I've always heard that the Yemenite Jews of the late 1100s were so grateful for the theological support they were given by Maimonides' writings (Rambam's Igeret Teiman), that where their kaddish prayer had previously said:

May His great Name be exalted ... in your lifetime and days and in the lifetime of all the House of Israel

They modified it to:

... in your lifetime and days and in the lifetime of our great teacher Rabbi Moshe and all the House of Israel

Is there a textual source for this? Do we know when they added it? Was there any reservation about modifying the text of the prayers? And more notably: did they just take it out when Maimonides died (1204 I think)? Was there any friction about that?

1 Answer 1


Ramban mentions it in his letter to the French Sages in defense of Rambam (in 1232). He writes (last line of the page, and continuing from there):

והנני מעיד עלי לפני רבותי שמים וארץ, כי שמענו ממגידי אמת שבכל ארצות מלכות תימן, קהלות רבות עוסקים בתורה ובמצות לשמן, והיו מזכירים שם הרב בכל קדיש וקדיש: "בחייכון וביומיכון ובחיי דרבנא משה בן מיימון", אשר האיר עיניהם בתורה, והעמידן בקרן אורה, לבטל מהן גזרות קשות וכובד המס, כי היו כטיט חוצות מרמס. ומעליהם עול מלכות הרים, ויחלו מעט ממשא מלך ושרים

"I call heaven and earth to witness before [you,] my teachers, on what we have heard from reliable sources: that in all areas of the Kingdom of Yemen, where there are many communities who are occupied with Torah and mitzvos for their own sake, they would mention the name of the Rabbi [Rambam] in every Kaddish: 'In your lives and in your days, and in the lifetime of our teacher Moshe ben Maimon.' He enlightened their eyes in Torah, and placed them in a bright situation, by cancelling for them many serious decrees and the harshness of taxation - for they were like trodden down like the mud of the streets. He lifted off them the yoke of the king, and they gained some little relief from the burden of king and princes."

The usual explanation I've seen is that indeed this relates to his having written Iggeres Teiman, although to me it sounds like it's more than that - that he actually interceded for them politically (maybe through Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria, whose physician the Rambam was).

If there were reservations about this addition, they're not recorded, as far as I know. In those times the wording of Kaddish may have been a little more fluid anyway. I once perused a manuscript of part of the siddur, dating from the 9th century (in the JTS library), and the Kaddish there is extremely long - it contained requests from Hashem on behalf of the Reish Galusa, the heads of the yeshivos of Sura and Pumbedisa, and a fourth person whose name is illegible (there's a scholarly claim that it was R' Amram Gaon, who according to this view headed a breakaway yeshivah; my personal opinion is that it was simply the local rav or rosh yeshivah of whatever community this manuscript comes from). So there was certainly precedent for such additions, and indeed the Kaddish Derabbanan that we say is sort of a vestige of that.

Ramban describes this usage in the past tense ("היו מזכירים"), so it was probably discontinued when the Yemenite communities received word of the Rambam's passing. Again, if there was any opposition to doing so, it's probably lost to history.

  • 1
    Wow, great research; thanks! So Kaddish in the 1100s may have been considered an appropriate place to insert the needs and blessings of a given community (almost analogous to many synagogues' Mi SheBerachs today for various causes); adding Rambam in (and then taking him out after his death) probably wasn't such a carving in stone then.
    – Shalom
    Dec 20, 2010 at 21:35

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