Q. Why do we repeat the word L’eyla in Kaddish between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur?
A. This is the rule in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 129:1: “In each Kaddish said from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur, the word l’eyla (‘He is high’) is repeated thus: L’eyla l’eyla, ‘He is very high’ (without adding a vav – ‘and’ – to make the second word ul’eyla).
“Since the Kaddish contains 28 words, and during the year we say min kol – ‘above (all blessings)’ in two words, now we contract them into one word, mikkol”.
There are a number of questions to be raised regarding the double l’eyla:
• What is the source of the custom?
• What is the purpose of the doubling?
• Why omit a vav before the second l’eyla?
• What has 28 to do with Kaddish?
• Where in Kaddish are there 28 words?
The practice probably dates from the 15th century and Karo does not refer to it in Orach Chayyim 582. The Magen Avraham (note 4) ascribes it to minhagim, but some rites never double the word; others do so throughout the year.
Arguing for keeping the doubling to the Yamim Nora’im, the L’vush suggests that at this time of the year all God’s creatures appear before Him as sheep before a shepherd, and they look up to Him for His blessing.
Should we add a vav (“and”) before the second l’eyla?
It probably makes no real difference, though the Biblical source of the phrase in Ezek. 41:7 and Deut. 28:43 makes omitting the vav linguistically preferable.
What is the connection of 28 (the numerical value of ko’ach) with Kaddish?
The Talmud in Shabbat 119b says: “Whoever answers… b’chol kocho, his g’zar din is torn up”. Rashi says b’chol kocho is b’chol kavvanato; Tosafot says b’kol ram.
Tearing up the g’zar din may be hyperbole; and there does not seem to be any real link between l’eyla and the number 28.
Kaddish has more than 28 words, but there are 28 letters from y’hei sh’meh rabba to da’amiran b’alma. If we want to keep to the 28 letters we need to say mikkol, not min kol, though there are other ways of contracting words such as d’kudsha (not di kudsha) and da’amiran (not di amiran).
Spiritually there is a value in doubling l’eyla.
The Machzor distinguishes between the rank of the Melech Elyon and the melech evyon. A human “lowly king” who thinks too much of himself and regards himself as “the greatest”, imagines he can manage on his own without the Most High King. He needs a lesson in humility and to learn not to presume too much upon the generosity of the Heavenly Judge who is l’eyla l’eyla – high and lofty.
In short, he needs to stop pretending that he is the one who is l’eyla.
(This article is also available in Hebrew here.)