A Livejournal friend mused:
During the Ten Days of Repentance, we change the wording “Oseh shalom bimromav” (The One who creates peace on high) to “Oseh HA-shalom bimromav” (The One who creates THE peace on high) in two places — at the end of Amidah and at the end of Kaddish. But apparently we don’t do it in the third place where this sentence appears in our liturgy, towards the end of Birkat ha-Mazon. I wonder: why not?
I asked Gabriel about this, and his answer merits a post to itself, judiciously edited into prose by me.
In very brief, the answer is:
The phrase oseh HAshalom starts as a Ten Days of Repentance Amidah Blessing implant from ancient Palestinian liturgy, gains independent meaning in the realm of the Hasidei Ashkenaz, is axed in the eighteenth century by well-meaning championers of liturgical authenticity, is sorely missed by those who liked the extra layer of meaning from the Hasidei Ashkenaz, is adopted into the Kaddish by way of compromise, is well-established there and has spread into the Amidah meditation by the twentieth century, and incidentally some Ashkenazim never accepted its axing from the Amidah Blessing in the first place.
It’s a phrase grounded in the Amidah and extended awkwardly to Kaddish, not a wholesale theological search-and-replace on the concept of “the maker of peace” for the Ten Days. We could do that if we liked, but there’s no particular reason to, for reasons which will become clear in the long version.
So here’s the long version.
If you open up a siddur for ordinary weekday davening, you notice that there are four supplemental sentences in the Amidah, which are said only during the Ten Days of Repentance. One in each of the first and last two blessings of the prayer.
These supplemental sentences are from the Geonic era — the Geonim debate just how okay it is to say them, but they make it into virtually all modern rites.
During the year, the theme of the last blessing is שלום, and during the year, Jewish communities today conclude the blessing with the words ברוך אתה ה’ המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום. This is a Babylonian version, quite an old one; it appears in the Siddur of Rav Saadia Gaon, for instance. But there were other versions of this blessing, too. From the Palestinian liturgy, we have ברוך אתה ה’ מעון הברכות ואדון השלום, or possibly מעון הברכות ועושה השלום, or simply ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום. Look familiar? This version is very old, at least as old as המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום, if not older.
The Supplemental Sentence for this, the last blessing of the Amidah, is בספר חיים ברכה ושלום ופרנסה טובה נזכר ונכתב לפניך אנ(חנ)ו וכל עמך בית ישראל לחיים טובים ולשלום, and it seems to have been adopted from a liturgy which concluded the blessing ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום; the Conclusion got chopped and pasted along with the Supplemental Sentence. The other three Supplemental Sentences are inserted into the middles of their respective blessings; this one is right at the end. The theme of the Supplemental Sentence is שלום, and the theme of the Conclusion is שלום.
So, for the 800 years following the Geonic era, Ashkenazim happily continue saying ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום, just ten days a year.
(Unlike, for instance, Sephardim, who say the Supplement בספר חיים ברכה ושלום, but keep the Conclusion from the rest of the year — unclear whether they tried oseh HAshalom and then stopped, or whether they never tried it at all.)
Anyway, the eighteenth century arrives, and with it a certain quest for authenticity. The phrase שינוי ממטבע שטבעו חכמים makes an appearance – the concept of divergence from the fixed text instituted by the Legendary Sages. Since the text of the blessing is המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום on the other 355 days a year (and always, for Sephardim), that had to have been the correct version.
(Ignoring the fact that עושה השלום appears in earlier sources, because the implications of that are much worse, namely, we NEVER have it right except during these ten days.)
So. Some innovators among the Ashkenazim decided to change the concluding text of the blessing back to the regular one, thus bringing their text in line with that of the Sephardim. No more ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום; back to ברוך אתה ה’ המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום.
Now, among Ashkenazim in the Diaspora, this didn’t catch on, for the most part. But where it did, therein lay a problem.
The problem had its roots with the Hasidei Ashkenaz, in the 12th-13th centuries. The דורשי רשומות, “seekers of hidden things”, would find all sorts of messages in the numerical values of words, and the acronyms and other letterplays of the liturgy. And at some point, somebody noticed that the numerical value of השלום is that of ספריאל. Safri’el – that must be the angel who inscribes us in the books, just as we’ve been praying for!
So how, we might ask the innovators, how can you possibly pray בספר חיים ברכה ושלום ופרנסה טובה נזכר ונכתב לפניך אנ(חנ)ו וכל עמך בית ישראל לחיים טובים ולשלום and NOT conclude it ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום? How can you ask to be inscribed and cut out the reference to the inscribing angel? Ridiculous! But on the other hand, if ברוך אתה ה’ המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום is the Correct Original Sage-Instituted version, how CAN you conclude otherwise? An intractable problem.
By way of solution, Efrayim Zalmen Margolies, the מטה אפרים (late eighteenth century), suggested that instead, one could change the last line of Kaddish — עושה שלום במרומיו — to עושה השלום במרומיו. The last line of Kaddish isn’t a Blessing, so it’s much less problematic to mess with it, but it’s enough part of the liturgy that people would be consoled.
Even though, of course, this change would be completely made-up, whereas the one in the last blessing of the Amidah was actually not a change at all, but a retention of a really ancient nusach. It was a solution of sorts, and the consideration of “retention of really ancient nusach” wasn’t on the radar anyway.
So, that became a Thing in the 18th-19th centuries, among some groups: to change עושה שלום במרומיו in Kaddish to עושה השלום במרומיו. And all the New! Frum! Siddurim in the 1970s and afterwards started printing it, and then everyone was doing it.
Some siddurim, in fact, printed עושה השלום במרומיו, whilst still instructing you to conclude your Amidah ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום, thus bringing in Safri’el twice, completely redundantly. But even the siddurim which got rid of ברוך אתה ה’ עושה השלום in the Amidah sometimes kept it in the Kaddish. (Check out a few different siddurim, see the different combinations – it’s interesting.)
This would have annoyed the Hasidei Ashkenaz no end, by the way, because their original problem would have remained — how can you ask to be inscribed but cut out the reference to the inscribing angel? What good does it do to bring him up in Kaddish, eh?
Which is perhaps why, once people started doing oseh HAshalom in Kaddish, they took also to doing it in the meditative section at the end of the Amidah. Okay, it’s not where it used to be, in the text of the blessing, where Safri’el would be most relevant, but it’s kind of nearby.
So the phrase oseh HAshalom starts as a Ten Days of Repentance Amidah Blessing implant from ancient Palestinian liturgy, gains independent meaning in the realm of the Hasidei Ashkenaz, is axed in the eighteenth century by well-meaning championers of liturgical authenticity, is sorely missed by those who liked the extra layer of meaning from the Hasidei Ashkenaz, is adopted into the Kaddish by way of compromise, is well-established there and has spread into the Amidah meditation by the twentieth century, and incidentally some Ashkenazim never accepted its axing from the Amidah Blessing in the first place.
Now we can see why it isn’t theological search-and-replace on the concept of “the maker of peace” for the Ten Days. We could take that step, I suppose — change it in Grace After Meals, prayers while lighting candles, prayers while giving tzedakah, write to Artscroll and request a special Ten Days version of the song “Oseh Shalom Bimromav — Ya’ase shalom, ya’ase shalom, shalom alenu ve’al kol yisrael,” etc. — but there’s no reason to. If nothing else, then there wouldn’t be that interesting inconsistency, which wouldn’t lead to people asking questions, which would mean you’d never have read this blog post.
A peaceful and historically-accurate New Year to you all.
Mirrored from hasoferet.com.