Each River and its Channel: Halakhic Attitudes Toward Liturgy

 

“Each River and its Channel”: Halakhic Attitudes Toward Liturgy

A reply to Rabbi Aryeh Frimer, “The Wrong Changes in Jewish Liturgy

Guest post by R. Dr. Seth (Avi) Kadish

Rabbi Dr. Seth (Avi) Kadish is a graduate and musmakh of Yeshiva University who received a Ph.D. in Jewish Philosophy from the University of Haifa. He teaches adult Jewish education in a number of frameworks including soldiers in the IDF’s “Nativ” course, the Hebrew University’s Gandel Program, and the International School at the University of Haifa. He is the author of Kavvana: Directing the Heart in Jewish Prayer (1997) and The Book of Abraham: Rabbi Shimon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran and the School of Rabbenu Nissim Gerondi (currently being published online). This essay is available under the CC-BY-SA license; attribution should point to the post at the Hirhurim blog. A continually updated and corrected version is available here: link.

A. Reading the Rambam Critically

A few months ago I arranged source-sheets for an evening of study with Israeli adults on a topic that would seem to be entirely unrelated to Jewish liturgy, namely the Rambam’s views on the afterlife and the resurrection of the dead. This was part of a year-long course of study meant to cover the “big issues” in Jewish philosophy, primarily by taking the Rambam and contrasting him to the alternative outlooks of Rabbi Yehudah Halevi in the Kuzari and others. In this case it meant studying the Rambam along with the sharp criticism of his eschatology by the Ramban in Sha`ar ha-Gemul.

The Rambam’s openly stated view was that the term Olam ha-Ba (“The World to Come”) as used by Ḥazal refers to the eternal life of the soul (or the intellect) after death without the body, while Teḥiyyat ha-Metim (the resurrection of the dead) refers to a one-time miracle in which the human being as a whole will live again in a body. This is a very straightforward and appealing view, and is probably the way most Jews understand those terms today, both due to its innate appeal and to the Rambam’s powerful influence. As always, the Rambam’s view on this issue is clearly and forcefully stated (though perhaps more stridently and apologetically than usual in Ma’amar Teḥiyyat ha-Metim), and can be read together with his general philosophical views in fascinating ways on both exoteric and esoteric levels.

What is important for our purposes here is not just that the Ramban later attacked this view, but how he carried out his attack, namely that his most powerful and convincing arguments were specifically exegetical ones: By mustering numerous proof texts, the Ramban made a powerful case that when Ḥazal used the term Olam ha-Ba they could not possibly have meant what the Rambam says they meant, but that they rather referred to the future life of the resurrected dead within bodies. In other words, the “World to Come” and the resurrection of the dead are one and the same. After studying the Ramban, one is left with a strong impression that the Rambam’s reading of Ḥazal is a difficult and problematic one that is extremely hard to justify as peshat.

B. The Rambam’s Theory on the Origin of Prayer[1]

A similar thing is true of the Rambam’s view on the origin of halakhic prayer. In a very straightforward and appealing way, he famously explained (Hilkhot Tefillah 1:1-6) that the rabbinic decree of formal prayer was a social and pedagogical response to difficult historical realities during the return to Zion, specifically to the inability of Jews to pray to God in Hebrew in their own words. This made it necessary for Ezra and his court to legislate a basic prayer-text in Hebrew that all Jews could use. Much like the Rambam’s view on Olam ha-Ba, this is probably the way most observant Jews today understand the origin of the siddur, both due to the Rambam’s influence and to the way his explanation of history makes highly intuitive sense.[2]

But as in the case of the Rambam’s interpretation of Olam ha-Ba, even though his view on the origin of rabbinic prayer is internally cogent, it is still not necessarily the natural way to read and understand numerous talmudic passages that may well imply the very opposite of what he said. In this case it was the Ramban’s greatest student, the Rashba—whose work represents the culmination of the Sephardic tradition of encyclopedic Ḥiddushim on the Talmud—who vividly illustrated just how difficult the Rambam’s view on the creation of rabbinic prayer is in light of the talmudic evidence (Ḥiddushei ha-Rashba on Berakhot 11a):

It seems to me that when the mishnah taught “When they said to be short one may not lengthen, and when they said to lengthen one may be short” (Berakhot 1:4), it doesn’t mean that one may not shorten or lengthen the text of the blessing, i.e., not to add or subtract words. Because if that were so, then they should have decreed the text of each and every blessing with specific numbers of words, and taught us the exact text of each blessing. But we never find this anywhere! They only pointed out words which are specifically required, such as in the arguments about mentioning rain (Berakhot 33a), dew and wind (Ta`anit 3a)…

But when it comes to the remaining text of the blessings, the rabbis never gave a measure saying that a person must say an exact number of words, no more and no less! And they never told us how many words must be said in a blessing in order for it to be called “long” or “short.” And not only this, but they explicitly said that in the eighteen blessings of prayer, if one wants to add something to any blessing in accordance with its topic he may do so (Avodah Zarah 8a). And this is true even if the words of his addition are more than the main part of the blessing, and although those blessings are “short” ones [but he makes them long]…

And even though… the blessing ha-zan is called “long” in the Tosefta and the Yerushalmi, it is nevertheless concluded later (Berakhot 40b) in case of Benjamin the shepherd that even if he said “Berikh Raḥamana Mareih de-hai pitta” [Aramaic: “Blessed be the Merciful One, the Master of this bread”] he has fulfilled his obligation! And the gemara there implies that this is even lekhateḥillah [=fully permissible] as it cites in this context: “These are said in any language…”—which is even lekhateḥillah, and the same thing is also implied about this in the Yerushalmi (6:2).[3]

This quotation is just part of a comprehensive essay by the Rashba showing that Ḥazal never composed a fixed prayer-text when they enacted formal blessings, but rather ordained a general format, i.e. a certain number of blessings on specific themes, with set procedures for how to begin and end them. To the Rashba’s halakhic analysis of the structure of blessings based on the talmudic evidence, it is also possible to add numerous talmudic anecdotes and other statements that seem to imply the opposite of what the Rambam theorized.[4]

The ironic thing about this whole issue is that on a truly halakhic level, i.e. when it comes to explicit talmudic rules about the structure of blessings, the Rambam generally agreed with what the Rashba would later write. And structure is the only thing about which there are any explicit rules in the Talmud! It is specifically on a non-halakhic level that the Rambam and the Rashba disagree, namely in their historical theories about what Ḥazal actually did when they enacted blessings: Did Ḥazal compose texts (as demanded by the Rambam’s theory of history), or did they rather mandate blessings on specific themes, leaving the exact words up to the person saying them each time? In fact, the Rambam himself seems to have hinted that there is no explicit talmudic basis for a prohibition against changing the words in blessings. He used an unexpected phrase to discourage it when he wrote that to do so is ein ra’uy (“not fitting”), rather than simply saying that it is a wrong or prohibited procedure (Hilkhot Berakhot 1:5).[5]

C. A Spectrum of Opinion

Among the Sephardic rishonim there were also compromise positions. The Ra’ah leaned towards the idea that Ḥazal actually composed a text, but took that historical theory in a different practical direction by suggesting that Ḥazal had no problem with their text being changed, including major changes, as long as those changes didn’t become permanent ones in every prayer. Adding piyyutim is permitted precisely because they are not added every day.[6] The Ritva cited the Ra’ah alongside the Rashba.

Far from being the view of “a few rishonim” who argued with the Rambam as Rabbi Frimer would have it,[7] the Rashba’s flexible view of both history and halakhah was a popular Sephardic one, echoed by the Abudarham[8] and adopted with some modifications[9] by the Rashbaẓ (a Spanish exile who became the greatest posek of North Africa and an important authority for the author of the Shulḥan Arukh). Furthermore, if we take the compromise positions into account, then the Rashba’s basic overall conclusion about the legitimacy of making major changes within the blessings was shared not only by the much earlier ge’onim, but also by the vast majority of rishonim in Spain, North Africa, Provence and Ashkenaz, including a great many that it is impossible to analyze here. In Spain: Abudarham, Rabbenu Yonah (on Alfasi Berakhot 5b), Rashba, Ritva, Ra’ah, Ran,[10] and Rashbaẓ. In North Africa: Rabbenu Hannanel and Rashbaẓ (as previously). In Provence: Ra’avad (quoted in the Tur and Shiltei Gibborim A on Alfasi Berakhot 5a) and Meiri.

In Ashkenaz the discussion began with Rashi’s interpretation of Mishnah Berakhot 1:4 (11a), which was ambigious. It seemed to pose a theoretical problem for major additions like piyyutim (even though I am unaware of any explicit evidence that Rashi actually opposed them).[11] According to the Meiri’s interpretation of Rashi, it is forbidden to add new topics to blessings, which would exclude major piyyutim but permit modest changes. Alternatively, the Ra’ah followed Rashi in his interpretation of the mishnah, explaining “long” and “short” in terms of the length of the text, but permitted any change that was not permanent (see above). Most influential, however, was Rabbenu’s Tam’s far more lenient interpretation (rejecting Rashi), which was cited widely and approvingly among the ba`alei ha-tosafot (Berakhot 11a), Hagahot Maimoniyyot (on Hilkhot Tefillah 6:3[3]), and many other Ḥakhmei Ashkenaz (and even elsewhere such as by Rabbenu Yonah and the Meiri).

An important exception was the Rosh, who is quoted by his son in the Tur (Oraḥ Ḥayyim 68) as having recommended the elimination of piyyutim in the blessings (“for it causes [people] to interrupt through useless talk about frivolities, and also Rabbenu Tam’s explanation that he gave to justify the custom is not correct in my eyes”). But elsewhere (on Berakhot 34a and cited in Tur Oraḥ Ḥayyim 112) the Rosh explicitly accepted the practice based on standard justifications without a word of criticism.

Indeed, Tur Oraḥ Ḥayyim 68 is highly unusual in its emphasis. As such, it is probably the best possible example of the exact halakhic attitude that Rabbi Frimer emphasized in his article. It begins with a lengthy citation of the Ramah, who described his displeasure with piyyutim and his unfortunate inability to eliminate them, followed by the Rambam. The Tur then continued by pointing out the prevalence of the custom, Rabbenu Tam’s “forced interpretation” (daḥak lefaresh) in order to uphold it, and concluded with his father’s recommendation to abolish it.

However, Tur Oraḥ Ḥayyim 68 is not in any way representative of the general opinion in Ashkenaz or elsewhere, neither in its own time nor later. The Baḥ on the Tur responded passionately in favor of the traditional Ashkenazic opinion. The Levush is notable for his succinct summary of the halakhic situation in his time, both in terms of the principles and the practical reality; he remarked, “Nahara nahara u-fashteih [Each river and its channel]: Where the custom is [to say piyyutim] then that is the custom, and where the custom is not to say them then that is the custom, for each of the two opinions has authorities to rely upon.”

D. Practical Halakhah and Halakhic Attitudes

Rabbi Frimer is quite right to say that it is wrong to tamper with the text of blessings according to the Rambam and that the Shulḥan Arukh accepted this position (Oraḥ Ḥayyim 68), apparently because it was shared by the Rambam and the Rosh.[12] However, it is equally correct that to make changes in blessings is fully permissible according to the Rashba and many others (actually the vast majority of rishonim), and that the Rashba’s position was adopted by the Rema.[13] What I find lacking in the Ḥakirah article is that it heavily documents and emphasizes just one sliver out of a very wide spectrum[14] while largely ignoring the rest. It also errs by turning the Rambam’s attitude into a prism through which alternative opinions are viewed, in the sense that they must be assumed to have allowed piyyutim only for exceptional reasons, or only allowed piyyutim and nothing else.

Rabbi Frimer argues with passion that the position of the Rashba and the Rema is utterly irrelevant to contemporary changes because it was an exception made by the rishonim for piyyutim alone, and only because their recitation was already such an entrenched and highly revered custom. If correct, that would seem to settle the issue once and for all.

However, it is a mistake in my opinion to say that when it comes to piyyut, the rishonim were doing nothing more than a “limmud zekhut” in order to defend an age-old custom. It was indeed a venerable custom for them, but that was only because it was first and foremost a popular and beloved custom, both among great Torah scholars (Rambam and Ramah notwithstanding) and the people at large in synagogues. Piyyut was, more than anything else, a beloved social institution in the middle ages.[15] This bit of historical reality must be kept in mind if one wants to read the rishonim in a balanced way and draw fair conclusions from what they wrote. The point is that they weren’t forced to justify piyyut in the middle of blessings just because it was a such an entrenched custom. Rather, they wanted to because it was a way to better serve God, and they were able to because the truth of Torah supported it.

In other words, this was not by and large a “limmud zekhut” at all. Not in Spain from the 13th century onwards, and certainly not in Ashkenaz where the ba’alei ha-Tosafot reacted to the theoretical anti-piyyut implications of Rashi’s position. Rather than a “limmud zekhut” to justify the insertion of piyyutim into berakhot, what we have here is a principled, across-the-board recognition that peshat in the Gemara simply does not preclude significant changes and additions in the obligatory blessings. This is a matter of basic talmudic truth that goes beyond piyyutim, and most of the rishonim who discussed it in their comments on the sugya emphasized the principle first and the piyyutim second. Had the majority thought it was truly forbidden they wouldn’t have allowed it or would have called it bedi`avad (just like the minority who actually opposed it). The large majority of rishonim supported saying piyyutim within the blessings because in their opinion such change is allowed lekhateḥillah as ikkar ha-din.

And now we get to the crux of the matter: Does the fact that the social institution of piyyut has been the historical test-case for this sugya for the past thousand years mean that it is the only possible application of the talmudic principle? Are we forbidden to apply it in other areas, even if matters related to avodat Hashem are directly affected by the very same sugya? I think not, agreeing here with Rabbi Sperber as opposed to Rabbi Frimer’s article.

It is very important to ask why piyyut was the only major real-life historical example of change in the formal blessings for so many centuries. Indeed, in a comment to me Rabbi Frimer made the interesting and related argument that “if things were as free as you argue, the differences would have have been much greater than they are.”

In theory I agree with Rabbi Frimer on this point. Logic might indeed suggest that people would generally take advantage of available halakhic leniencies, and that attempts would not be made to force conformity if no conformity was truly required. However, in the case of prayer, halakhic ideas and ideals have rarely had much to do with the reality of how Jews prayed throughout history (much of my book is devoted to illustrating this).

Furthermore, in this case it seems that the forces opposing change in the formal prayers were far too strong. The first force was the increasing dispersion of Israel a millennium ago, along with other historical factors that motivated the ge’onim to write the first halakhic manuals for prayer, i.e. the very first siddurim. The propagation of siddurim around the Jewish world during the times of the rishonim was a powerful historical force, one that in its very nature opposed flexibility in the obligatory blessings decreed by Ḥazal, and the siddurim fundamentally changed attitudes towards Jewish prayer by their very existence. The second force was more powerful than the first, but even less connected to the world of halakhah: The invention of printing and the large-scale production of siddurim for the masses.

However, neither of these two historical forces—the existence and spread of siddurim during medieval times and the mass production of siddurim in the age of the printing press—is halakhic. It may even be argued that they had anti-halakhic consequences (I do so argue in my book). But they have nevertheless characterized Jewish prayer for the past thousand years, and as a result the very idea of formulating an obligatory berakhah in one’s own words—something that was arguably unremarkable in the Talmud—has become unimaginable to Orthodox Jews today, even if halakhic principles would suggest otherwise.

And so we are confronted by something that is fundamentally a matter of attitude rather than halakhic principles. The reality of the past thousand years is clear, but it is not halakhic. Rabbi Frimer nevertheless argues that this reality should be treated as halakhic obligation, even at the expense of avodat Hashem. I disagree with that attitude for the numerous reasons spelled out in my book, some of which are echoed by Rabbi Sperber.

The fundamental problem is whether one should minimize or maximize the significance of the institution of piyyut from a Torah perspective. Rabbi Frimer sees their historical popularity as something that once created an anomaly or even a distortion within the halakhic framework, but it seems that the distortion has gradually been corrected over time as ever more communities have moved towards the Rambam’s approach. His approach may even imply that it is perhaps God’s will for us to fully correct that distortion once and for all. But it is also possible to suggest something else entirely: Maybe the historical significance of piyyut was actually the hand of God in history, working to make sure that halakhists would be forced to deal with the element of creativity within the formal blessings as a practical issue, so that the flexible attitude would not be lost entirely within the mainstream of halakhah, but would rather be kept alive through the positions of so many of the greatest rishonim and as codified by the Rema. Or perhaps, when God planted such a strong urge for creativity and personal expression within human beings, that in itself already meant that it would be impossible for Jews to leave the formal blessings entirely alone over the course of centuries in exile (and that this is a positive thing since they were never meant to be frozen in the first place).

Since we do not know God’s mind, these suggestions on both sides are really just matters of attitude. But both attitudes are equally halakhic and expressions of the Torah.
There is one more remark by Rabbi Frimer makes that deserves further thought: When it comes to changes in Naḥem for the ninth of Av, he mentions that the drastic historical changes that have taken place in our day might be viewed as she`at ha-deḥak (thus allowing a change in that particular blessing as a unique exception). What Rabbi Frimer means by this is obvious and correct, but the phraseology is striking: she`at ha-deḥak?! Are we to call the ingathering of the exiles and a thriving Jewish Jerusalem in a strong, independent Jewish state, and the partial realization of a great redemptive promise that God made to His prophets as it takes place before our eyes, a “situation of hardship”?

The very use of this phraseology is a clear indication of halakhic attitude, because here too the opposite attitude and phraseology are equally possible: Perhaps it not changes within Naḥem that are permitted today because of a current she`at ha-deḥak, but rather 2000 years of exile that were she`at ha-deḥak in the effect they had on halakhic prayer: When Jewish communities are dispersed around the world, living among other nations as minorities, it is natural for each long-term community in exile to settle upon a single fixed Hebrew text for prayer, and to hold fast to that exact nosaḥ over the course of many generations and centuries. In such an atmosphere, even an appropriate change to Naḥem reflecting joyous new realities seems to be deeply problematic, and that very attitude reflects the she`at ha-deḥak of exile. But when Israel dwells together as a people in its land, that is not the natural way for the nation to talk to its God. Here is how Joseph Heinemann described the way Jews said the Amidah during Second Temple and Mishnaic times (which is a way to think about how the Rashba’s idea might have worked in real life):

In early times the person who prayed was not obligated to use a certain text of a blessing fixed word for word, but on the spot he would “compose” such a text for himself as he said it, or—when he wasn’t able to do so—he used one of the popular texts that he learned from others. But even that praying Jew wouldn’t repeat this same text time after time, but would change it, lengthen it or shorten it, consciously or without realizing it, according to his needs and the amount of free time that he had. Of course, as time went on, certain phrases became widely accepted by most praying Jews, as well as mentioning various details and matters (beyond the main topic of the blessing). At this stage the halakhic scholars made mentioning these phrases and other matters an obligation. Each Jew who prayed was still able to use, for the main body of the blessing, the words that he preferred, or which he was used to, as long as he “mentioned in it” those details and phrases, which had meanwhile become the accepted custom… For instance: “One who reads Shema` in the morning must mention the Exodus from Egypt in Emet ve Yatziv…” (Yerushalmi Berakhot 1:3).[16]

It must be stressed that the ingathering of the exiles in Israel today is shattering the legacy of frozen customs and prayer-texts (at least outside of the ḥareidi world and immigrant communities). It is not resulting in some sort of “unified custom” or single nosaḥ as people once imagined, but is rather moving towards a general tolerance for all sorts of competing customs and texts simultaneously within mixed communities and families. Within Religious Zionism, the Ashkenazic paternalism of the past is vanishing rapidly today, and that is a blessed event. Especially in the newer yeshivot and communities, customs are allowed to vary based on the preference of the shali’aḥ ẓibbur, and sometimes various minhagim are even combined eclectically. What is happening in Israel today is unimaginable from the perspective of the largely Ashkenazic monotony of Orthodox life in the English-speaking world.

E. Obligatory versus Non-Obligatory Prayers

In his review, Rabbi Frimer took Rabbi Sperber to task for not distinguishing between changes within obligatory blessings versus changes in other non-obligatory prayers. In my opinion, this major part of his essay was superfluous and entirely missed the point: The author of eight brilliant volumes of Minhagei Yisrael clearly understands that basic distinction no less well than Rabbi Frimer or myself.[17] The obvious reason Rabbi Sperber spent so much time and energy on the non-obligatory material is simply because people’s attitudes are often far more significant than halakhah itself. American Jews used to joke about the Orthodox concession to modernity being to give up on the 2nd Yekum Purkan, and laugh about it without even realizing that Sephardim don’t say either of them![18] What do such Jews think when they learn that Sephardim don’t say Yizkor either, nor do they have Unetaneh Tokef on the Yamim Nora’im? What is Rosh Hashanah without Unetaneh Tokef? In fact, most Sephardim don’t even have the very concept of Yamim Nora’im, and these holidays have a significantly different atmosphere than for Ashkenazim. So can we still call Sephardim “Orthodox”? Are they really even Jews?

There is nothing halakhic about any of these tongue-in-cheek comments, but it is obvious that such attitudes color the thinking not just of the average Orthodox Jew, but even that of serious Torah scholars. If we are so exacting about non-obligatory things, treating them as if they were severe obligations down to the very letter and vowel,[19] then how much more so must we be strict about true talmudic obligations! Isn’t that an “obvious” kal va-ḥomer? In my opinion, this attitude deeply colored Rabbi Frimer’s reading of the rishonim in his article, which is what made the Rambam’s position so unremarkable and obvious to him, and also what led him to portray piyyutim as a one-time historical exception to a very clear general rule, which was only in deference to a problematic custom. It was therefore quite right for Rabbi Sperber to dwell on the non-obligatory prayers, and it is absurd to suggest that he confused the two categories.

F. Is Ḥiddush Only for Petitions?

In his review, Rabbi Frimer further limits ḥiddush within the rabbinic blessings to the petitionary blessings in the middle of the Amidah. I analyzed Rabbi Eliezer’s statements about keva` and Gemara’s idea of ḥiddush in my book and will not deal with it here.[20] To make the point short, it is incorrect to simply equate these statements with adding personal petitions in the middle blessings of the Amidah, to the exclusion of making changes in other blessings. If we don’t adopt the Rambam’s position, then the talmudic concept of ḥiddush is more fundamental than the narrow area of individual bakkashah.

In Berakhot 34a we are taught in the name of Rav Yehudah: “A person must never ask for his needs in the first three blessings or the last three blessings but only in the middle blessings. For Rabbi Ḥanina said: The first ones are like a servant who sets out praise before his master, the middle ones are like a servant who asks a largess from his master, and the last ones are like a servant who received a largess from his master and takes his leave.” This is a vivid illustration of the broader talmudic idea that blessings are limited to their topics and themes, such that a petition is normally out of place in a blessing of praise.[21] However, changes and additions that conform to the theme are fine.

That is exactly how changes within blessings of praise were explained by the rishonim. First of all, they pointed out that the Gemara only prohibits “a person” asking for “his needs” to do so in a blessing of praise, i.e. it is individual and personal needs that are inappropriate (especially since the last three blessings are full of requests for public needs). Secondly, they explained that public needs are perfectly appropriate even in blessings of praise: “Together with the servant setting out praise before his master, he can also ask for public needs, for it is considered praise and honor to his master that the public depends upon him.”[22]

To clarify: Changes and piyyutim are wrong in any blessing according to the Rambam, no matter what they ask for or who is doing the asking. What allows them to exist at all is the alternative idea shared by the Rashba and others that only the format of prayer is fixed and not its text. However, even according to the flexible position, the change or addition must conform to the theme and topic of the blessing (me`ein ha-berakhah). Therefore, petitions for personal needs are only appropriate in the middle blessings.

Rabbi Frimer is probably correct that the ever-present phenomenon of adding requests contributed to some of the many variations we find in the middle blessings. But the first three blessings exhibit more variation than Rabbi Frimer allows for, and the last three even more so (not to mention the berakhot of Shema`). The relative uniformity we find in the first three blessings and especially the first one (and it is only relative) likely derives in part from another talmudic source that limits attributes of praise to God in the beginning of the Amidah (cf. Berakhot 33b). But that is not a general rule for all blessings.

G. Two Valid Attitudes

To finish, I’d like to quote the conclusion to chapter 9 in my book (the chapter entirely devoted to the Rambam’s position). This conclusion is about the two conflicting attitudes I have been trying to describe, and shows that Rabbi Frimer’s approach has great merit precisely because it is so well grounded in the Rambam. Though I wrote it 14 years ago, it seems like it was written today as a direct response to Rabbi Frimer:[23]

In conclusion, we have seen that each view—both those who denied that there was an official text and those, like Rambam, who believed in one—is able to explain the talmudic sources according to its own assumptions. Both approaches, then, are valid and consistent with the talmudic evidence. Both are the words of the Living God. However, this does not mean that both can easily coexist in terms of religious practice. For each implies a Torah value that is to some degree exclusive of the other.

Remember that the Kesef Mishneh, explaining the Rambam, rhetorically asked what profit there is to changing any of the words in the “official text.” He meant, of course, that there is no profit! But the opposite camp would certainly argue that it is important to avoid keva` by “saying something new” in prayer each time, and that if not doing so results in rote prayer then one has committed a serious religious and halakhic trespass (as we saw in chapters 1-2). In the middle ages, the primary way to bring ḥiddush into formal prayer was by adding piyyutim, which gave formal prayer a fresh depth of meaning that was absent without them. Thus it is no accident that for the rishonim, the matter of changing prayer-texts was tied to the issue of piyyutim on a practical level. Now, the Rambam might counter that the obligation to “say something new” was not accepted as binding halakhah. But the response would still be that it is a great Torah value to “say something new” for those who are capable of doing so and want to, even if it is too great an obligation to impose upon all.

On the other hand, denial of an official text lessens the value of custom and tradition, especially for a carefully worded text that many, like the Rambam, ascribe to Ezra and the Anshei Kenesset ha-Gedolah. Minimally, the exact words in our siddurim have been carefully preserved and lovingly recited and studied in their present forms for many centuries by men who were good and pious Jews and great Torah scholars. That value cannot be denied either.

Ultimately, it must be recognized that both sides are based on true Torah values, but that there may be no way to reconcile them in a way that is satisfactory to both. The Rambam’s view, though it was a minority opinion in the middle ages as we saw in chapter 8, has dominated Jewish life ever since (partly for kabbalistic reasons that he himself would never have accepted). But part of the reason our daily tefillot have been drained of their meaning is that the opposite value (informality and personal expression) has been almost totally denied for so very long. The time has come for us to respect the values represented on both sides, and to regard both as legitimate choices for Jews who pray. The tension between two Torah values is an argument for the sake of heaven.


[1] On the opposing positions of the Rambam and the Rashba, and for an exhaustive, exacting and comprehensive analysis of the entire spectrum of opinion on this complicated talmudic topic that is carefully organized and clearly written, see Rosh Devarekha by Rabbi Yiẓḥak Shilat (Ma`aleh Adumim, 1996), pp. 217-256 (chapter 9). In my opinion, no one should approach this topic without first carefully studying Rav Shilat’s outstanding essay. My own book (see n. 3) also examines this topic in great detail (chapters 8-11), including certain larger dimensions of it that go beyond the formal sugya and which Rav Shilat does not address; but in terms of a classic, thorough talmudic analysis Rav Shilat’s essay is the mature work of a world-class Torah scholar and second to none.
[2] On the way Rambam’s writing about prayer fits into his general halakhic an philosophical outlook, see Gerald Blidstein, Ha-Tefillah be-Mishnato ha-Hilkhatit shel ha-Rambam (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1994).
[3] In the parallel passage in the Yerushalmi, permission is given to Benjamin (or Minyamin) to continue saying the blessing this way. As Rav Shilat points out (pp. 227-228), the Rambam would probably explain this by saying that the shepherd was incapable of learning to do otherwise.
[4] I analyzed several such texts at length in my Kavvana: Directing the Heart in Jewish Prayer (Hoboken, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1997), pp. 262-266. As for how the Rashba’s basic theory makes excellent historical sense, not just in terms of explaining the sources but also in light of how early rabbinic prayer might actually have worked in reality, see pp. 257-266. It is clear that all of the arguments and prooftexts that the Rashba marshaled against the Rambam’s position can be explained in accordance with the latter, and Rabbi Yiẓḥak Shilat showed exactly how this can be done in Rosh Devarekha, pp. 227-232. However, Shilat too admits that the historical evidence seems to better support the Rashba’s position (p. 228 n. 17). The real question is not whether a logical solution can be proposed in accordance with the Rambam in every case, because it is clear that each argument and text is fundamentally ambiguous and allows for both readings, but whether that solution really seems to be peshat throughout the entire talmudic sugya at hand.
[5] Rabbi Yosef Karo examined the Rambam’s unusual wording in the Kesef Mishneh, but Rabbi Yosef Kafiḥ offered a much clearer explanation of that halakhah. On this see my Kavvana, pp. 312-313 (n. 8). The other major rishonim who explicitly opposed piyyutim like the Rambam (though not necessarily for the same reasons!) were the Ramah and the Rosh.
[6] A late echo of this position can be found in Arukh ha-Shulḥan, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 119:2, which discusses the radical error of people who take printed, pre-formulated petitions provided in their siddurim as options, but say them each and every every time out of ignorance!
[7] This is the phrase that Rabbi Frimer used in a minimalistic fashion in order to summarily dismiss opposition to the Rambam’s view in footnote 37 of his article. That single footnote is actually the basis for most of Rabbi Frimer’s major halakhic conclusions in his article, but it unfortunately summarized a complex, nuanced topic in an overly simplistic and unfair way.
[8] Cited in full by the Beit Yosef (on Tur Oraḥ Ḥayyim 113) as a rejection of the views of the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz who “counted the words” in blessings. In this essay I will not deal at all with those who took the “fixed-text” position for mystical or kabbalistic reasons, beginning with the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz and culminating with the hasidic siddur (“Sefard”) and the Nefesh ha-Ḥayyim (mentioned by Frimer in n. 37, and which I discussed at great length in Kavvana, pp. 281-293). The author of Nefesh ha-Ḥayyim was operating on the same kabbalistic playing field as the hasidim with whom he argued, and with whom he shared most of his fundamental outlook. But that entire debate mostly left behind the nuanced halakhic give and take based on the talmudic evidence that was characteristic of the rishonim.
[9] Most important is that the Rashbaẓ polished the Rashba’s halakhic analysis by providing for a more nuanced and flexible interpretation of “long” and “short” blessings based on each specific talmudic context. In addition, he seems to have thought that Ḥazal actually did compose a text, but that they placed no limitations at all on changing it beyond the structure of the “long” and “short” blessings and the basic theme of the particular berakhah.
[10] In his citation of R. Isaac ibn Ghiyyat (commentary on Alfasi Rosh Hashanah 8b). However, he also cited the Ramban (see next note).
[11] For a full analysis of Rashi, see Shilat pp. 217-221; also see my Kavvana, pp. 268-269. Since my book was published, I have become ever more convinced that Rashi is talking about adding topics that lengthen a blessing, not changing words (as per the Meiri). In truth, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest the latter, but there is an important hint towards the former. It should be pointed out that the Ramban (Ḥiddushim on Berakhot 46a) expresses an idea similar to that of Rashi (see Shilat, p. 218) but likewise says nothing explicit about piyyutim. However, the Ramban is also cited by the Ran (see previous note) as saying that even short additions to the first three blessings in the Amidah on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are only grudgingly permitted; however, this seems not to be because they are changes per se, but because they are petitions within blessings of praise. Cf. very similar comments by none other than the Rashba as cited in Beit Yosef on Tur Oraḥ Ḥayyim 112 (both the Ramban and the Rashba cite Masekhet Soferim; Rav Shilat doesn’t seem to have mentioned this citation of the Ramban); also see below in this essay, “F. Is Ḥiddush Only for Petitions?”
[12] The Beit Yosef on Tur Oraḥ Ḥayyim 112, the siman which deals with piyyutim in the first three blessings of the Amidah and justifies the custom, wrote: “In siman 68 it was already explained that the correct custom is not to say the krovetz.”
[13] For a full analysis of this issue as it developed in the Tur and the Shulḥan Arukh, see Rosh Devarekha, pp. 250-256 and Kavvana, p. 314 n. 9. On whether this might have any practical relevance for those who follow the Beit Yosef rather than the Rema, especially taking into consideration the consensus of most rishonim, see Kavvana, p. 295-296 and n. 61.
[14] It is important to emphasize that in this essay I have greatly simplified the range of approaches to this sugya among the rishonim, and painted the picture with a very wide brush. For a much more detailed and nuanced presentation, see Rav Shilat’s study.
[15] Former yeshivah students from my generation may have a hard time believing that people once loved piyyutim, since we generally hated them knowing that they had little halakhic basis while at the same time they were so difficult to understand and seemed like such a burden. I advise anyone who feels this way to spend a good deal of time with Sephardim.
[16] Joseph Heinemann, Ha-Tefillah bi-Tekufat ha-Tannai’m veha-Amoraim: Tivah u-Defuseha (Jerusalem, 1984), pp. 36-37. While making a very similar point, Shadal added the following practical idea: “That is why they instituted the silent Shemoneh Esrei, so that the shali’aḥ ẓibbur could rehearse his prayer to himself before reciting it for the congregation” (from the introduction to Shadal’s edition of the Italian version of the siddur, “Mavo le-Maḥzor Benei Roma“, in Maḥzor Kol ha-Shana kefi Minhag Italiani [Levorno, 1858; reprinted in a critical edition by Daniel Goldshmidt, Tel Aviv: Devir, 1966]). In other words, there was a need for the shali’aḥ ẓibbur to literally prepare and rehearse what exactly he wanted to say! According to this, the widespread use of siddurim has drained the silent Amidah of its primary function in Ḥazal’s decree. On the debate among modern scholars, see Kavvana, pp. 257-266.
[17] I should mention that I don’t know Rabbi Sperber personally.
[18] It is excellent that Rabbi Frimer pointed this out, as so many people are unaware of it.
[19] An amazing example of this are the dozens of comments to Rabbi Frimer’s essay that debated minor phenomena like the censored sentence in the daily Alenu, i.e. matters whose halakhic significance is zero. These things can certainly be fascinating, and the great interest is therefore understandable. But the fact that so many people (including rabbis and Torah scholars) take these things so seriously in practice (beyond the level of fascination), and endlessly debate which siddur is preferable in terms of its nosaḥ, is testimony to how far we are from the ideal of halakhic prayer.
[20] However, I will note Rabbi Frimer’s translation of le-ḥaddesh bah davar as “to insert” (!) something fresh, which reflects an inherent bias towards the attitude described above (by assuming that the Gemara speaks of a fixed text into which it is possible to “insert” something). That it is indeed how most people understand the phrase today, but simply look at Rashi on that Gemara to find a different attitude entirely.
[21] Even for the Rambam and the Shulḥan Arukh, the basic sense of the explicit ruling is that personal petitions only belong in petitionary blessings; cf. Frimer, n. 37.
[22] See Tur Oraḥ Ḥayyim 112 and the sources cited in Beit Yosef.
[23] I’ve copied the passage with some minor stylistic improvements. What I really wish I could do is simply post the relevant chapters online in their entirety, correct and revise them when needed (after sitting stagnant for 14 years), and then let people use them and debate them as they see fit. Indeed, if anyone has any suggestions or advice about how I might be able to do so legally for a book that was published 14 years ago, or can help in terms of how to go about getting permission from the publisher if necessary, I would be very grateful. I am the copyright holder. I would further like to ask Rav Shilat for permission to make his chapter on this topic available online. If anyone has any personal contact with him and might be willing to help, please let me know.

 

Share this Post

 

Related Posts

About the author

Rabbi Dr. Seth (Avi) Kadish

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

109 Responses

  1. Joel Salomon says:

    I do note that Rabbi Kadish’s points provide a different argument from Rabbi Frimer’s, but equally strong against the specific changes mentioned in Rabbi Frimer’s essay (adding the Imahot to Birkat Avot & changing She-Lo Asani Isha). Where R. Frimer argues that the current text is Talmudically mandated, R. Kadish strengthens the argument by pointing out that even assuming permission to alter the specific text, the themes of the berachot must remain inviolate. The difference between them is, at most, what exactly the words “מטבע שטבעו חכמים” refer to. R. Frimer’s arguments against the changes hold either way.

  2. Moshe Shoshan says:

    Even according to R. Kaddish’s position, might we not make the argument that since the first three brachos of shemoneh essreh have been fixed and agreed upon by all klal yisrael for many many centuries, and intitiative to deviate from this text such as by adding the imahot (btw, the Rav wrote that the Imahot were full partners in the bris, like the avot) is forbidden either because clal yisrael has fixed their text or because of lo tisgodedu?

  3. Thanks Joel. As I pointed out in a comment to Rabbi Frimer’s review, I personally lean towards not including the imahot, since berit is the theme of Birkat Avot. But having said that, I fully realize that including the imahot could easily be justified by a God-fearing, halakhic Jew: If a wide-ranging piyyut can appear in Birkat Avot with elements only tangentially related to the topic, then why not the imahot (language can certainly be found to connect them to the berit with their husbands and children even if it wasn’t exactly with them)? To accuse someone who does this of being in violation of the halakhah is not correct.

    Furthermore, Rabbi Frimer was reviewing Rabbi Sperber’s book, which urges personal expression and hiddush in prayer, and not just in matters of ideological dispute like women’s issues. The difference in defining matbe’a is huge: Is there any room for personal expression in the formal blessings or not? In Rabbi Frimer’s approach there is simply no room at all. In the alternative approach view is some room, and perhaps even a great deal of room, depending on the approach that is taken. You can’t do anything you want – otherwise it wouldn’t be a formal blessing at all – but you can certainly do significant things of a modest nature in your daily tefillah, and perhaps even more.

    Finally, regarding women’s issues, between the lines I was trying to make a call for mutual respect and against delegitimization (and saying that what you are doing is categorically forbidden, or that it cannot be accepted by a halakhic Jew, is a form of delegitimization in a Torah discussion). Just like the issue of “nosah ha-tefillah” turns out to be not nearly as simple and straightforward as it was presented, and options that were initially ruled out as violations of halakhah turn out not really to be so, and the truth of Torah is deeper and more complex than previously thought, I am firmly convinced that in the more controversial issues as well there is halakhic truth and Torah truth to be found in the positions of every participant who enters the debate out of commitment to the Torah. And it is not up to one side to decide the legitimacy of the other side’s commitment.

    For instance, the recent controversy about “shelo asani ishah” (within which Rabbi Frimer’s review has a place): I kept away from the issue in my reading not because it is controversial per se, but for the opposite reason, namely that so much has been written about it over the years by so many learned at committed Jews, that I wouldn’t even know where to begin reading in order to do it right, and I wouldn’t have anything new to contribute either!

    But there is are two things I am absolutely sure of, even without really having dealt with that topic in the way it deserves. The first is that there is commitment to Torah and its truth in a wide variety of positions that seem to be mutual exclusive. The second is that those who have framed the debate in terms of what is legitimately “Orthodox” or halakhic have done violent harm to the search for the truth of Torah and to Avodat Hashem.

  4. Moshe, I don’t know which nosah has been accepted by all of Klal Yisrael, but I understand what you mean. :-)

    Yes, you can certainly make that argument. And if daily tefillah is meaningful enough as avodat Hashem with the siddur, or if kavvanah would not be deeper with hiddush, then the argument wins.

    I’d love to know where to find that idea of the Rav zt”l.

    In terms of “lo titgodedu”, if only there was any hope of that in our times… I have found that in doing almost anything that has meaning there is someone who will not agree.

  5. Moshe Shoshan says:

    Am I not correct that all nuschaot have the same words for the first bracha?
    I think the rav idea is in Reflections of the Rav

    PRecisely because this is one thing that all jews agree upon that deviating may perhaps be considered lo tisgodedu

  6. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    The Rav’s idea re the Imahot is to be found in Family Redeemed. It was noted and discussed in Prof. Blidstein’s review of the book (I forget where it appeared), and was further discussed in a friendly and collegial exchange between Prof. Blidstein and myself in the Letters to the Editor section of Judasim magazine 2001(2002?), following my review of the book in a previous issue.

  7. HaDarda"i says:

    Fascinating discussion. Thank you!

    In footnote 15, you write that those who have hard time believing that people once loved piyyutim should spend a good deal of time with Sephardim. Of course, you could also spend time with Yekkes, who have retained most piyyutim. One of the things I miss the most since making aliyah is Yom Tov without maarovos. They give each Yom Tov its particular flavour, and Yom Tov just isn’t the same without them.

    It is ironical that Yekkes possess a reverence for piyyutim, together with a very conservative approach to tampering with the text of the nusach tefillah, even though the initial introduction of piyyutim were exactly that. Then you have Gra-niks who adopt the innovations that the Gra made to the siddur (like yisgadEIl v’yiskadEIsh) on the assumption that they have rediscovered a lost authenticity. Finally, you have the chassidim who created a cholent of a nusach, full of redundancies (e.g. bishlomekha b’rov oz v’sholom and tefillas kol peh amkha Yisroel b’rachamim), yet wouldn’t dream of changing one letter nowadays.

    Personally, I feel the tension between the positions of R. Kadish and R. Frimer and don’t feel entirely comfortable with either approach.

  8. IH says:

    As a practical matter, are there any minyanim that consider themselves halachic/Orthodox which include the Imahot in the Amidah be’tzibbur? I am not aware of any. Of course what people choose to say in their silent Amidah is unknowable, irrespective of the minyan around them.

  9. joel rich says:

    R’ Seth,
    R’YBS specifically mentions that once Sarah dies, Avraham basically disappears from history (other than to bury her and find a wife for his son)
    KT

  10. Rafael Araujo says:

    My question is – are we only discussing shtiller Amidah, or chazaratz hashatz?

  11. IH says:

    This thoughtful and insightful post is a good reminder that the use of emotive examples, often for polemical reasons, too often leads to sloppy scholarship. Yasher koach.

    Incidentally, I would encourage everyone passing a Jewish bookstore to open R. Sperber’s book to pp. 111-112 to see what he actually writes in context (halfway down the page from “But this ban” through “completely accepted mainly because they are in a printed edition.”).

  12. Y. Aharon says:

    Yasher koach to both R’ Avi Kadish and R’ Aryeh Frimer for presenting their arguments in a detailed and learned fashion. The Jewish blogworld could certainly use more such discussions on religious subjects.

    It is interesting that the issue of minor changes in the conventional nusach hatefilah can arouse much heat when it comes to either saying or not saying ‘shelo asani isha’ or ‘sheim korim lahevel..’, but no such heated exchanges occur whether or not to say ‘baruch Hashem le’olam..’ every weeknight or ‘veshamru bnei yisrael..’ Friday nights. Neither is said by those who follow the Gra, or nusach Ari. Similarly, ma’aravit is not said by the above on leyl yom tov (some don’t say ma’aravit despite not following either the nusach haGra or nusach Ari). Then, too, few Ashkenaz shuls nowdays say more than a fraction of the traditional piyutim on the yamim nora’im. I guess it’s a question of time, then. Once some minor innovations achieve a foothold in the practice of
    some ‘mainline’ congregations, then both the novelty and controversy tend to disappear.

    It seems to me that people don’t advance their gender inclusiveness cause by arguing for the inclusion of the Ema’ot (at least, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Leah) in the 1st 3 berachot of the amidah. The nusach of the relevant beracha that had been universally used is based on the phrasing of the torah which the sages had specifically mandated not to be further elaborated (with regard to ‘haE_L hagadol, hagibor, vehanorah’). The argument is then really with the torah’s language as well as the talmudic injunction. Next they’ll object to the use of masculine declensions when referring to the Deity in tefilah, much less, referring to GOD as ‘our heavenly father’. Some heterodox movements have, indeed, moved far in that direction. The Orthodox world should not attempt to follow them.

  13. Shlomo says:

    Especially in the newer yeshivot and communities, customs are allowed to vary based on the preference of the shali’aḥ ẓibbur, and sometimes various minhagim are even combined eclectically.

    Choosing one of a set of existing fixed texts (with quite minor differences between them) is very different from inventing and using an original text. I know, the Rashba advocates the latter as well, but you can’t use contemporary Israeli practice as an example of it. And once a person make one innovation to the text, why not make a bunch of others? Surely there is a reason that, um, “klal yisrael” has in practice not gone down this route?

  14. Anonymous says:

    “Choosing one of a set of existing fixed texts (with quite minor differences between them) is very different from inventing and using an original text.”

    Where did variations come from in the first place and who closed the gates of textual change? You’d be right that textual changes have always been relatively minor and preserving of the basic form, but then Sperber doesn’t argue otherwise.

  15. Joel Sklar says:

    Responding to Shlomo (and others): “[why has] klal yisrael not in practice gone down this route?”

    There are many reasons, but the largest one is the use of a fixed set of siddurim. In the time of the rishonim, a kehilla’s siddurim were limited in number and more varied in content and to a large extent textual quality and accuracy. Take Ashkenazi siddurim, which over the Middle Ages to modern times, gradually changed to an all Biblical style in nikud, whereas Sephardim kept more of the Mishnaic style. Those changes became effectively canonized, though it’s easy to find early Ashkenaz siddurim pre-correction and even those in transition: check hebrewbooks.org or Bar-Ilan’s extensive collections of old siddurim.

    One can imagine that in the not too distant past, the tzibur would listen and as long as nothing sounded too far from the usual, it was amen and yasher coah. For better or worse, davening now has a script and deviation is not acceptable.

    The bigger siddur publishing houses have fixed (in both senses) our nushaot, but it’s not at all clear (as has been eloquently argued above) that a single fixed text was the anshe knesset’s intent. Still, insisting on change for the sake of change: especially in forcing a tzibur to listen to a repetition with content to which they object, even for a non-halachic reason, is even more problematic.

    The modern shift to an insistence on a script is not entirely bad, but like many things there are unintended consequences.

  16. Moshe says:

    Indeed in Israel there is a growing fluidity pertaining to nusach tefillah. One good example is the growing use of nusach eretz yisrael based upon the nusach of the talmud yerushalmi.

  17. The link at the beginning of the article to the version that is being updated and corrected is incorrect. It should be:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1r7Ta0yjLTPCNbObeWVBaiTVpUFyeJ0J0uq3R6WC8Oa0/edit

    Good night to all, I will try to respond more to comments tomorrow.

  18. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Firstly, allow me to congratulate R. Seth Kadish for a beautifully written piece – and for reading my contribution so carefully.

    My apologies for not responding sooner to R. Kadish excellent article, but the school year has just begun and my time is simply not my own. Hence, I will not have the time required to respond to all the fine points that R. Kadish has made. But I will focus on a few.

    One of my central points, which the our author challenges, is that piyyutim are the exception and not the rule. Indeed, leading Pillars of Psak – including Maimonides, the Tur and Shulhan Arukh and the Gaon of Vilna – strongly disapproved of the introduction of piyyutim to the birkot keri’at shema or hazarat ha-shats. Nevertheless, Rema (R. Moses Isserlish, O.H. sec. 68, no. 1 and sec. 112, no. 2) and others support their continued recitation based on the fact that this was a revered centuries-old custom.[I believe that it was this strong resistence by the great pillars of psak that prevented any further erosion.]

    Those who accepted the recitation of piyyutim did so only because that was the widespread minhag, because the piyyutim were written by outstanding scholars going back to the period of the Rishonim and earlier, 700 to perhaps 1500 years ago. In addition, they are communal requests ─ and there is a clear proviso that the piyyutim only be said be-tsibbur, not in private. These statements appear in the Tur, Ba”h, Bet Yosef, and Mishna Berura, O.H. sec. 68.

    The fact that the recitation of Piyyutim in the private Amida is forbidden – indicates clearly that communal piyyutim is the exception not the rule. If R. Kadish is correct, that these additions remove the problem of “keva” – why don’t we find the widespread recitation of piyyutim in private as well.

    As Far as the Rashba is concerned, in Resp. Rashba, I, sec. 469 he clearly states that that Rambam is correct (“ve-khen vadai yireh li”) that one really shouldn’t say piyyutim. Nevertheless, he justifies the practice only because many of the piyyutim were authored by R. Elazar haKalir, and because that is the widespread minhag.

    Regarding Sefaradim and the recitation of Piyyutim, the Bet Yosef in sec. 68 indicates that in his communities no one said them and the Mehaber forbids them. Indeed, Rav Ovadiah yosef, Hazon Ovadya, Yamim Noraim, Hilkhot tefillat Shaharit (p. 101) indicates that the Sefaradi custom is to recite the piyyutim only when the Hazarah is completed. R. David Yosef, Halakha Berura, sec. 68, Birrur Halakha note 1 at end brings a minhag that Hazan is silent, and the “Somekh” recites them.

    ve-Od hazom la-moed…

  19. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Boker Tov! (in Israel)
    While I agree with R. Kadish that during the period of the Rishonim there was a major disagreement regarding Piyyutim, The battle was over piyyutim only – and this for the reasons I delineated in my article and the previous post. [These are not MY reasons but those given by the Rishonim and Nosei kelim of the Tur and Shulhan Arukh on OH sec. 68; see also sec. 112.]

    Of critical importance is that we don’t find a push for any additions to the Private shemoneh esrei (except for the 4 during Aseret Yemei teshuva – and these have been around since the early geonim, if not earlier!). By the early Rishonim period we have almost complete uniformity in the Davening – and very little of substance has changed since then. If Rabbis Sperber and Kadish were correct and adding is the ideal – how is this possible. Creativity in Piyyut and NOTHING in the private Amida?? What’s more the Poskim rule that it is ASSUR to say piyyut in the private Amida; see for eg MB 68 no. 6. According to them, how could this be assur? This is centuries before the printing press!

    Summarizing my position: Piyyutim are the exception. The Major pillars of psak fought tooth and nail against them, while the remaining poskim tolerated them at most for the reasons cited above – and only in the hazarat haShats. There have been no new piyyutim for more than 700 years or more. Absolutely none in the private shemoneh Esrei. Piyyutim were very very far from representing the halakhic ideal and they were simply shut down. They certainly cannot serve as the basis for the changes R. Sperber wants to introduce into the private Amida and berakhot.

    One last comment as to my use of She’at ha-dehak by the recitation of “Nahem.” Let me make it clear that this term was used “le-shitatam.” I was trying to rationalize why some poskim were more open to change in that case. I also noted that Nahem appears in the middle berakhot of the Amida – which according to all is more open to changes. To my mind, I find R. Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik’s explanation satisfying [- that the berakha is focusses on Har haBayyit]and no change is required.

  20. abe says:

    Moshe-do you know where a nusach eretz yisrael siddur can be acquired? Is this the nusach which is connected to Rav David Bar-Hayim?

  21. IH says:

    “Creativity in Piyyut and NOTHING in the private Amida??”

    Taking a quick look at my Rinat Yisrael EM and S siddurim, I can’t seem to find “כי אל מלך גדול וקדוש אתה” in the 3rd bracha of the private Schacharit Shmoneh Esreh in nusach EM.

  22. IH says:

    And I see that Abudirham admits: “והמון העם אינם אומרים כי אל מלך גדול וקדוש” in the 14th century.

  23. Aryeh Frimer says:

    IH,
    I haven’t checked, but I would bet you that this and most differences between the various nusha’ot go back almost 1000 years!

  24. IH says:

    The machloket seems to have been alive and well in the 14th cent. Check the Abudirham.

  25. Aryeh Frimer says:

    IH writes: “The machloket seems to have been alive and well in the 14th cent.” It certainly didn’t start then! I’m at work right now and can’t check Yakobson, but I imagine that the two shitot had been around for a long while and Abudirham (Abudarham, Avudraham) disapproved of the other shita.

  26. IH says:

    Notwithstanding when it started, that it was still raging in the 14th century with והמון העם אינם אומרים and the fact that some still don’t say it today dents the self-assurance of Aryeh Frimer on November 1, 2011 at 3:46 am.

  27. IH says:

    To be frank, you’re the one claiming scholarship. So, please turn down the polemical volume and do the research thoroughly.

  28. Aryeh Frimer says:

    IH,
    I simply don’t understand. In 2012 there are differences between Nusach Sefard and Nusach Ashkenaz. There is an ongoing dispute of whether to say Morid haGeshem or Gashem. Does that mean that it started now? These differences have been around for centuries. We are discussing creativity, not a discussion of what should be the correct Nusach? My challenge was that according to Rabbis Sperber and Kadish that additions and emendations – indeed whole paragraphs – are desirable and to be encouraged – where are they?

    As far as your use of the word “Polemic”, I’d like to remind you that I’m the one whose article is being critiqued by R. Kadish. I do believe I have the right to respond in defense of my position.

  29. IH says:

    Of course you have the right. You also have the right to shoot yourself in the foot.

  30. Rafael Araujo says:

    Oh IH, got eat breakfast or something productive….

  31. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    IH: One may not agree with Rabbi Frimer, but I see no indication that he has in any way shot himself in the foot. Why the nastiness?

    On another marrer, the debate re geshem and gashem, to my knowledge, started in the 18th century. IIRC, both Profesors Liebes and Leiman have discussed this.

  32. chardal says:

    >There is an ongoing dispute of whether to say Morid haGeshem or Gashem. Does that mean that it started now? These differences have been around for centuries

    Actually Geshem Gashem argument has been around for less than 200 years and can be traced to attempts of German Jews to make the siddur conform better to biblical Hebrew.

    In fact, the rise of Chassidut and Nusach sefard seems to be the big counter to R’ Frimer’s arguments. Here we have the chassidic masters advocating many many changes in the Shemonah Esrei that were pretty much unprecedented. It was pretty much the invension of a new nusach that never existed before, and the motivation was not in order to find some original text but rather mystical/ideological/social considerations. In fact, things got so out of hand that by the early 19th century there were upwards of 50 different variants of nusach sefard.

    In fact, R’ Herzog has a teshuva where a congragation asked him whether it was ok to change their nusach tefilla and we wrote that me-Ikar haDin it must be ok, because if it was not ok, how could a great posek like the shulchan aruch harav change the nusach from ashkenaz to his own nusach.

  33. micha says:

    AISI…. we have some level of minhag Yisrael WRT the siddur. All qehilot today use a child of Rav Amram Gaon’s siddur. Whether we’re talking Baladi Teimanim or Kahal Adas Jeshurun (Breuer’s). R’ Saadia Gaon’s siddur is available (and there is a copy on hebrewbooks.org). But it’s defunct. And with all due respect to R’ David Bar-Hayim and his reconstruction of Nusach EY, he too is reviving a shitah that the rishonim and acharonim have relegated to history. (And that’s assuming he succeeded. The Cairo Geniza contains fragments of multiple different nusachos, and even where we have hints from the Yerushalmi, we do not always have enough information to know what the amoraim of EY actually said. And whether Tziporei, Katzrin and Lod actually had the same nusach, and whether the predominant nusach didn’t change over time…)

    One can’t buck a millennium of consensus and precedent — that’s not how halakhah’s legal processes work. At least, not without a Sanhedrin “greater in wisdom and in number”. For the vast majority of words said, we’re literally talking about all of observant Jewry.

    Comparing variants within that basic structure with variants that violate the text as every traditional Jewish community has in common ignores — to my mind — the most fundamental attribute of what mesorah is: a continual flow of interpretation from Sinai to today.

  34. Rafael Araujo says:

    Adding the Imahos has no historical precedent, piyutim or not.

    WRT Chardal’s arguments based on Chassidus and Nusash “Sfard”, the changes there were relatively minor compared to what Sperber and others are advocating. And as others have pointed out, the main changes, even WRT geshem/gashem was to restore what is supposed to be some kind of original or intended to be original text.

  35. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Rafael Araujo,
    Yiyasher Koach. This is my sense as well.

  36. Shlomo says:

    Indeed in Israel there is a growing fluidity pertaining to nusach tefillah. One good example is the growing use of nusach eretz yisrael based upon the nusach of the talmud yerushalmi.

    That’s not a good example of fluidity in prayer, because the people who promote “nusach eretz yisrael” are willing to change pretty much any minhag, not just those related to prayer.

    Taking a quick look at my Rinat Yisrael EM and S siddurim, I can’t seem to find “כי אל מלך גדול וקדוש אתה” in the 3rd bracha of the private Schacharit Shmoneh Esreh in nusach EM.

    I think that’s a result of the halachic requirement that a bracha have “me’ein hahatima” before the “hatima”. Some rabbis who saw the third bracha without that phrase considered the bracha to be INVALID without the phrase, and assumed that the phrase had originally been put there but was later forgotten. Thus they announced that one MUST recite the phrase from then on. People who do not recite the phrase follow rabbis who disagreed with this logic for whatever reason. All agree that only one wording may be said, there is only disagreement what that wording is.

    It was pretty much the invension of a new nusach that never existed before, and the motivation was not in order to find some original text but rather mystical/ideological/social considerations.

    I believe that according to the kabbalistic theories used to justify the change, it WAS a search for the original text, it just assumed that the original text should be reverse engineered assuming it must follow kabbalistic principles, rather than found by searching old manuscripts?

    Anyway, there were and are plenty of mitnagdim around who said that any such changes were wrong.

  37. micha says:

    Actually, there is little in any of the chassidishe nusachos — the numerous variants of Sfard or Ari — that is not found in an already existing nusach. The weave is new, but the threads are not. That’s why the Sepharadi elements in the new nusach were there to catch the Misnaged’s eye, and give the chassidishe nusachos their name.

  38. IH says:

    Prof. Kaplan — when I am wrong, I apologize. I have re-read the thread and see no nastiness or inappropriateness. It seems to me the comment is no more pointed than things I have seen you write (would you like me to start calling you on yours?).

    As to whether RAF has (metaphorically) shot himself in the foot: He claims to have researched this topic thoroughly and emphatically makes bold claims that simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. In this latest example, he admits to have not known “והמון העם אינם אומרים כי אל מלך גדול וקדוש” or that looking at 2 standard issue Rinat Yisrael siddurim highlights this significant textual difference in the 3rd bracha. Instead he moves the goal posts (again).

    What are your views? Do you think that RAF’s Hakira article fairly reviewed R. Sperber’s book? Particularly in light of what is actually written on pp. 111-112 of “On Changes in Jewish Liturgy”?

  39. chardal says:

    >Actually, there is little in any of the chassidishe nusachos — the numerous variants of Sfard or Ari — that is not found in an already existing nusach.

    Not really true. If you look, you will find additions that were not in any previous nusach (eg. ברוב עוז ושלום, ומכונים לישועה). In fact, some of the nuschaot edot haMizrach have been reverse influenced by the chassidic nuschaot.

    Further, the plethora of nuschaot is enough to render R’ Frimer’s contention of ultra-convervatism regarding the amida to ring false. The variants are many and are often not trivial, it is quite obvious that the tefila was not untouchable in various places and eras. Now, I, like you find the addition of the imaot somewhat distasteful, but I also find distasteful the polemical use of bad arguments against this innovation. The siddur has changed much in the past and will probably continue to change in the future. Better make the argument that this particular change is a bad one than try and make a (false) argument that any change is against halacha.

    >I believe that according to the kabbalistic theories used to justify the change, it WAS a search for the original text

    This is not born out by the sources. The purpose of mystical prayer was cosmic tikkunim that the correct combination of words would affect. It had nothing to do with the historical text as such. It was a kabbalistic reform of prayer – nothing more and nothing less. Now why is it ok to reform the amida based on a mystical kabbalistic pet ideology and it is wrong to change it for modern egalitarian considerations? I would argue that any answer would have to be meta-halachic.

  40. chardal says:

    >WRT Chardal’s arguments based on Chassidus and Nusash “Sfard”, the changes there were relatively minor compared to what Sperber and others are advocating.

    How is adding the imahot a more major change than changing וברכנו מטובך to וברכנו מטובה?? And this change (which strongly changes the intent of the bracha) was instituted by both the chassidim AND the Gra!

  41. Hirhurim says:

    Chardal: FWIW, the Eishel Avraham (Botchatcher) suggests that “u-metzapim li-yshuah” is a mistake. It was intended as a kavanah but people mistook the notation as an addition to the text.

  42. Hirhurim says:

    Chardal: How is adding the imahot a more major change than changing וברכנו מטובך to וברכנו מטובה??

    Did they think they were correcting it to a more authentic source or changing it?

  43. Rafael Araujo says:

    Chardal – you are missing the forest for the trees. The change you pointed out, and as Reb Gil commented on, is again a change for original intent/proper meaning. Adding Imahos is a change of such significance, It cannot be compared to anything in the past. It is truly a break from previous attempts to institute changes.

  44. First of all I apologize, I thought I would have time to post replies this morning before work, but that was overly optimistic… Now it is finally after work. In this first comment I’ll reply to a number of Rabbi Frimer’s points, which I often agree with, and in the next one address the Rashba.

    Much of what Rabbi Frimer writes in his comments I agree with completely. For instance, I agree about what Sephardim have done ever since the Beit Yosef. I was privileged to learn about the “somekh” not from books but in real life in my community. One thing I would like to learn more about, but have not investigated at all yet, is to what degree (if at all) local customs to say piyyut within blessings persisted in places like North Africa despite the Beit Yosef, and to what degree Rav Ovadia Yosef himself is responsible for the uniformity we see in this today.

    I also agree regarding piyyutim being only in public. In fact it seems self-evident, because the ones we are talking about were written specifically for hazarat ha-shatz or birkhot shema in public, for saying or singing responsively or together. They are meant for the public both in their structure and in their meaning. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear about this, but I meant to imply it when I wrote that piyyut was a “social institution,” i.e. a public activity.

    However, I do not understand the question about why there weren’t there piyyutim or other changes in the private Amidah, or why that question is so important. We are dealing with a society where the berakhot were already largely fixed, where communities often possessed a mahzor for the shaliach tzibbur, and where the nosah people learned by heart is what they normally used. Not because they were required to, but because it was the obvious thing to do. If people did sometimes do variations during the silent Amidah we wouldn’t know about it anyway, because it is silent.

    Piyyut, on the other hand, was an elaborate cultural artifact that required writing both in its creation and in its propagation (another shaliah tzibbur couldn’t do it properly if he didn’t have a copy). Therefore, it was copied in medieval mahzorim and later printed. And its rendition was entirely public as well. This is what forced the rishonim to pay so much attention to it, and this is why we have so much evidence of it. When Rabbi Frimer asks “why don’t we find the widespread recitation of piyyutim in private as well” I think the question is a bit misplaced: Do we really expect to find people mumbling piyyutim during the silent Amidah in order to be “yotze” them? That seems a bit anachronistic to me, coming from a society where the cultural public meaning of piyyut has mostly been lost, but where some people still feel they must say them privately even if the community doesn’t, just because you just *have* to say them.

    I also agree that many of the rishonim stress the identities of the authors of the piyyutim and when they lived. Nevertheless, when the Rema writes “there are those who say that there is no prohibition in this” he is referring to those rishonim who wrote that hiddush is generally permitted provided that it follows certain basic rules.

    I also agree that the berakhot have for the most part been relatively close in all communities for centuries already (and never said otherwise). However, there is one factor that Rabbi Frimer and I would probably evaluate differently, namely examples like the genizah evidence. Based on Rabbi Frimer’s approach, it is very easy to dismiss them summarily by saying that we don’t know who wrote them or what halakhic status they had. But if your starting point is the many rishonim who state as a matter of simple fact that the text of blessings is not binding and can be changed, then such manuscripts can be given more weight as likely reflecting a more fluid reality in the middle ages. So to a large degree, the significance of that evidence is in the eyes of the behold.

    I also agree with Rabbi Frimer that the firm stance taken by the Rambam and others for a fixed text and especially against piyyutim “prevented any further erosion,” i.e. that they blocked off the slippery slope towards liturgical anarchy. However, the “slippery slope” always slides in two directions (in this issue and in many others). While preventing anarchy, I argue in other parts of my book that this was one important factor that led to the utter failure of our daily prayers as meaningful avodat Hashem, including on a halakhic level. Anarchy was prevented in the halakhah of “matbe`a berakhah” at the expense of total failure for most of Klal Yisrael in the halakhah that forbids prayer without kavvanah. This is a discussion that leads into whole new areas and cannot be dealt with here, but balance needs to be found for all of these elements and not just for one of them.

  45. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Instead he moves the goal posts (again).”

    How did he move the goalposts? He address your point already. You are raising issues of nusach and what is correct nusach. This is not an issue of nusach. This is an issue of creativity, adding to the berachos of the Amidah. There is no nusach of the Imahos on paper at anytime except in some liberal heretodox siddurim and Dr. Sperber’s book. The Imahos is not a return to what the text should be or read, but it never read that way and was never written that way.

    Okay, forget the Imahos, which a change that is generated by gender politics and feminist considerations. If we wanted, could we add Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, and Dovid to the first berochoh of the Amidah, the 7 Roim of the Jewish People.

  46. Before I work on the Rashba, I first want to thank Rabbi Gil Student for his selection of the picture above with the river. How appropriate! :-)

  47. Rafael Araujo says:

    Rabbi Kadish – would you agree there is more leeway in terms of kavvanah then changing/adding to/deleting the texts of prayer? Also, the challenge for Shomrei Torah u’Mitzvos, is to try to have kavvanah and try to gain meaning from the same set texts and not give in to the winds of change like the heterodox have of making changes to make the prayers more relevant to 21st century Jews.

  48. IH says:

    Here is the relevant text from R. Sperber’s book that has drawn so much attention; I typed this in manually, so I apologize in advance for any typos.

    After a lengthy quotation from the Mitnaggedim’s Brody Proclamation of 1772 banning the budding Hasidic movement, R. Sperber writes on pp. 111-113 (sans footnotes and italics):

    But this ban, like subsequent ones, was ineffective. The Hasidim developed Nusah Sefarad on the basis of Nusah ha-Ari,a nd then the various Hasidic courts (hetzerot) adjusted the version in accordance with their own specific ideology, so that almost every Hasidic text has its own siddur with its own version.

    Therefore, when I am asked questions such as “To what extent may we add elements in our prayers?” “What method can be used for incorporating additional prayers?” “Can we add new elements to the existing prayers?” “Can we mention the imahot (foremothers) in addition to the avot (forefathers)?” I see the answer is very simple: It is all completely permissible. Adding completely new prayers where one is not changing matbea shetavu hachamim – because that would amount to a new creation, a new composition – is certainly permitted. Adding words or phrases to an established berachah is less acceptable, according to Maimonides, but if the basic content is not changed, one who recites such a berachah does not have to repeat it in its previous form. Thus, for example, as we have mentioned above, the words ומצפים לישועה, in the sixteenth benediction of the Amidah, was originally a directive to the worshipper that at this junction he should yearn for redemption, and it was printed as such in brackets or smaller type, or in a separate line as a directive. However, later it was mistakenly inserted into the body of the blessing in identical typeface, thus appearing to be an integral part of it. It appears this way in many siddurim, while others have tried to correct this error, as, for example, Tzelota de-Avraham, vol. 1 (298). In this case, neither the basic structure nor the content has been changed, so there is no halachic necessity to correct this error. The question might therefore be more a sociological one than a halachic one. How do new prayers or new additions become accepted? Is it because they were written down by great authorities like Rabbi Yehudah he-Hasid, R. Elazar of Worms, Rabbi Moses Cordovero, Rabbi Issac ben Solomon Luria, or the Ben Ish Hai? Surely, “Lecha Dodi,” which we recite on every Friday night in the synagogue is accepted by everybody, and that was a completely new creation!

    Can we nowadays sit down and decide to add to, subtract from, change or formulate new berachot, such as she-asani ishah ve-lo ish (who has made me a woman and not a man) or she-lo asani amah (who has not made me a slave-woman)? Halachically, yes. Sociologically – will it be accepted, and by whom? That is a completely different question that a sociologist, not a halachist, will have to confront. Many of the changes that have come about, or that are coming about, will gradually become accepted in any case without a full awareness of the fact. If you look at modern siddurim such as Artscroll, Rinat Yisrael, or Koren, they incorporate many changes of which most people are not fully aware, but which have become completely accepted mainly because they are in a printed edition. The printed book has become the canon. Even its mistakes have been canonized. See, for example, the brief introduction by Koren in the machzorim of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in which the published pointed out that he tried to print certain piyyutim in a different format in order to eradicate mistakes, errors that entered into earlier machzorim. The truth is that nevertheless, everyone who chants these piyyutim from the “corrected” machzorim do so in the wrong fashion because they cannot free themselves from what they are used to.

    As far as I am aware, this is the sole reference to Imahot in his book.

  49. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Surely, “Lecha Dodi,” which we recite on every Friday night in the synagogue is accepted by everybody, and that was a completely new creation!”

    How is this a proof? We are discussing the essence of prayer, the Amidah. What does Lecha Dodi have to do with the Amidah?

  50. Regarding the concise teshuvah of the Rashba, I plead guilty that I didn’t find it when I did the research for my book years ago. I’ll also plead she`at ha-dehak, namely that I had very limited access at the time to good libraries and none to computer programs like the Bar-Ilan project, and did the whole thing as a hobby after hours. Since then I also plead guilty to not having reviewed the sugya much if at all until this discussion, which thankfully has forced me back to this area of Talmud Torah. So thank you for teaching me, and for motivating me to learn it all again, now with more complete sources.

    But what are we to do with this teshuvah? My initial thought (though I’d be glad to hear others’ perhaps better ones) is that the Rashba didn’t change his mind or contradict himself, but rather held a position similar to that which was later expressed explicitly by the Rashbaz (who largely followed the Rashba). The Rashbaz wrote (Responsa III:247, cited in Yabia Omer II:OH12): “But in the text of a blessing for an unobjectional matter such as “lehavin” versus “lehavchin,” it is not considered changing the format. And we add piyyutim in the blessings and in the prayer, and there is no prohibition in it for changing the format **as long as the piyyutim are about the topic of the blessing**.” Notice the worry that piyyutim might indeed violate the theme of the blessing. Perhaps the Rashba was working with a similar principle (but coming to a more negative conclusion): Changes are fine if they are in line with the topic of a blessing, but piyyutim should be eliminated as interruptions because they actually do violate the topics of blessings in their very nature. It may also be significant that the Rashba was asked about piyyutim between blessings in sensitive places, rather than inside them.

    Whether this explanation of the Rashba is correct or not, what the Rashbaz wrote has a lot of relevance to some earlier comments on how far things can or should be taken. In some comments and notes, people asked what my “agenda” is or what I am “advocating,” i.e. what sort of hiddush do I want to actually see. The truth is that I don’t care, as long as each person does what works best for him. If someone has kavvanah simply reading the siddur and wants no more than that, then fine. If someone feels the need for elaborate hiddush that stretches the definition of “me`ein ha-berakhah” to the breaking point, he still has important sources to rely on and shouldn’t be condemned or written off as non-halakhic. Klal Yisrael has more important things to worry about, and this is still more good than bad (if it is bad at all). Nevertheless, I feel uncomfortable with it for the same reason as the Rashbaz.

    What I find important on a personal level is somewhere in the middle: It is the ability to stand before God and talk to him as Hazal decreed, but nevertheless to still *talk* to Him. The very idea that I am *reciting* a text to Him, with no deviations allowed, destroys any possibility of kavvanah for me on a daily basis. But the ability to rephrase and retell things in my own words and adjust them to that day’s circumstances opens the door to kavvanah. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate piyyut. But it does have to be a real conversation.

    That is why I think the mixing of minhagim in Israel is so important. Shlomo wrote that “choosing one of a set of existing fixed texts (with quite minor differences between them) is very different from inventing and using an original text.” I understand what he means, but I still think the phenomenon has more significance than he thinks. Because when people start not caring which text is used, and even combining them eclecticly based on personal taste, that shift in attitude is already a significant step towards allowing formal prayer to become a conversation again, rather than a recitation.

    That is why I also agree with Rabbi Frimer’s quotation from Heschel at the end of his review, saying that the problem isn’t the siddur itself. I agree: The problem isn’t the siddur, but how we USE the siddur. My “agenda” (if I have one) has nothing to do with publishing new siddurim with piyyutim, with the imahot, or with anything else. Nor do I care much about which nosah a person uses. The one thing I care about is that when you use your siddur for the Amidah, that you are at least aware that its text is a tool for prayer but not the prayer itself, and that each time you use it you can vary what you say (within understandable limits) according to the needs of the moment as you talk to God.

  51. Rafael Araujo wrote:

    >>”Rabbi Kadish – would you agree there is more leeway in terms of kavvanah then changing/adding to/deleting the texts of prayer? Also, the challenge for Shomrei Torah u’Mitzvos, is to try to have kavvanah and try to gain meaning from the same set texts and not give in to the winds of change like the heterodox have of making changes to make the prayers more relevant to 21st century Jews.”

    I hope this last comment answers your main question. As for heterodox movements, I think it is a mistake to base one’s Torah positions on the supposed need to react to them or negate them. Rather, simply do what is true and right regardless of them. And furthermore, if they sincerely teach something that is true, then listen and accept the truth wherever it comes from.

  52. Rafael, when Rabbi Sperber mentioned Lekha Dodi, he was giving an example of the sociological factor. And it is a good one too.

  53. IH says:

    Rafael – responding to your last 2 comments, b’kitzur. If I understand R. Sperber correctly, he sees adding the imahot (perhaps with a small number of other modifications that Orthodox feminists may want to make) as just another nusach, no different than the panoply we already have from a halachic perspective. Whether it will pass sociological muster is a separate question that he does not feel qualified to answer (as per the quote above). As far as I know, there are no Halachic/Orthodox minyanim that have made such a change, so this is all academic.

    In regard to changes to the Amidah, a substantial portion of R. Sperber’s book details historical changes due to a plethora of reasons. The example I presented earlier is an additional one that I do not recall from R. Sperber’s book, but was the result of my dismay at RAF’s emphatic points in this thread.

  54. IH, thanks for taking the time to provide Rabbi Sperber’s text, so that everyone can see what is being debated.

  55. ygc says:

    “What I find important on a personal level is somewhere in the middle: It is the ability to stand before God and talk to him as Hazal decreed, but nevertheless to still *talk* to Him. The very idea that I am *reciting* a text to Him, with no deviations allowed, destroys any possibility of kavvanah for me on a daily basis. But the ability to rephrase and retell things in my own words and adjust them to that day’s circumstances opens the door to kavvanah. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate piyyut. But it does have to be a real conversation.”

    the ability to add spontaneous prayer before the hatimat habrakha is not sufficient to accomplish this goal?

  56. avi says:

    You can order nusach eretz yisroel siddurim by contacting office@machonshilo.org it cost me 80 shekels. There is a caviate that the siddur is not as rabbi David bar hayim would prefer ut

  57. >>”the ability to add spontaneous prayer before the hatimat habrakha is not sufficient to accomplish this goal?”

    Correct. And doubly correct if it only applies to bakkashot.

  58. chardal says:

    >Did they think they were correcting it to a more authentic source or changing it?

    This is highly irrelevant. They had an accepted and revered tradition which they were willing to change. What right do you supposed they had to see the nusach that was accepted at the time as “inauthentic”. The chassidim changed the nusach for a variety of reasons: to seperate themselves from the rabbinic establishment. to do cosmic tikkunim. etc. In the end, the question of the motivation for the change is a meta-halachic question. They had no problem changing the words of the amida based on reasons that were beyond their role as textual scholars trying to find a perfect original text. Now, I don’t agree with adding the imahot because I believe that the siddur DOES and SHOULD have an androcentric bias. I think that Jewish tefilla is primarily for men and should remain so. That is my meta-halachic position and I would be uncomfortable davening in a shul that added the imahot which does not mean that it is appropriate to consider such a shul non-halachic.

    >Chardal – you are missing the forest for the trees. The change you pointed out, and as Reb Gil commented on, is again a change for original intent/proper meaning. Adding Imahos is a change of such significance, It cannot be compared to anything in the past. It is truly a break from previous attempts to institute changes.

    How is adding the imahot more radical than changing טובך to טובה???

    adding the imahot does not change the core meaning of the bracha at all! Is the God we are davening to not also the God of the imahot? The real reason you do not like it is that it that this change comes with feminist egalitarian motivation, but let’s be honest and say that it is not more radical than the changes the chassidim instituted – changes that no one blinks twice about today.

  59. Aryeh Frimer says:

    It is a pleasure having a discussion with R. Kadish: he writes honestly, clearly, sensitively and respectfully – qualities often lacking in blog discussions. That said, my major question was why, according to the view of Rabbis Sperber and Kadish, the Poskim forbade saying piyyut in the private shmoneh Esrei (see for example MB 86 note 6). If creativity is of value, such behavior should be lauded not forbidden. Yet that is not the thrust of the halakha.

    As far as creativity is concerned, I “talk” to Hashem in the middle berakhot of the weekday Shmoneh esrei, especially in Shma Koleinu or in Elokai netsor. I pray for Holim at the end of refaeinu and Ask for understanding and insight in particular situations at the end of Ata Honen. I also talk to Hashem (free prayer) while washing Dishes. To my mind, there are plenty of venues for freely and creatively talking to the creator, that there is no reason to consciously corrupt the tradition of centuries.

  60. I agree with Chardal that the motivations for the hasidic siddur were political and ideological to the core. Political in the sense of highlighting their taking leave of the rabbinic establishment in eastern Europe. And ideological in the claim that Jews must recite the text of the “13th sha`ar” in order to effect the Tikkunim of Lurianic kabbalah (much about this too in my book).

    The current Orthodox debates about the place of women in halakhah and prayer are ideological child’s play compared to the revolution that Kabbalat Ha-Ari caused in the siddur. It had a massive effect on the Sephardic Siddur as well, and caused a seismic split in Yemen too just like in Europe (Baladi versus Shami). The latter point is something I got wrong in my book 14 years ago, when I mistakenly thought that the split resulting from kabbalah was only an Ashkenazic phenomenon.

  61. Rabbi Frimer, I’m aware of the Mishnah Berurah 68:6 but never gave it much thought before, and in response to your comment I haven’t had a chance yet to seek out the aharonim it refers too. I have a strong hunch (though I could certainly be wrong) that this is just one of a great many areas where the MB follows the Magen Avraham or other aharonim in positions that have very little basis in ikkar ha-din. Let’s see.

    Regarding your own talking to God, if what you write works for you then great. I find that an attitude of *recitation* cannot be reconciled with an attitude of *communication*. And I think if you look around at typical daily minyanim it is easy to see that this is not just true for me but for most people, even if they’ve never thought about it.

    Furthermore, it is precisely in the obligatory Amidah that kavvanah is most important and halakhically required. We disagree whether the Amidah is “corrupted” by a person using his own words or “corrupted” by being treated as recitation (which inevitably leads to speed reading, mumbling, and a mantra-like experience).

    If a person is already making the effort to come to minyan or even to davven at home, then that obligatory tefillah at the heart of things is precisely the place where every possible means must be used to make it true communication and avodat Hashem.

  62. joel rich says:

    The current Orthodox debates about the place of women in halakhah and prayer are ideological
    ========================
    ok, i cut out your context but imho thps is the ikkar, yhe rest is commentary.
    KT

  63. Joel, so Lurianic kabbalah is not a form of avodat Hashem?

  64. Hirhurim says:

    JR: I agree with you and see nothing wrong with standing by ideology.

  65. Jerry says:

    Thanks to Rabbis Kadish and Frimer for such an enlightening and collegial discussion.

    One point for Rabbi Frimer: it seems to me that a lot of the uniformity that you observed is much more easily and naturally explained by the dual phenomena that Rabbi Kadish points to in his essay, rather than by the values that you extrapolate from your reading of the Rambam. Not that this is a decisive point in Rabbi Kadish’s favor, but neither is it a point in your favor.

  66. IH says:

    “standing by ideology”

    That is consonant with R. Sperber’s & R. Kadish’s position, not R. Frimer’s. Ideology is sociological. “Each River and its Channel”

  67. IH says:

    Speaking of standing by ideology, I’m wondering what R. Frimer’s position is on Chabad in Israel, given the messichists have won the sociological war there. Nahara nahara u-fashteih?

  68. Rafael Araujo says:

    “I hope this last comment answers your main question. As for heterodox movements, I think it is a mistake to base one’s Torah positions on the supposed need to react to them or negate them. Rather, simply do what is true and right regardless of them. And furthermore, if they sincerely teach something that is true, then listen and accept the truth wherever it comes from.”

    Completely disagree. There are many problems with this position, which has been supported many times by commentators on this blog and other such places. One I can think of is to treat what the heterodox do as “truth whenever it comes from”. Another, is the simple support this gives the heterodox, and I am certain it will.

  69. IH says:

    Rafael — If I recall correctly, you grew up Conservative and are now Charedi. This is salient to your expressed view.

    BTW, I checked the Conservative Sim Shalom siddur which does not include Imahot, but replaces Shelo Asani Isha in Birkot Shachar with She’asani Yisrael (which has pedigree in traditional “Orthodox” sources).

  70. Rafael, let’s agree to disagree on that topic. I’d rather this thread didn’t turn into a discussion of non-Orthodox movements.

  71. Rafael Araujo says:

    I don’t want it to do so either. However, I believe in the end, this is an important consideration. Also, please be aware that Rabbi Dr. Sperber, who has proposed this change, heads an institution with a faculty of Conservative clergy.

  72. S. says:

    Rafael Araujo

    “One I can think of is to treat what the heterodox do as “truth whenever it comes from”.”

    Can you explain that? Assuming something is the “truth,” isn’t that sort of the point of “truth wherever it comes from?” Perhaps the second consideration (not giving them chizzuk) is the more important one, but if you’re an “accept the truth” person, what’s the great shakes about accepting the truth from an unimpeachable source, even assuming that’s already too rare?

    My apologies to Seth (Avi) Kadish. I promise to be on my best behavior and not turn Rafael’s response into a side conversation.

  73. Shlomo says:

    R’ Kadish: If we can add new elements to and change the blessings, can we also take away from them? If we condensed each blessing down to one or two lines (containing the core ideas) before the ending, shemoneh esreh would be shortened by about 50% and the Shema blessings by about 90%. Surely that would make the prayers much approachable for those without Jewish knowledge, free up time for talmud torah or whatever other worthwhile goal for the rest of us, and cut down on “spaced-out time” in prayers for everyone. If that is allowed, would it not be desirable?

    chardal: Now, I don’t agree with adding the imahot because I believe that the siddur DOES and SHOULD have an androcentric bias. I think that Jewish tefilla is primarily for men and should remain so.

    Funny then that so many of the laws of prayer are derived from a woman’s prayer (Chana). Come to think of it, “ve’elokei chana” would be a MUCH MUCH more appropriate addition than the Imahot. (The Avot invented shacharit/mincha/maariv, Chana invented all the other laws… though of course Chana’s place as a role model for prayer goes well beyond those technicalities.) If R’ Kadish were to convince me that his thesis is correct, I might even consider making that addition in my own prayers. :)

  74. Steve Brizel says:

    R Kadish and R Frimer deserve a tremendous Yasher Koach for an enlightening discussion conducted with great Derech Eretz. Both posts point out a key factor without IMO explicating the same-the need for a thorough knowledge of Tefilah.

    The following point of R Kadish prompted this post:

    “Regarding your own talking to God, if what you write works for you then great. I find that an attitude of *recitation* cannot be reconciled with an attitude of *communication*. And I think if you look around at typical daily minyanim it is easy to see that this is not just true for me but for most people, even if they’ve never thought about it.

    Furthermore, it is precisely in the obligatory Amidah that kavvanah is most important and halakhically required. We disagree whether the Amidah is “corrupted” by a person using his own words or “corrupted” by being treated as recitation (which inevitably leads to speed reading, mumbling, and a mantra-like experience).

    If a person is already making the effort to come to minyan or even to davven at home, then that obligatory tefillah at the heart of things is precisely the place where every possible means must be used to make it true communication and avodat Hashem”

    IMO, such a premise ignores RYBS’s well known and often stated Chiluk between a Maaseh HaMitzvah and a Kiyum HaMitzvah, especially with respect to Mitzvos that require kavanah or internalization of what you are doing as you perform the same. A person can IMO daven at an “express minyan”, which is a very common occurrence for anyone who works for a living, and have the same sense of Kavanah and of being Lifnei HaShem and being Omed Lifnei HaMakom as someone who davens in a yeshiva, kollel or shtiebel where the same davening on the average weekday may take quite longer. I would add that when it comes to a Kiyum HaMitzvah, just as one RIETS RY was fond of noting with respect to Yiras Shamayim, there is no litmus or temperature for each Jew’s Kiyim HaMitzvah. I would certainly not pasul someone’s thrice recited tefilos merely because from an outsider’s perspective, one sees what he thinks is recitation,as opposed to communication.

  75. Steve Brizel says:

    R Kadish wrote:

    “It must be stressed that the ingathering of the exiles in Israel today is shattering the legacy of frozen customs and prayer-texts (at least outside of the ḥareidi world and immigrant communities). It is not resulting in some sort of “unified custom” or single nosaḥ as people once imagined, but is rather moving towards a general tolerance for all sorts of competing customs and texts simultaneously within mixed communities and families. Within Religious Zionism, the Ashkenazic paternalism of the past is vanishing rapidly today, and that is a blessed event. Especially in the newer yeshivot and communities, customs are allowed to vary based on the preference of the shali’aḥ ẓibbur, and sometimes various minhagim are even combined eclectically. What is happening in Israel today is unimaginable from the perspective of the largely Ashkenazic monotony of Orthodox life in the English-speaking world”

    This point IMO is correct with respect to Israel, where in many “minyan factories”,as well as the communities mentioned, the only Nusach that counts is that of a Shaliach Tzibur. What about kehilos and yeshivos where Nusach still is an important consideration? Furthermore, in the US, outside of YIs, most yeshivos and big shuls, Nusach Sfard, in its most colloquial sense ( Shtieblach, Syrian communities, etc) has an ever growing presence.

  76. Aryeh Frimer says:

    In a previous post, I challenged the permissibility of adding freely to the amida – from the PROHIBITION to recite piyyutim in private. The source of this prohibition is R. Moshe (Maharam) Mintz (b. 1420, d. 1480), Resp. 87. He is cited le-halakha by the Magen Avraham, 68 note 6, Kenesset haGedola, Lehem Hamudot, SA haGrashaz 68, no. 1, Kaf haHayyim 68, no. 5; Mishna Berura 68, no. 6.

  77. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    IH: I still think that your using the phrase “shooting yourself in the foot” was too strong and you could ahve made your pint in another, less confrontational way. And if you feel that my comments on occasion are phrased too strongly, please feel free to take me up on them.

    As for the larger issues, I do not feel that I have studied the matter carefully enough to express a considered judgment.

  78. chardal says:

    >Funny then that so many of the laws of prayer are derived from a woman’s prayer (Chana). Come to think of it, “ve’elokei chana” would be a MUCH MUCH more appropriate addition than the Imahot.

    The fact that chazal chose to darshen these halachot from a woman does not take away from my main point. The main halachot of prayer are much more relevant to men than women. Women have no obligation of tefilla beZman and frankly, mIkar haDin, have no obligation in the amida as such. The siddur is a text written by men for men – different people respond to this reality in different ways – some see the need for such an institution – other see it as mysoginistic.

  79. IH says:

    R. Frimer — have you had a chance to lookup Abudirham’s “והמון העם אינם אומרים כי אל מלך גדול וקדוש” in the 14th century? I note there is also a reference in the Eishel Avraham (Botchatcher).

  80. micha says:

    Chardal,

    “ברוב עוז ושלום” is mentioned by the Avudraham.

    I don’t know what you’re referring to with “ומכונים לישועה”.

    “וברכנו מטובה” and “gafen” rather than “gefen” aren’t stated anywhere that I know of (major disclamer, there are many old siddurim I don’t know of), but each implement rules that chazal asserted, and therefore one might assume the texts did exist.

    1- There is a rule dating back to the Y-mi that chasimas haberakhah should be in third person. Thus “mituvekha” is apparently a shibush.

    2- Gafen conforms to the idea that we’re supposed to be davening in Tanakhi Hebrew. “Gefen” at the end of a sentence is Mishnaic Hebrew.

  81. Rabbi Frimer, Yishar Koach for the references. Now I understand why this was relevant.

    The Maharam Mintz can be added to our list of later rishonim who viewed the recitation of piyyutim as bedi`avad. His reason is because of hefsek, and he writes that even though the custom has to be respected in public, why should an individual risk the possible hefsek when he doesn’t have to? From that standpoint it is better to be machmir.

    The Magen Avraham continued the Maharam’s discussion of where hefsek is less or more problematic, along the way citing his stricture for the individual. The MA clearly indicates (when he mentions Pesach) that the amount of problematic hefsek in a piyyut is tied in with how much it is (or isn’t) me`ein ha-berakhah.

    The Mishnah Berurah in typical fashion restates the views of the Magen Avraham. But the Arukh ha-Shulchan reads the Magen Avraham critically and carefully like he usually does, adopting one element (the citation from the Maharam Mintz about when to add the piyyut “seems correct to me”) but criticizing another (Why should a piyyut before Yotzer Or be considered a hefsek?). Note that he ignores the chumrah about the individual.

    So there is nothing here about individual expression that *is* me`ein ha-berakhah. Nor does this have anything to do with the rishonim codified by the Rema who permitted piyyutim and saw nothing wrong with changing blessings as long as the structure is respected. It is another opinion.

    A topic I would someday like to see a sensitive and intelligent online discussion about is the status of the Mishnah Berurah as an educational guide to the study of Orach Chaim and as a source of pesak. That might turn out to be a more controversial topic than feminism. But it would take some extraordinarily talented experts to do it in the right way.

  82. To Steve Brizel,

    I fully agree. The experiential aspect of standing before God doesn’t depend on what kind of minyan you find yourself in. And you cannot measure kavvanah by length. Cf. Rabbi Eliezer in the gemara (one student takes a long time and the other is quick) and of course אחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט ובלבד שיכוון לבו לשמים.

    At the same time, I do think you can distinguish between an attitude of recitation and an attitude of communication. If I was too hard on recitation then I apologize. It too can certainly be a serious kind of kavvanah for some people.

    But it is not communication in one basic sense of the term: To talk to God as you would talk to another human being. That means at the pace of normal human conversation and in a normal communicative manner. Speed reading may be an important kind of avodat Hashem for some people, but it is not avodat Hashem in this sense.

    This idea doesn’t mean that davvening has to be extremely long, but that you say what you can at a conversation pace allowing this sort of kavvanah, rather than saying everything in a rush.

    In other words, אחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט is a matter of quantity rather than time from this perspective.

  83. Shlomo, what you are suggesting is explicitly discussed by the Rashba, who gives Benjamin the shepherd as his example in the citation above in the article.

    Would it be desirable? I tend to think not much, because the core berakhot are really not all that long to begin with. If shortening things is desirable, then most of the length in davvening today has nothing to do with the core berakhot.

    I suggest the following on Shabbat: “You give me 5-10 minutes, and I’ll give you an hour.” In other words, lengthen Keriat Shema with its berakhot and the Amidah by just a few minutes at the pace of normal conversation, but then cut out far more time in other areas. But try to convince people to actually do something like that… :-)

  84. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Can you explain that? Assuming something is the “truth,” isn’t that sort of the point of “truth wherever it comes from?” Perhaps the second consideration (not giving them chizzuk) is the more important one, but if you’re an “accept the truth” person, what’s the great shakes about accepting the truth from an unimpeachable source, even assuming that’s already too rare?”

    Sorry for my constant delayed responses. Still at the office now. I should have tied this point to the second – acknowledging truth gives chizuk to the heterodox movements.

    Rabbi Kadish – I have a question for you. Growing up in the Conservative movement, I am well aware of the removal of “v’ishei yisroel” from the berochoh of ratzei in the Amidah in official Conservative siddurim (Sim Shalom), since this is identified as expressing a desire to return to offering korbanos. According to your approach/defence of RD Sperber, would this change be acceptable?

  85. Good morning Rafael. I too grew up in a then-assimilated home that belonged to a Conservative synagogue. Later I went to a black-hat yeshivah that was extremely warm and caring, but as the years went on it shocked me in the way it delegitimized Torah opinions that were not “party line” and that is the main reason I left (almost leaving Judaism entirely along the way) and eventually went to Yeshiva University.

    At YU I finally found a beit midrash where people dedicated to Torah with different hashkafot respected each other and learned Torah together without demanding conformity. To this day I believe that is what a true beit midrash is (and I hope YU is still like that today though I haven’t been there for many years). I was too young to ever meet the Rav zt”l (my very first semester was the last one he taught), but that had a good side too: The amazing variety of his talented students, all of them dedicated Torah scholars whether they were rashei yeshivah, professors, synagogue rabbis or worked in other professions, and even though they often differed from each other widely in their personal opinions, was a unique prism through which to understand who he was: A tremendous Gaon who in his decency and honesty never demanded that his students think or act the way he did, but rather wanted them to pursue the truth of Torah as they saw it in the situations they confronted. Very much like Rav Amital zt”l who didn’t want to create lots of “little Amitalim.”

    So regarding “ve-ishay Yisrael” in “Retzei” I am well aware of the classic Silverman Conservative siddur. When I was a kid I went through a major period when I was literally at war with the Conservative movement, and practically drove our poor Conservative rabbi nuts (which I now regret). But during my YU years I met and worked with dedicated and knowledgeable Conservative people my age; I learned much from them, and also learned to have deep respect for them even if I didn’t always agree with them.

    Since then I’ve come to the conclusion that the need to delegitimize that which seems wrong accomplishes little or nothing positive in terms of what it is supposed to do, namely to stop those whom I think are wrong and to warn others away from them. Instead, the ever-present need to delegitimize among Jews who are committed to Torah causes massive harm davka to Orthodox Jews and to Orthodox Judaism itself. In its current form it is literally a sickness.

    OK Rafael, so I broke my own rule about this topic. Maybe S. was right and it was worth it :-)

    In terms of Retze, it is a classic example of a berakhah that was changed due to the churban. It’s original chatimah is apparently preserved in the holiday version, and its true theme is “avodah” just like Hazal call it, namely when the servants take leave of their Master, they ask that He be pleased with their having done the service He commanded. And that is first and foremost the sacrifices commanded in the Torah. But after the churban the only avodah we could ask that He be pleased with was prayer, and we had to ask instead that He allow us once again to serve Him fully.

    So I think “ishei Yisrael” is not just me`ein ha-berakhah, it is literally the core of the blessing.

    Having said that, there are many people including Torah scholars who are legitimately troubled by aspects of the korbanot. One of them was Rav Kook, and I suggest turning to him as a first step for people who find the topic troubling.

  86. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Dear Rabbi Kadish,
    One of the major issues that troubles those who disagree with me is “hakra’a” – deciding which way the Halakha has turned and solidified. They constantly return to earlier more fluid times – before the Shulhan aruh, before the tur, before the rishonim, before the geonim, back to the geniza manuscripts if necessary. But Halkha is about hakhra’a and knowing how to act.

    Very often, a situation is fluid for a long time and then crystallizes and solidifies. I would argue that what was true during the time of the Geonim regarding additions to shemone esrei, was no longer true during the Rishonim and was certainly no longer true during the last 500 years. I have repeatedly stated that piyyut was fought tooth and nail and got in under the wire – for three reasons: Tradition, authorship and limited to Public recitation. But other than Piyyut the hakhra’a was clear: it is forbidden to add any new material. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, there have been NO new piyyutim added since the Rishonim period. [Minor changes were justified as corrections and returning to an authentic nusach]

    As proof against free creativity in Shemone esrei I brought the Ruling of the Maharam Mintz against reciting Piyyut in Private. It is true that the Arukh haShulhan does not cite the Maram Mintz – but neither does he disagree with him – so it is not clear where he stands. But everyone else does cite the Maharam: Magen Avraham, 68 note 6, Kenesset haGedola, Lehem Hamudot, Shulhan Arukh haGrashaz 68, no. 1; Ba’er Heiteiv 68 no. 1, Kaf haHayyim 68, no. 5; Mishna Berura 68, no. 6 – and that just among the Ashkenazim. I haven’t yet found a dissenting opinion. Unanimity does suggest a clear hahra’a in this debate. Thus, it is thus my contention that there has been a clear hakhra’a against adding any new material to the public amida, a fortiori to the private.

  87. chardal says:

    >I don’t know what you’re referring to with “ומכונים לישועה”.

    I typed wrong, shoud have written ומצפים לישועה

    >“וברכנו מטובה” and “gafen” rather than “gefen” aren’t stated anywhere that I know of (major disclamer, there are many old siddurim I don’t know of), but each implement rules that chazal asserted, and therefore one might assume the texts did exist.

    The first assumption is false (that they implement rules that chazal asserted) and the second point does not flow from the first even if it were true. We can not assume texts exist.

    >1- There is a rule dating back to the Y-mi that chasimas haberakhah should be in third person. Thus “mituvekha” is apparently a shibush.

    First, this is not in the chatima, it is NOT in the chatima, it is in the middle of the beracha. Second, the difference between טובה and טובך is NOT that one is first person and the other third person, it is that one referes to the land and the other refers to Hashem. There is no shibush, it is a change made due to theological considerations.

    >2- Gafen conforms to the idea that we’re supposed to be davening in Tanakhi Hebrew. “Gefen” at the end of a sentence is Mishnaic Hebrew.

    The Amida is not written in pure biblical Hebrew. (besides, there were no texts with vowelazation from the time of chazal, so the whole discussion is a bit anachronistic). The desire to have it conform to pure biblical Hebrew was rampant at the time this change was made and Gefen was changed to Gafen in order to make prayer more “biblical”

  88. Rabbi Frimer, the Magen Avraham says absolutely nothing about changes that are me`ein ha-berakhah. He is explicitly talking about piyyutim that in their nature may violate that rule, as was the Maharam Mintz. But let’s discuss this anyway because even though it applies to piyyut it is still a very good example for other reasons.

    Rabbi Frimer wrote: “But Halakhah is about hakhra`ah and knowing how to act.”

    I would rephrase this: “Halakhah is knowing how to be makhri`a so that one can act.” How to be makhri`a is something to which there are different and even contradictory approaches.

    In particular, how should you be makhri`a when the Magen Avraham, in a great many dozens of topics, cites or suggests a course of action (often a chumrah) that doesn’t seem to follow naturally from the ikkar ha-din?

    One approach is that of the Hazon Ish (Kovetz Iggerot II:41, p. 47): “The final word in the hora’ah that we have received from our rabbis, by whose teaching we live, like Maran the Beit Yosef and the Magen Avraham and the Mishnah Berurah… is an established hora’ah as if from the Sanhedrin itself in the Court of Hewn Stone. And there is no room for leniency in this matter.”

    This attitude is very powerful. Today in the English-speaking Orthodox world, and in very large and important circles in Israel as well, to cite the Mishnah Berurah is to end the halakhic discussion. The Hazon Ish has been a highly influential model.

    Nevertheless, there are other important models, not just for any particular pesak but even more so in terms of attitude and a sense of balanced judgement. The Arukh ha-Shulkhan didn’t see the Magen Avraham as Torah mi-Sinai, and clearly realizes in so very many cases that the MA does not reflect ikkar ha-din. The general model he presents us with is to read the Magen Avraham with care and respect, but not to feel in any way bound by him.

    This particular case (the terse note about the MA at the end of siman 68) is a good example of that, and I think the general approach of the Arukh ha-Shulchan towards the Magen Avraham throughout Orach Chaim (as well as his general views in siman 68) is a significant indication of why he ignored that particular chumrah as well. In any case, the Arukh ha-Shulchan is not just a source of pesak on any particular detail, but also a great and important guide on how to be makhri`a, and his general approach is no less valid than that of the Hazon Ish.

    A similar guide to “how to be makhri`a” in principle is Rav Ovadia Yosef, whom I consider to be the most significant figure in pesak since the Shulchan Arukh itself (and I think the centuries to come will show this). Rav Ovadia treats the Magen Avraham much like the Arukh ha-Shulchan did. If the Magen Avraham is cited widely then Rav Ovadia will document each and every place, but if the Magen Avraham seems to veer from ikkar ha-din then that is exactly what Rav Ovadia will show, and no name count of aharonim will sway him. Only compelling interpretations of the halakhah will sway him.

    That is a model of hakhra`ah!

    One can learn from Rav Ovadia as a model of shikul ha-da`at or hakhra`ah in pesak even if he doesn’t accept the rav’s political and ideological positions. By this I don’t just mean the Shas party, or the sad and embarrassing excommunication of Rav Amsalem shlit”a, but mainly Rav Ovadia’s ideological commitment to the Beit Yosef as the final word in Eretz Yisrael. Regarding this ideology too there are other voices, whether they be Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l or the Mishnah Berurah or the Arukh ha-Shulchan. In Israel today the influence of all of them lives together and all of their voices are still heard (some more loudly than others). But in terms of shikul da`at and balanced hora`ah beyond that kind of ideological stricture, there is still no one like Rav Ovadia Yosef.

    In the case of nosah ha-tefillah, Rav Ovadia himself is understandably bound by the Rambam and the Beit Yosef, as well as by the vast support this position has from kabbalistic sources. This is reflected in most of what he wrote about the issue. But even Rav Ovadia felt the weight of the vast majority of the rishonim against the Rambam, which found expression in Yabia Omer II:12:18. That isn’t a passage that will convince Rabbi Frimer on the level of pesak, but I still think it is highly revealing.

    Rabbi Frimer, many times in the discussion of your original post you wrote that you “plead guilty” to being a halakhic Jew. I plead guilty to the same, but in no way do I think this means blind loyalty to the shared tradition of the Magen Avraham and the Mishnah Berurah or to their approach to pesak. I don’t think that counting aharonim is the way to do it. Not even counting rishonim is the way to do it, but rather listening to the compelling logic that finds expression in their debates and makes something a majority view or a minority view, both of which continue to be heard throughout the ages. The Arukh ha-Shulchan is important not just in its details but also and especially in the overall model it provides us with.

  89. There is one more thing regarding the Magen Avraham that needs to be pointed out. My book dealt with kabbalistic support for the fixed text at great length, but above in n. 8 I wrote that I wouldn’t deal with it here. But since we are discussing the Magen Avraham, at minimum it needs to be pointed out not just that he adopted the fixed text in terms of the famous kabbalistic idea of the “12 gates” but that he was also one of the most influential poskim to bring that mystical idea directly into the literature of pesak.

    Here too there is principled question of “how to be makhri`a”. Is one obligated by a kabbalistic idea just because the posekim quote it? There is much literature on the general topic of kabbalah and halakhah, and there are many different opinions on the topic. Now is not the time or the place, plus there are others who can deal with that topic far better than I can.

    For me personally, not viewing kabbalistic influence on the siddur as a source of obligation is why I am very comfortable using Siddur Ezor Eliyahu, even though I am not a “chasid” (!) of the minhagim of the Gr”a.

  90. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Dear R. Kadish,
    As usual your response is beautifully and clearly written. I was raised in a home in which the arukh haShulhan carried more weight than the MB. Indeed Rav YH Henkin Shlita has written about this on many occassions. But I would wonder what you do when there is a unanimity of aharonim, as there seems to be in thios case. Thus there is no aharon that I am aware of who explicitly permits the recitation of piyyut in the private amida. [I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record – but thus far your responses have been much more informative than my questions!!!]

  91. IH says:

    On the Magen Avraham, it is perhaps ironic that he is one of the halachic justifications for women being involved in Kriyat ha’Torah in Partnership Minyanim. But, I’m sure R. Frimer will comvince us all that doesn’t count (pardon the pun). Ref: http://www.edah.org/backend/JournalArticle/1_2_shapiro.pdf.

    Further on Re’tzeh, Appendix 6 of R. Sperber’s book (pp. 192-198) traces the development of specifically that bracha over time (in “Orthodox” liturgy, to avoid any doubt).

  92. Aryeh Frimer says:

    The Magen Avraham by keri’at haTorah is a very exceptional example where the Magen Avraham is contrary to ALL known Rishonim and the vastly overwhelming majority of Aharonim who maintain the women have absolutely no obligation whatsoever in Keriat haTorah. But this is off topic.

  93. IH says:

    With respect, the methodology by which you pick and choose is on-topic. My comment was in that vein.

  94. >there is no aharon that I am aware of who explicitly permits the recitation of piyyut in the private amida

    To reiterate, whatever may be with this point, private piyyut as a possible hefsek is really not the issue.

    Regarding the Arukh ha-Shulchan, as much as I truly love it, it would be a mistake to turn it into a “posek aharon” like people do for the Mishnah Berurah. The real problem is taking any book and making it into a “posek aharon”. The halakhah is always broader than any particular book.

  95. IH says:

    All successful nusach change – by definition – starts with a minority opinion that catches on over time. What R. Sperber argues in his book is that there is a fair amount of latitude, within halacha, to justify changes in nusach, including but not limited to issues of sensitivity to some in regard to women. Any such decision is fraught with complexity and will either succeed or fail depending on whether its pros (added meaning to the prayer) outweigh its cons (change to tradition, unintended consequences, slippery slope, etc.).

    As a practical matter, the imahot in the Amidah does not seem to have passed the cost/benefit analysis; and She’lo Asani Isha seems to have been worked around by (in many MO kehillot) starting Shacharit b’tzibur after that point in the liturgy.

    R. Frimer is entitled to his view of halacha; as are R. Kadish or R. Sperber. Or, the rest of us. As long as no one locks out the other as illegitimate. That said, my own opinion is that we have passed the point of diminishing returns on what Gil dubbed “Nusach Feminist” back in Sept. 2010. As with many previous nusach changes, the key to success/failure is the resonance to the amcha, not the poskim.

  96. IH, I agree fully.

    In terms of “shelo asani ishah” I also agree that the most significant thing to be done, which is also important for tefillah in general, is to have the shaliah tzibbur start later: Barukh she-Amar at the very least, but even better would be Yishtabah like Sephardim do. Which relegates everything earlier to the private realm rather than the public realm.

  97. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Having said that, there are many people including Torah scholars who are legitimately troubled by aspects of the korbanot. One of them was Rav Kook, and I suggest turning to him as a first step for people who find the topic troubling.”

    Did RAYK remove “ishei Yisroel” from Ratzei?

  98. “Did RAYK remove “ishei Yisroel” from Ratzei?”

    Why would you think that he did?

  99. Rafael Araujo says:

    I don’t think so. With respect, you raised RAYK, a shitta of which I am well aware. I raised the deletion of “Ishei Yisrael” as a question as to whether the approach that creativity is allowed would permit this change. I raised it given the social aspects raised by RD Sperber in making such changes. You responded that some are troubled by korbanos and cited RAYK. Kindly explain what that has to do with the deletion? Are you saying that given the fact that RAYK does not believe that there has to be a re-establishment of animal sacrifice justify this creativity?

  100. Rafael Araujo says:

    One approach is that of the Hazon Ish (Kovetz Iggerot II:41, p. 47): “The final word in the hora’ah that we have received from our rabbis, by whose teaching we live, like Maran the Beit Yosef and the Magen Avraham and the Mishnah Berurah… is an established hora’ah as if from the Sanhedrin itself in the Court of Hewn Stone. And there is no room for leniency in this matter.”

    This attitude is very powerful. Today in the English-speaking Orthodox world, and in very large and important circles in Israel as well, to cite the Mishnah Berurah is to end the halakhic discussion. The Hazon Ish has been a highly influential model

    Rabbi Kadish – I have never seen this quote before. However, don’t the hearos of the CI hiself on the MB, printed in the back of most MB’s today, give lie to the misunderstanding of what it means that the MB is the “posek achron”? Isn’t what the CI meant that all halachich discussion, and much deference and weight be given to the MB?

  101. Rafael, I just meant that since your “ve-ishei yisrael” question was bound up with a movement that found sacrifices troubling, I wanted to point out that the questions themselves can be very real for some people, and that great men like Rav Kook have dealt with them. I didn’t mean that Rav Kook did anything to the siddur, which he didn’t.

    Regarding the CI, yes, I agree there is a bit of a paradox in that. But it is probably hyberbole to a degree too. So I think you are right that he what he probably really meant was that “much deference and weight be given to the MB.”

  102. Since this thread seems to be winding down (though more discussion would of course be completely welcome), for posterity I would like to note that at my website there is a great deal of downloadable material on the topic of Kavvanah in prayer, including vast areas that were not discussed in this post. It can be found here:

    https://sites.google.com/site/kadish67/kavvana-en

    I highly recommend that anyone who thinks they might be interested in exploring the topic further first read “A Balanced Approach to Jewish Prayer” (a one-page introduction available at from that webpage), which is based on the philosophical approach of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

  103. Shlomo says:

    Commenting on the shamor vs zachor issue, the Ibn Ezra says that the words “shamor” and “zachor” have similar meaning, and the Torah was careful to preserve the meaning in its stories, but not the exact wording. It’s a rather shocking, but certainly thought-provoking, approach.

    By that standard, though, there are virtually no differences between the different nusachs of prayer!

  104. avi says:

    I believe it was Shlomo who earlier was asking about making a nusach shorter. I know that the Nusach Eretz Yisroel bencher specifically makes the argument that it is shorter so that one will not hesitate to eat bread or wash due to the length of the bracha. So in some cases it would appear to be a legitimate concern. http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/component/content/article/3-newsflash/2-newsflash-1

  105. IH says:

    I believe the Reconstructionists use “Berikh Raḥamana Mareih de-hai pitta” as Birkat ha’Mazon to encourage the practice of praying Birkat ha’Mazon. [See the quotation from the Rashba that R. Kadish incorporates into Section B.]

  106. Steve Brizel says:

    Rafael wrote:

    “Rabbi Kadish – I have never seen this quote before. However, don’t the hearos of the CI hiself on the MB, printed in the back of most MB’s today, give lie to the misunderstanding of what it means that the MB is the “posek achron”? Isn’t what the CI meant that all halachich discussion, and much deference and weight be given to the MB?”

    Rafael -The CI’s letter re deference to be given to the MB is very well known. Yet,I have heard RHS say on numerous occasions that one can find much in the CI on SA:OC that is a critique of the MB for reversing the established Psak of Rishonim and Acharonim.

  107. Y. Aharon says:

    Shlomo, the variance in the language of the 2 versions of the 4th commandment, which entails more than the difference in the ‘zachor’ and ‘shamor’ wording, can be explained without resorting to Ibn Ezra’s dictum. Moshe’s repetition of the ‘aseret hadibrot’ can be taken as a paraphrase of the original. While the differences seem generally to be extremely minor, they are significant in the shabbat commandment. In the original, more emphasis is placed on kedushat shabbat, while in Moshe’s repetition, the aspect of ‘issur melacha be’shabbat’ is more emphasized. In the original, the commemoration of creation aspect of shabbat is given as the rationale, whereas the social aspect is emphasized in the repetition. Perhaps Moshe felt that the apparently lesser aspect had to be emphasized to the new generation after all that had happened in the desert. Then, too, the new generation was soon to be in a position of acquiring Gentile slaves, which necessitated the emphasis on not demanding their labor on shabbat.

    As a final note, I can’t resist repeating the bon mot from Rav Gifter about the ‘shamor vezachor’ phrasing in Lecha Dodi. Why, he asks, doesn’t it say ‘zachor veshamor’ since ‘zachor’ was said in the original ‘aseret hadibrot’, i.e., it came first. He answers, because of the acrostic scheme for the start of the stanzas, and the fact that the author’s name was ‘Shlomo’ HaLevi (Alkabetz) not ‘Zlomo’ HaLevi.

  108. S. says:

    >As a final note, I can’t resist repeating the bon mot from Rav Gifter about the ‘shamor vezachor’ phrasing in Lecha Dodi. Why, he asks, doesn’t it say ‘zachor veshamor’ since ‘zachor’ was said in the original ‘aseret hadibrot’, i.e., it came first. He answers, because of the acrostic scheme for the start of the stanzas, and the fact that the author’s name was ‘Shlomo’ HaLevi (Alkabetz) not ‘Zlomo’ HaLevi.

    Cute, but the phrase “זכור ושמור בדבור אחד נאמרו” long precedes Lecha Dodi. Unless that’s the whole joke?

  109. Y. Aharon says:

    S., I heard that vort attributed to Rav Gifter decades ago (although I believe it came from a reliable source, a relative who was a loyal Telzer mechanech). I also added some explanatory material that wasn’t part of the vort that was related to me. I was also reluctant to cite a ma’amar chazal (zachor veshamor bedibbur echad ne’emru) which was inconsistent with my understanding of the peshat concerning the differences in the 2 versions of the aseret hadibrot. In sum, attribute any deficiencies in the bon mot to me rather than to its presumed author.

 
 

Submit a Response

 

You must be logged in to submit a response.