Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Reading Pitum haKetoret From a Klaf, part ii

In my previous post on Pitum haKetoret, I noted that the Aruch haShulchan noted (citing sources IIRC) that it is easy to miss one of the complicated, arcane ingredients of pitum haketoret, and since we say in it that if he omitted one of its ingredients -- when actually producing/offering it -- he is liable to death, and since saying it is as if being makriv it, one should take care to read it from a text.

Each independently is sufficient. That is, one should say prayer properly, and thus for difficult parts of prayer one might err in, one should pray from a text. The second reason is cute, and is consistent within a certain world view. It serves to bolster the first reason, and also reinforces the feeling that one is standing in for actual offering, such that one should be careful in this way. But would Aruch haShulchan really say that one who accidentally omitted one of the ingredients is really chayav mita? Or even that he sinned to a greater extent than had he omitted a word in Az Yashir. I imagine that if pressed on the matter, he would not say so.

I also suggested that the modern practice of reading from a klaf evolved from this minhag. I thought it arose from a simple misreading of the "requirement" {within this specific custom} of reading from a ktav. However, Mordecai noted in a comment there:
the customs stems I believe from several places. The Caf Hachaim states that saying Pitum haktoret from a klaf in ashurit is a segula for parnassa.
The concept of ashurit as something beyond being used in the torah is sourced in the ben ish chai who says that we are required to envision the name of hashem in ashurit all the time and in order to elevate all of thoughts we should envision all of our words that we use in ashurit.
Good points. I still think is possible that this was a minhag which developed, starting with reading from a text and evolving to reading from a klaf written in ktav ashurit. That is, it took a foothold with the first point, reading from a text. Then, people gave all sorts of rationalizations, even kabbalistic ones or segulah-based ones. And ritual attracts formalisms. And it evolved into an insistent on ktav ashuri from a klaf. Or, as appears below, they combined in another segulah. This type of development of custom happens over and over, and I would expect it would be the same here.

Pictured above is a scan of the relevant segment of Kaf haChaim, written by Rav Chaim Palagi. I will summarize here his rundown. He cites various sources for each, but look for these inside:
  1. Shikchat Leket: One should look at the letters of Pitum haKetoret when he says it.
  2. Erech Lechem: One should read it from a "sefer" {and a siddur would qualify for this}.
  3. A kabbalistic reason, from Eshel MiPri: the 11 ingredients of the ketoret are a wondrous segulah to humble the 11 encampments of Samael {an accusing, destroying angel}. And if he says it quickly and by heart, as he prepares to leave shul, he has no benefit from this saying over.
  4. Sefer M"tz: One should write the parshat haKetoret on a klaf or a gevil {Gvil is the whole leather which has been proccessed to be able to write on. Gvil is usually brownish. Klaf Parchment used for Tefilin and Mezuzot is the external portion of the skin where the fur comes out.} in Ktav Ashurit and read from it, and this is a segulah, for ketoret enriches, and he will thus be assured that his parnassah will not cease, and that he will always have good and plenty parnassah.
  5. And one should say veArvah LaHashem..., and three times the three pesukim of Hashem Tzevakot. And they have the custom to say it in shul during the Yamim Noraim, but one who trembles at the word of Hashem should say so every day.
In (3) it is noteworthy that there is an additional practical reason I did not think of -- towards the end of davening, people just mutter the end stuff in order to rush out.

There is also now kabbalistic reason to focus on the words.

Still only in (4) do we see mention of a klaf, and ktav ashurit. And this is for reading specifically the parsha of ketoret. It makes more sense that this requirement of klaf and ashurit would come into play for pesukim. Now that they say it all together at this point in tefillah, we can see how all the relevant zuggach were placed on the parchment, even non-pesukim. I'd have to see it inside.

Another important aspect of this in mentioned in this article:
כן נכון לומר בכל יום לפני התפילה את פרשת הקטורת, שאף היא היתה מוקטרת בכל יום, ובזוהר (ויקהל ריח, ב) שבחו מאוד את האומרה בכל יום. גם מי שממהר, ראוי שישתדל לומר לכל הפחות את פרשת התמיד ופסוקי הקטורת

The source of a segulah for chasing away a plague is from Torah (which the Zohar apparently states), where Aharon offers the ketoret and ends the plague. The source of a segulah for parnassah would seem to be from Yoma 26a:

דף כו, א משנה הפייס השלישי חדשים לקטרת באו והפיסו והרביעי חדשים עם ישנים מי מעלה אברים מן הכבש למזבח:
דף כו, א גמרא
תנא מעולם לא שנה אדם בה מ"ט א"ר חנינא מפני שמעשרת א"ל רב פפא לאביי מ"ט אילימא משום דכתיב (דברים לג) ישימו קטורה באפך וכתיב בתריה (דברים לג) ברך ה' חילו אי הכי עולה נמי הכתיב (דברים לג) וכליל על מזבחך א"ל הא שכיחא והא לא שכיחא

And of course, we do not perform every segulah. But it being encompassed in davening ritualizes it, and the reasons already present for reading from a text, may have worked to help make it as mainstream as it has become.

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