now, and had another ping moment: In the English equivalent "woe is me", "me" is not accusative, as it normally is when without any accompanying words, but dative. (How could it be accusative when "to be", being a copula, takes a nominative?). In English "me" can be either accusative (corresponding to German/Yiddish mich) or dative (corresponding to German/Yiddish mir). The latter is normally preceded by "to" or "for", but it doesn't have to in German, and it strikes me there are probably stock phrases which preceded the need for the preposition to distinguish the two. That "woe is me" is an example is confirmed, I now see, by the places it is used in the KJV corresponding to dative in Hebrew, e.g. Psalms 120:5.

Another example that springs to mind is "methinks", which I already knew is not bad grammar for "I think", but short for "[it] thinketh me," Middle English for "it seems to me". Again, I hadn't realised until now that "me" here is dative.

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.