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As far as I'm aware, the historical practice of Ashkenazim was to have only one person recite each Kaddish. This is derived from the Gemara in Megillah (~21b) where it is said that תרי קלי לא משתמעי, "two voices are not heard [together]." This also fits with a midrashic statement that saying יהא שמה is a comfort to the neshamah of the deceased (citation needed).

While German-influenced kehillot still often oppose the group Kaddish, it has become fairly common in most circles. In some non-Orthodox communities, everyone will say each Kaddish together, so that there is no one to say אמן or יהא שמה!

What sources are provided for the practice of group Kaddishin among Ashkenazim, especially with regards to תרי קלי and saying/responding יהא שמה?

  • @DoubleAA, I hope this is better. I have heard that group Kaddish is originally a Sephardi minhag. I've also heard a story of R' Akiva Eiger permitting it for one year during a plague outbreak in Posen, but I can't see a temporary reshus (particularly without a source) as being a halachically valid statement for applying to a longterm change. – Noach MiFrankfurt May 17 '16 at 16:32
  • It's not a halachically valid statement for a long term change. What happened is just everyone would fight too much so no one could change it back. They'd be fired from their Shul. By now people think it's their tradition. – Double AA May 17 '16 at 16:33
  • @DoubleAA, it appears to have worked in Posen while R' Eiger was there. – Noach MiFrankfurt May 17 '16 at 16:35
  • torahmusings.com/2014/01/… – Gershon Gold May 17 '16 at 16:55
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt I don't know what your point is. – Double AA May 17 '16 at 17:02
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May Multiple People Say Kaddish Simultaneously? goes through a long analysis of the subject but does not come to a conclusion as to when the minhag changed. He does point out that Rav Yaakov Emden suggested it and the Chasam Sofer rejected it. Rav Yaakov Ettinger rejected the suggestion fiercely as being akin to the reform. The article states that it is not clear when the minhag changed. The full article is too long for here but I have put in short excerpts to explain it. Note the dates of some of the Rabbanim referenced which seem to imply that the minhag did not change until at least the end of the nineteenth century.

Finally, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (135:6) (Shlomo Ganzfried 1804 - 1830) rules that multiple men should not recite Kiddush simultaneously if there are people listening who need to hear the Kiddush in order to fulfill their mitzvah. Whether or not it is necessary for a mourner to recite Kaddish alone may well depend on the reason for reciting it.

As noted earlier, Rav Yaakov Emden suggested that we follow the Sephardic practice of having all of the mourners recite Kaddish together, but was met with significant criticism from the Chasam Sofer. The Chasam Sofer (Moses Schreiber (1762–1839)) argues that we cannot change ancient Ashkenazic practice, and suggesting such a simple solution would imply that the extensive discussions in earlier sources relating to who has precedence in reciting Kaddish were all misguided – a charge not easily leveled against the Torah giants of previous centuries. Similarly, Rav Yaakov Etlinger (17 March 1798 – 7 December 1871) (ibid) was asked about a community in which many shuls with different customs had merged. The rabbi of the combined shul decided that in order to preserve peace, all of the mourners would be permitted to recite Kaddish together. Quite proud of his idea, the rabbi presented it to Rabbi Ettlinger. Rabbi Ettlinger’s reaction was fierce: “How can you consider changing a custom that has been observed in all Ashkenazic countries for more than 300 years and claim it is a ‘great and appropriate’ idea?! You are following closely on the heels of the revolutionary thinkers of our time who have changed various customs relating to tefillah!”

As noted previously, in contemporary shuls it is very common for all of the mourners to recite Kaddish simultaneously. This is clearly not the traditional Ashkenazic practice and it is not entirely clear when the practice changed. While contemporary poskim do not demand reverting back to the ancient practice,4 they do remain sensitive to the concern of not being able to hear two voices simultaneously.

  • Most of this doesn't address the question at all. Please edit out the extraneous material – Double AA May 31 '16 at 21:39
  • OK I deleted much of it. – sabbahillel May 31 '16 at 21:51

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