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Bittul Ha-Tamid


BITTUL HA-TAMID (Heb. בִּטּוּל הַתָּמִיד; lit. "abolition of the daily offering"), interruption of prayers and of Torah reading in the synagogue (Heb. עִכּוּב הַקְּרִיאָה, ikkuv ha-keri'ah and, therefore, also called ikkuv ha-keri'ah ikkuv ha-tefillah, "delay the reading of the Torah," "delay the morning prayers") to seek redress of a wrong, mainly a judicial or moral one. This practice was prevalent mainly in the Middle Ages among Ashkenazi Jewry. The custom of interrupting public religious services was a form of protest and way of arousing public indignation afforded to an individual who felt that an injustice had been perpetrated upon him or her by the constituted authorities or by rich and violent individuals. Ashkenazi takkanot of the 12th century set various limits to the exercise of this right to arouse "public scandal for the rights of the individual," while takkanot attributed to *Gershom b. Judah sought to regulate it: "If a man summons his neighbor to court and the latter refuses to appear, the plaintiff may not stop the morning prayers and reading of the Torah, unless he has first three times stopped the evening services." A Book of Customs compassionately adds: "However an orphan or a widow may interrupt even the first time until justice is done them." Until 1876 a Jew wishing to protest communal abuses was permitted to rise and say, "Ich klame." This privilege was extended to the aggrieved in Eastern Europe also, including cases of complaints against the kahal itself. In Russia, after the conscription law of 1827, many a poor mother availed herself of the opportunity to prohibit further prayer until she had stated her protest over the cruel drafting of her male child as a *Cantonist.


Finkelstein, Middle Ages, index s.v.Interrupting the prayers; Baron, Community, index s.v.Interruptions of Prayers; I.A. Agus, Urban Civilization in Pre-Crusade Europe, 2 (1965), index; S. Assaf, Battei ha-Din ve-Sidreihem (1924), 25–29; H.H. Ben-Sasson, Perakim be-Toledot ha-Yehudim bi-Ymei ha-Beinayim (1962), 115–6.

[Isaac Levitats]

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