The Wrong Changes in Jewish Liturgy

 

Guest post by R. Aryeh A. Frimer

Rabbi Aryeh A. Frimer is the Ethel and David Resnick Professor of Active Oxygen Chemistry at Bar Ilan University (E-mail) and has written extensively on the status of women in Jewish law; see: http://bermanshul.org/frimer/. This article is republished with permission from the latest issue of Hakirah. The full article with footnotes, italics and Hebrew text can be downloaded here: link (PDF).

Review of: On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations by Daniel Sperber, Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2010, 221 pp.

I. Introduction

The prolific R. Prof. Daniel Sperber has published yet another masterful book—this time “On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations” (henceforth, “Liturgy”)—in which the erudite author surveys the evolution of Jewish liturgy over a period of two and a half millennia. As with Prof. Sperber’s other books, this one too is enjoyable, edifying and breathtaking in its depth and breadth. There is a lot of action in the footnotes and appendices that will keep scholars happily diverted. Prof. Sperber outlines how the prayer text has evolved into a variety of nusha’ot and a plethora of sub-nusha’ot—such that no two Hassidishe shtibelakh daven exactly the same, nor do Yemenite batei kenesset. If one follows the prayer book from the time of the Geonim and the early Cairo Geniza manuscripts, through the Hassidei Ashkenaz, the Ari, and students of the Besht, down to the modern period—it becomes eminently obvious that there have been extensive additions of new prayers to the liturgy, and modifications in the text of the shemone esrei.

R. Sperber does note that many of these changes were copying or printing errors. Others were forced upon Jews by the censor or came about despite great resistance from the Posekim. For example, leading codifiers—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 and others support their continued recitation based on the fact that this was a revered centuries-old custom. Indeed, relying on the Rema, the limited recitation of piyyutim persists, more or less, down to our very day.

As the title suggests, this volume deals with a broad range of topics. Considering, however, that this book began as a lecture at a conference of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), it should not be surprising that it also touches on possible changes in Jewish liturgy taking into account feminist sensibilities. Indeed, Prof. Tamar Ross and other feminists have charged that the Siddur contains an “androcentric bias”—a charge I disagree with and critique.

In this regard, the specific feminist issues raised in this work are three. The first is the permissibility of modifying the morning benediction “…she-lo asani isha” for men and “she-asani ki-retsono” for women (Liturgy, pp. 39-40). The second is the possibility of introducing the names of the Imahot (four Matriarchs) in addition to those of the Avot (three Patriarchs) into the opening berakha of the Shemone Esrei (Liturgy, p. 111). And finally, the emendation of the phrase in Tahanun: “ve-shiktzunu ke-tum’at ha-niddah”—and they [the nations] abominate us like the ritual impurity of a menstruant (Liturgy, p. 47). It should be noted that the first two issues have been discussed extensively in the Conservative movement, but Prof. Sperber is presumably writing for a more traditional audience.

Based on the above-documented evolution of the prayer text, R. Sperber argues that our generation too should be able to make changes in the liturgy—changes that are more reflective of modern values and priorities. If a community so desires, this may well include additions and emendations that are reflective of feminist sensitivities (Liturgy, pp. 111–113). We should not be afraid, posits Prof. Sperber, that this will further split our prayer communities, since they are already extensively subdivided according to prayer texts and customs.

Citing R. Joseph Caro’s analysis of the Rambam, R. Sperber does, however, note two provisos regarding any proposed changes. Firstly, it is critical that the modifications not alter the overall content, intent and message of the berakha. Secondly, the overall structure and format of the berakha must be maintained with regard to its opening and/or closing with Barukh Ata Hashem.

II. Critique of Elements of R. Sperber’s Halakhic Analysis

As just noted, Prof. Sperber’s impressive volume is not merely an analysis of the past. It is in part also a proposal to justify changes in Jewish liturgy in the future—and it is here that we part company. In this regard, despite his rich and scholarly presentation, R. Sperber, to our mind, makes several very fundamental errors in halakhic analysis, and we will outline three below.

(A) Obligatory Benedictions vs. Optional Prayers

Firstly, in his survey of the changes in Jewish liturgy, Prof. Sperber fails to discriminate between those prayers and benedictions that are ancient texts—authored and fixed by Hazal—and those that are much later introductions and purely optional. Thus, in an attempt to demonstrate that Judaism permits innovative creativity, he cites the creation of special optional prayers in honor of Tu beShvat (Liturgy p. 54), the private recitation of Tefilla Zaka on erev Yom Kippur (Liturgy p. 56), and the introduction of Lekha Dodi (p. 112). Based on these innovations he asks: If Jewish liturgy is not crystallized and accepts additions, why can’t we add the Matriarchs to the first berakha of the Amidah (Liturgy p. 56)?

This attempt at a comparison is quite problematic. A Tu beShvat Seder, Tefilla Zaka and Lekha Dodi are all optional prayers, not even formulated as benedictions. Their authority, if any, comes only from minhag—from the fact that Klal Yisrael has seen fit to recite them regularly. How can one compare their introduction to the liturgy with the addition of the Imahot into the first berakha of the obligatory Amida—whose text was fixed by Hazal, and where there is a serious concern of berakha le-vatala?

We will return shortly to the issue of introducing the Imahot, but I would like to focus on the issue of optional prayers. One of R. Sperber’s suggestions was to remove the phrase “ve-shiktzunu ketum’at ha-niddah” from Tah$anun. In this regard, Maimonides rules:

After one lifts his head from the fifth bow [at the conclusion of the Amida], he sits on the ground, falls with his face towards the earth, and utters all the supplications that he desires.

In other words, what one prays in Tahanun is up to the individual. Furthermore, the Tur cites Rav Natronai Gaon to the effect that the very recitation of Tahanun is purely optional; it is merely a proper custom to add some request for mercy immediately after the Shemone Esrei. It would seem, therefore, that even though each community has a normative custom of what to say in tahanun, what is binding is the custom to recite some supplication; the exact wording of the Tahanun was not fixed. This conclusion is confirmed by R. Eliezer Melamed who writes:

If one is in the middle of reciting Tahanun and the hazzan has started to recite the concluding kaddish, the congregant should skip to the end of Tahanun and continue davening with the community. This skipping ahead is permissible because the exact text of Tahanun is not critical, and one fulfils the custom even with minimal supplications.

Hence, it would seem to us that anyone who wants to follow Prof. Sperber’s suggestion of removing the phrase “ve-shiktzunu ketum’at ha-niddah” from Tahanun has clear halakhic basis to do so. Indeed, with optional prayers, there seems to be little problem in making any necessary changes or corrections, such as removing from Berikh Shemei the verse “veTehev li benin dikhrin di-ya’avdun re’utakh,” “May I be blessed with male progeny to do your will,” or deleting the very problematic supplications to angels in Shalom Aleikhem (specifically Barekhuni le-shalom), selihot or Hineni, or removing the references to Babylonia in Yekum Purkan (which eidot mizrah don’t even say), or adding “haRahaman Hu yevarekh et Medinat Yisrael…” to the haRahamans after “al yehasreinu” in Birkat haMazon, or adding kinnot for the Six Million on Tisha beAv, or even to adding the Imahot to the Mi she-berakh for an oleh or holeh. These are optional supplications, without set texts or benedictions sanctified by Hazal.

(B) leKhathilla vs. be-di-Avad

A more fundamental problem with R. Sperber’s analysis has to do with a blurring of the difference between le-khathila (pre-facto) and be-di-avad (post-facto). This is a failing we have noted previously in his analysis of kevod ha-tsibbur with regard to women’s aliyot. The author repeatedly suggests that le-khathila means the “preferred” or “ideal” performance (Liturgy p. 62). In this he simply errs!

leKhathila refers to the way one is required to act under normative conditions. For example, Hazal say that one should not use a milchig spoon she-eino ben yomo (not used in the last 24 hours) to stir hot chicken soup.25 Similarly, Hazal indicate that one should not place food into utensils that have not been immersed in a mikva. In both cases, be-di-avad the food remains perfectly kosher. Nevertheless, Hazal’s ruling in both these cases is not a recommendation,but rather a clear directive on how one is required to act. Under normative conditions, it is forbidden to act otherwise.

This is also true regarding the obligatory prayer text and benedictions. Hazal forbade changes le-khathila—even though be-di-avad or bi-she’at ha-dehak (under dire circumstances) the change may be valid. Thus, Maimonides writes:

The wording of all the blessings, Ezra and his court enacted them, and it is inappropriate to change them, nor to add to one of them, nor to detract from one of them, and anyone who changes the wording coined by the Sages in the blessings is simply erring

As Prof. Sperber himself cites, R. Joseph Caro in the Kesef Mishne ad loc. explains that if one erred and changed the text of a berakha, what he recited is improper and inappropriate—but the benediction is post-facto valid. This is provided the overall content and structure of the berakha remains intact, as noted above. But the fact that the improper benediction is be-di-avad valid is in no way a carte blanche to change the prayer text at will. Contrary to Prof. Sperber’s intimation, if a change is made in a benediction, it needs to be corrected and certainly should not be repeated again.

For example, R. Yosef Caro rules in the Shulhan Arukh that, if instead of making haMotsi over bread as prescribed by Hazal, one said she-hakol or said the berakha in Aramaic, the benediction is valid. On this the Vilna Gaon and Mishna Berura indicate that this is only be-di-avad; le-khathila it is forbidden to change Hazal’s formulation in any way. Similarly, if by mistake one recited the text of Shabbat Arvit for Shabbat Shaharit or Minha, or vice versa, he or she has fulfilled their obligation. However, the 13th century Rishon R. Zedakiah ben R. Avraham haRofe, who is the source for this latter
law, notes:

However, one who exchanges and changes [the texts] on purpose—about him apply the verses: “Do not move an ancient boundary marker…” (Proverbs 22, 28), “and whoever breaks through a fence shall be bitten by a snake.” (Ecclesiastes 10:8).

It is clear that many of the major differences in the obligatory prayer texts of the various eidot occurred prior to the printing press, where the text was learned by rote—and hence subject to an accumulation of errors over time. These changes were of a be-diavad status and should have been corrected immediately, but after
time, no one knew for sure what the proper nusah was. Similarly, changes introduced by or for fear of the censor also have a she’at hadehak status that in halakha is equivalent to di-avad. Censor changes often remain in place for hundreds of years before conditions improve and the origin of the change is uncovered and corrected.

Many outstanding scholars have done their best to educate their community as to the correct nusah. Indeed, the tinkering with the text by the Hassidei Ashkenaz, the Arizal and his students, the Hassidic Masters and other great scholars throughout the generations—as thoroughly documented by Prof. Sperber—were all attempts to correct the text and return it to what they thought was the authentic version instituted by Hazal. But nowhere do we find examples where, under normative conditions, leading scholars consciously corrupted what they knew to be a perfectly proper text—so as to correspond to some passing fancy or ideology.

(C) Opening and Closing Benedictions of Amida vs. the Middle ones

Let’s now raise our third critique of Prof. Sperber’s halakhic analysis. Prof. Sperber correctly notes that Hazal in Masekhet Berakhot encourage us to make our daily weekday davening relevant by adding some personal elements to it.

R. Eliezer says: if a man makes his prayers a fixed task, it is not a [genuine] supplication. What is meant by a “fixed task”? … Rabba and R. Joseph both say: Whoever is not able to insert something fresh into it.

Now, the rules for adding novel requests into the Shemone Esrei are explicitly discussed in Rambam and Shulhan Arukh. Prof. Sperber does not emphasize that there is a clear distinction between the 13 middle berakhot of the Shemoneh Esrei, and the opening and closing six. Indeed, in the middle benedictions, one is allowed—even encouraged—to add, preferably towards the end of a berakha; however, in the first and last three berakhot additions are highly problematic. This is indeed part of the reason that there is so much variation in the nusha’ot of the various eidot in the text of the middle berakhot of the Amida, yet almost none in the opening and closing ones. It also explains why posekim were more forthcoming when it came to making some modifications in Birkat Nahem recited on Tisha beAv (as documented by R. Sperber in Liturgy, pp.
128 and 161–167).

There are two categories of exceptions to this rule regarding no changes in the opening and closing berakhot. [We note that the battle over the permissibility of these two exceptions was a lengthy one, and merely reinforces the premise that under normative conditions changes are forbidden. These are exceptions that prove the rule.] The first class of exceptions includes the four verses introduced during the aseret yemei teshuva: Zakhreinu le-hayyim, Mi khamokha av ha-rahamim, uKhetov le-hayyim tovim and beSefer hayyim. These were accepted primarily for three reasons: firstly, because the custom to recite them dates back to the Geonic period, if not earlier; secondly, because they are temporary changes rather than permanent ones; and, finally, because they are communal requests for life which presumably have an element of she’at ha-dehak to it.

The other exception relates to the insertion of piyyutim which, as noted above, was vigorously resisted by a great many leading codifiers. Even those who accepted their recitation did so only 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 be said only be-tsibbur, not in private. In a very large number of shuls in Israel, the recitation of piyyutim is permitted only in Hazarat haShats.

These exceptions aside, the fact remains that for more than a millennium, the texts of the opening and closing six benedictions were not tampered with.

III. Introduction of Imahot to Birkat Avot

I’d like to comment, now, on R. Sperber’s suggestion to include the Imahot together with the Avot in the opening paragraph of the Amidah. This is a practice that has found its way into Conservative Jewish practice and prayer books44 despite the objection of some of their own leading scholars. Indeed, this proposal can be rejected based on many considerations.

(1) Firstly, as just discussed, other than piyyutim, over the past millennium, no changes or additions whatsoever have been made in the first three berakhot of the Shemone Esrei—most certainly not permanent ones, and certainly not in the private Shemone Esrei.

(2) Furthermore, we have to ask whether this change is in line with the content and intent of the berakha as established by Hazal. After all, why were the Avot included in the opening of the Shemone Esrei in the first place? The Mekhilta indicates that Hazal based their wording on an explicit Pasuk:

And what is the source of saying “Blessed are You, Lord our God and God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob?” For it is written (Exodus 3:15): “And the Lord said further to Moses, thus shall you say to the children of Israel: Lord, God of your fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob.”

As explained by R. Bahya ibn Pakuda, this is the only place in the Torah where we find the Almighty identifying Himself as the God of given individuals.48 In addition, the rubric of “the fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” occurs numerous times throughout Tanakh in connection with God’s revelation and His covenantal pronouncements. For example, in Leviticus 26:42 we read:

And I shall remember my covenant with Jacob, and even my covenant with Isaac, and even my covenant with Abraham I shall remember and the land I shall remember.

On the other hand, nowhere in Tanakh do we find the concept of the arba Imahot, let alone the “God of the Imahot.” The notion of “four Matriarchs” appears for the first time only in Rabbinic literature. Hence, to include the Imahot into the opening verses of the Shemone Esrei would be a misrepresentation of Jewish theology. Our covenantal relationship to G-d is through the Avot, not the Imahot. To be sure, the Imahot were very important supporting players in the formative years of our people, but they were not the spiritual leads by any means.

(3) The introduction of the Imahot into the opening berakha of the Amida would be a misrepresentation for another reason. Our model for approaching the Creator in prayer is based on the Patriarchs who according to Hazal established the three daily prayers. In addition, a survey of Tanakh makes it clear that one of the major functions of the prophet was to pray for individuals and the nation. As Rashbam (ad loc.) writes:

For the word navi (prophet) is derived from niv sefatayyim (expression of the lips). For the navi is commonly in my presence and speaks in my name, and I like his words and listen to his prayers.

Indeed, in the first verse in Tanakh (Genesis 20:7) in which the term navi is used, G-d informs Avimelekh that Abraham the prophet will pray for him:

Now, restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee.

Similarly, the people plead with the prophet Samuel to pray for them (I Samuel 12:19):

And all the people said unto Samuel: ‘Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not.’

To which Samuel assures them that he will continue to do so (ibid. 23):

…far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you.

Interestingly, R. Yaakov Meidan notes that the Anshei Kenesset haGedola (Men of the Great Assembly) established the fixed Jewish liturgy at the beginning of the Second Commonwealth. He argues that their authority for this innovation stems in no small part from the fact that this body included the last three prophets Haggai, Zecharia and Malachi—specialists in prayer.

(4) In addition, the adjectives used in describing the Almighty in Birkat Avot, indeed, the language of prayer in general, are all based on the choice of language used by the prophets. In this regard, the Avot were all bona fide prophets, as the Torah clearly testifies. But this may not be true of the Imahot. Indeed, with the exception of Sarah, the Gemara in Megilla does not include the Mariarchs among its list of the fifty-five major prophets.

Our Rabbis taught: ‘Forty-eight prophets and seven prophetesses prophesied to Israel… ‘Seven prophetesses.’ Who were these? Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Hulda and Esther.

These criteria aside, why mention the Imahot when we don’t include Moshe Rabbenu, transmitter of the Torah, or King David, author of Tehilim—on which so much of our prayer is based? Why mention the Imahot? Just because they were women? Just because of feminist sensibilities? This is not only a theological misrepresentation as discussed above, it is intellectually dishonest. I don’t think that women should be excluded, where relevant, because of their gender; nor should they be included, where irrelevant, just because of their gender.

IV. She-Lo Asani Isha and Mitsvot Asei She-ha-zeman Gramman

I’d like to turn now to the other issue raised by R. Sperber, and that is the recitation of the she-lo asani isha benediction in birkot hashahar— along with she-lo asani goy and she-lo asani aved. Prof. Sperber records that many women find the negative formulation “…who has not made me a woman” derogatory (Liturgy, pp. 39-40). In light of the flexibility he sees in Jewish liturgy, he argues for the permissibility of modifying the benediction “…she-lo asani isha” to “she-asani ish” or “she-asani Yisrael,” and “she-asani kirtsono” to “…she-asani isha” or “she-asani Yisraelit” (Liturgy, pp. 111–113).

I would like to make it clear that there is no doubt as to the authenticity of the text of the benediction she-lo asani isha—since it appears thrice in Rabbinic literature: in the Tosefta, the Talmud Bavli and the Yerushalmi. Both the Tosefta and the Yerushalmi make it clear that the benediction is related strictly to men’s greater obligation in commandments. As is well known, women are generally freed from mitsvot asei she-ha-zeman gramman (time-determined positive commandments), which include, inter alia: sukka, lulav, shofar, tefillin and tsitsit. Based on what we discussed above, it is clearly forbidden to remove or modify an obligatory blessing.

Reams have been written to explain the import of these benedictions and why they are in the negative. I would like, however, to cite the comments of R. Reuven Margaliot, which I personally find very satisfying.

A woman is not punished if she does not fulfill timedetermined positive commandments, and her share in the
World to Come is like that of a man. Hence, there might well be room for a male Jew to think that it might have been better had he been born a woman, for then he would have been freed from the yoke of these commandments. Hence, [the Rabbis] established that each male should make a daily declaration that these mitsvot are not a burden.

A similar approach appears in the writings of the 18th Century Talmudist R. Samuel Eidels (Maharsha) who writes:

[A male makes this benediction because the roles] of a man and a woman are each lenient on the one hand and stringent on the other. For if they are righteous, the reward of the male is greater, because he is commanded in more mitsvot than a woman. However, if they are not righteous, the man’s punishment is greater than a woman’s.

These scholars note that one who has greater obligation has greater potential for reward, but also for greater possible punishment should he or she not do as required. Thus, a man who doesn’t put on tefillin or sit in the Sukka is punished for bittul aseh—for not fulfilling the positive commandment he was bidden to obey. Hence, the Rabbis ordained that each day, each of us acknowledge that, mutatis mutandis, the Creator could have made us a non-Jew, or a slave, or a woman, with fewer obligations, but also fewer risks. Yet, the Almighty chose not to. By reciting the daily identity berakhot “sheLo asani goy; sheLo asani aved; sheLo asani isha,” each of us accepts upon ourselves the spiritual/religious role that we have been given. The “she-lo” is to be understood as “Who has not,” a sober acknowledgement and acceptance of a spiritual role, not a celebrative “because He has not.”

R. Nissim Alpert suggests an insightful rationale as to why these berakhot are formulated in the negative. Hazal wanted to communicate to us that the Creator only gives us the opportunity. He defines who we are not; it is up to us to define who we are and maximize our positive potential. Interestingly, the same idea appears in the writings of 19th century R. Zadok haKohen.

And the reason one should not recite “who has made me an Israelite” is that man functions with freedom of choice, and one can be called an Israelite only if he chooses properly. And who can be sure that he/she will chose correctly? Hence, we can only recite the benedictions “who has not made me a non-Jew or a slave.” But, nevertheless, one has the choice to choose [whether to do these mitsvot] because he is not a non-Jew or a slave. The same is true for “who has not made me a woman”—it is in his choice to fulfill or not to fulfill those mitsvot that stem from men’s greater mitsva obligation.

Prof. Sperber has waved this all off as “apologetics” (Liturgy pp. 37–39). I guess one man’s apologetics is another’s honest explanation. While Prof. Sperber surveys a variety of explanations, no one interpretation is more authoritative than any other. The only authoritative guideline is the one given us by the Tosefta and the Yerushalmi—namely, that this benediction relates to the fewer number of specific mitsvot in which women are obligated. Prof. Sperber has chosen to interpret the berakha in a way that creates a problem and casts aspersions on Hazal. To my mind, it is far better to understand it so no problem begins!

The truth, however, is that for radical feminists, there is much more at stake in this benediction than just its formulation. Despite the fact that all Jews share the same level of kedushat Yisrael (Jewish sanctity), Jewish law, nevertheless, distinguishes between the obligations of kohanim (priestly clan), leviyim (Levites) and yisraelim (other Israelites), as well as between males and females. This lack of identity between the religious obligations of men and women leads us to the inescapable conclusion that Judaism is most definitely not egalitarian. And this is the crux of the problem!

Women’s exemption from mitsvot asei she-ha-zeman gramman—about which there is no dispute—is derived in the Oral Law through the use of the hermeneutical principles. Maimonides posits that this exemption is rooted in ancient oral tradition. In either case this exemption is deemed to be biblical in origin. The bottom line, then, is that halakhic Judaism maintains that God Himself ordained and commanded non-identical roles for men and women. This clearly does not sit well with many feminists. Indeed, Judith Plaskow believes that this is “a profound injustice of the Torah itself in discriminating between men and women.”

For those whose highest commitment is to halakha, this lack of identity in religious roles is a resounding rejection of certain basic feminist values. It suggests that the Torah’s set of priorities is not always consonant with those of modern day radical feminism. All this comes through loud and clear in “she-lo asani isha” and is the fundamental reason that feminists have battled for a more egalitarian language—like she-asani yisrael for males and she-asani yisraelit for females. The latter communicates nothing about the different levels of mitsva obligations of men and women—which is the whole purpose, content and intent of the berakha, as is clear from the above-cited Tosefta and the Yerushalmi. Using a language for these
benedictions that does not emphasize the difference in religious roles is, to my mind, not only contrary to the intent of Hazal and halakhically wrong, but also theologically incorrect and misleading.

V. Conclusion

As already noted in our opening comments, we have found Prof. Sperber’s historical survey of the evolution of Jewish liturgy enjoyable, edifying and breathtaking in its depth and breadth. Prof. Sperber, however, makes an effort in this volume to go one step further, attempting to justify and direct future changes in Jewish liturgy. We find this facet of the work to be seriously lacking in its halakhic analysis, and, hence, unconvincing in its direction. This is particularly true for the suggestions he makes regarding various feminist issues that we have discussed in detail in this review.

Perhaps, before one tinkers with the Siddur, we should recall the words of R. Abraham Joshua Heschel, who wrote:

The crisis of prayer is not a problem of the text. It is a problem of the soul. The Siddur must not be used as a scapegoat. A revision of the prayer book will not solve the crisis of prayer.

 

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273 Responses

  1. MDJ says:

    You can’t tell from the homepage who wrote this post.

  2. This volume is long overdue for the english reading audience. I applaud another great work by R. Sperber. This contribution is as beneficial as his Minhagei Yisroel. I do believe that the political motivations that you mention will prevent this work from having broad appeal. I would still buy it because RDS is currently one of the best in his field. Thank you for the honest review

  3. IH says:

    We know R. Frimer’s views of the evils of Halachic Feminism beyond his own particular conception from recent threads here. Given these have been the only contributions from him that I have seen on Hirhurim, I have no sense of any (positive) original research he has done in recent years that is not a reaction to the original research of others.

    Links to such output of R. Frimer would be most appreciated. Thanks.

  4. Thank you for an excellent review: one that not only inspires me to read the book in question, but that also encourages me to read more by this reviewer! Something that I do not understand about the addition of the imahot (and I write as somebody who works at a Progressive synagogue) is why the number is limited to four. I appreciate, of course, formulations of arba’ imahot in the rabbinic literature, but their inclusion in the liturgy today is not based upon their appearance within those texts. Being based upon concerns for egalitarianism (what the reviewer terms “radical feminism”, but which I don’t consider so radical), should they therefore not also include Bilhah and Zilpah? Why must we limit the mothers of the tribal leaders to those whose relationship with Ya’akov was one of marriage?

    There’re a thousand reasons as to why I dislike changes to the liturgy, although I do appreciate the reasons why people seek those changes (and Judith Plaskow, for the record, is somebody I consider very inspirational). I enjoyed reading this review very much, and I look forward to reading more on this topic! Again, thank you.

  5. Jon_brooklyn says:

    IH: dunno if you noticed, but he’s a chemist. When you do research on a regular basis and publish 2 or 3 papers a year minimum in a hard science, let me know if you have the time to do more than review the work of others in a field with absolutely no relation to your own. Clearly your idea of academic life does not resemble reality.

    R Frimer: nice piece. Initially I was skeptical of your claim re the imahot, but you gave an excellent argument and I’m now convinced. With shelo asani isha, I still disagree – it’s hard to see the explanation you offer as valid in the context of the other berakhot.

  6. IH says:

    Jon — thanks for the insight: chemist by day, crusader at night.

  7. One of Rabbi Frimer’s most fundamental points is based on the Rambam:

    “The wording of all the blessings, Ezra and his court enacted them, and it is **inappropriate** to change them…”

    Rabbi Frimer is of course correct in his definition of the word “lekhatehillah” and he cited this Rambam as mandatory, and then proceeded to cite others who declared it forbidden to change the text of blessings that Hazal decreed.

    In my Kavvana book I dealt with this issue extensively, showing that the unusual phrase the Rambam used (“inappropriate”) is a result of this being a tremendous hiddush based on the Rambam’s historical theory that Hazal actually created a fixed text for blessings, and once they fixed that text it is “inappropriate” to change it (even though there is no talmudic support for such a prohibition). Notice that the Rambam didn’t write “asur.”

    However, notwithstanding the Hasidei Ashkenaz and later mystics, I also showed that the vast majority of halakhically-oriented rishonim (even if they themselves were mekuballim!) disagreed with the Rambam, and explicitly wrote that there is no obligation to recite berakhot according to a certain text. Some of them (such as the Rashba and the Rashbaz) even pointed out that this is because they had an alternative to the Rambam’s whole historical conception of the creation of the berakhot: There never was such a thing as a fixed text from the very beginning; at the most Hazal enacted a fixed framework for the number of blessings and their themes.

    It is perhaps ironic that the Rambam (apparently because of his pedagogical approach) went down the same path as later mystics (for whom a fixed text written by Hazal is central to their world view). But nevertheless, the approach shared by both is contrary to the basic talmudic evidence as well as to the approach of most rishonim.

    If anyone doesn’t want to take my word for all of this, and would like to see a world-class Torah scholar who showed the very same thing more strongly than I did by carefully analyzing every nuance of the rishonim in how they dealt with this sugya, please read Rav Yizhak Shilat’s ninth essay (on the sugyah of “ahat arukah ve-ahat kezarah”) in his volume “Rosh Devarekha” on the first two chapters of Masekhet Berakhot (published by Yeshivat Maalei Adumim).

    Whether for reasons of personal kavvanah, or in communal decisions, to vary the words within obligatory blessings is permitted lekhatehillah according to the majority of rishonim (especially if Hazal never created a fixed text in the first place). That is certainly at least enough to say “yesh al mi lismokh.”

    Hag Sameakh!

  8. Aryeh Frimer says:

    A series of 80 shiurim regarding women and Halakha given from 1997-2000 at Tiferet Moshe Synagogue – Rabbi Jacob Berman Community Center (Audio files, source material and unedited lecture notes) are available online at http://bermanshul.org/frimer/ or http://tinyurl.com/662ws9pA. The website includes a collection of most of my recent writings on Women and Halakha. The articles can be downloaded from there as well.

  9. Above I neglected to mention the relevance to “imahot.”

    In my personal opinion it is inappropriate to add Imahot for a very basic reason: Because even if one may (or even should) vary the words of a blessing according to its theme, this addition particular addition violates the theme. The theme of the first blessing is to declare that the community approaches God not just as individual human beings (for surely any person can pray) but as the community of the covenant. In other words, the theme of the first blessing is berit, but the berit was explicitly with the Avot (not the Imahot). That this is the theme is borne out throughout the blessing (zokher hasdei avot umeivi goel livnei veneihem…), and especially in the words “le-ma’an shemo”: For God not to honor His covenant would be a desecration of His name.

    Having stated this personal opinion of mine about the theme of the first blessing and why imahot seems inappropriate, I would like to stress that someone who does add the imahot is certainly yotze, and that this whole issue should remain halakhic and not be allowed to devolve into nasty discussions about what (or who) is legitimate or what (or who) is not.

    One more thought: Why did God make his berit with the Avot and not the imahot? That would seem to be related to the social status of women throughout the bible following the Eden story, which derives from Eve’s curse after the expulsion from Eden. It is important to remember that this status is a curse, not a mitzvah. To change that reality for the better is to take a step towards bringing the world back to Eden.

  10. Aryeh Frimer says:

    In my previous post, the liks to the Women and Halakha website should be: http://bermanshul.org/frimer/ or http://tinyurl.com/662ws9p.

  11. Aryeh Frimer says:

    It is erev Sukkot and as a result I won’t be able to devote the time I would like to respond to many of the comments made. I would ask though that those interested in the topic to read the article with the footnotes. As noted by Rabbi Student above in the intro to this piece, The full article with footnotes, italics and Hebrew text can be downloaded from http://www.hakirah.org/Vol%2012%20FrimerA.pdf Chag Sameach!!

  12. David Silverberg says:

    For those commenters unfamiliar with Rav Frimer’s halachic works, he is a valiant and capable defender of an honest, objective and thorough approach to halachic research and decision-making. He has taken scholars to task for inaccurate, or at least questionable, portrayals of halacha on both sides of the feminist divide. He approaches every issue without any preconceived agenda other than an honest assessment of halachic principles and the relevant source material.

  13. Tamar Ross says:

    I have generally avoided getting involved in “Milhamot ha-Yehudim” over the internet, but when I find myself understood and represented in ways that appear to me grossly off the mark it is very uncomfortable and difficult to hold back. I hope I will therefore be forgiven, despite the fact that this is tangential to the discussion at hand, for stepping in this once and taking issue with the “radical feminist” label attributed to me, when it comes to depict me as someone whose main mission in life is to malign Jewish tradition and call for major reform in halakhic practice. I am in inclination and practice a traditionalist. I daresay that my day-to-day way of life and world of values is no different in general than that of Prof. Frimmer. In particular, my suggestion with regard to the berakha of “shelo asani isha” has always been quite conservative: as indicated in an article that I wrote on the subject over 15 years ago, critiquing Prof. Y. Leibowitz’s distinction re “b’diavad” and “lekhathila” halakha as this relates to women, from which I have never reneged. As I recommended there, even women who are convinced by the Abudraham’s opinion that this formula reflects a sense of male religious privilege can still continue to recite the blessing as is, addressing HKBH with a facetious wink in their eye, implying :”O Lord, although the men who formulated this blessing did so really believing that they are more privileged religiously, and this may be its historical explanation. However, You and I know better, and that it is only me whom You created according to Your will – a creature who doesn’t require one-upmanship in order to be satisfied with her lot”

    In general, my interest is theology and not politics. My concern with feminism is likewise incidental and secondary to my interest in the philosophical challenge that a feminist critique raises for simplistic understandings of revelation. It is here – if anywhere – that the term “radical” may be justified. Even on this level, I do not regard Jewish tradition as biased in the sense that it is driven by a deliberate male conspiracy to keep women in their place. But I do believe, as did many halakhically loyal Jews in the past, that no one – not even Hazal or Moshe Rabbenu – can transcend a particular perspective or point of view generated by one’s context and situation when “hearing” Hashem’s word or deciphering its meaning. This simple fact compels us to view halakha as something that can never be regarded as some fixed grand ideal of truth, impartiality and justice totally removed from the ordinary disordered paths of life and human understanding. In this sense, Frimer is perfectly correct in suggesting that “one man’s apologetics is another’s honest explanation”. The willingness to unearth and recognize connections between Torah, halakha and context may be regarded by some as heretical – as though the invincible idol has now been revealed to have merely human feet. But I believe that a firmer sense of the encompassing inevitability of culture is something that should not be avoided. Such a sense need not lead to radical conclusions on a practical level, but it does facilitate greater honesty with regard to the nature of the stakes involved.

    In this sense, I find Sperber’s approach to halakha, which views it as something that is not apart from the real world, is honest and sensible. The “role that God Himself ordained and commanded for men and women” is not a static conception that can be extricated from the social reality in which it is formulated. While at any given moment, there are certainly commonly accepted ground rules that limit the range of options, the situated perspective of the posek will necessarily influence not only the rationale of the halakha, but also the choice of authorities and arguments brought to bear in defending his position, as we can see from the varying comments that this post has already provoked. Moreover, as noted by the early 20th century classicist, Francis Cornford, those who oppose every uncustomary public action, either because it is wrong, or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent, are virtually stating that nothing should ever be done for the first time.

    Although no society has unlimited tolerance for disorder, I believe that in a global age such as ours, in which overlapping cultural identities are unavoidable and centralized religious authority weak, poskim would be wise in allowing room for greater discretionary differences of opinion and even innovative interpretation, letting life (or “hashgacha”, if you will) settle matters and deliver its lessons over the course of time.

  14. MJ says:

    I’m looking in vain for the part where the author refutes the charge of androcentric orientation. Instead he confirms it over and over again. So I guess his critique is that yes, it’s very much androcentric, but that’s the way that God wants it, and from a theological standpoint women are, in fact, mostly irrelevant.

    As I’ve said many times, The underlying issue is one of theology, and I welcome the fact that Prof. Ross has invited us once again to explore these issues and to understand them as inseparable from claims that anyone is just approaching the halakhic cannon without “a preconceived agenda.”

    [I'm also continuously amazed at Prof. Frimers's failure to understand that whether his preferred explanation of shelo asani isha is apologetic or honest is practically beside the point. People can legitimately take offense at a statement that in standard speech would be considered offensive.]

  15. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Dear MJ
    And I am also continuously amazed at people’s insistence on understanding Hazal – not on Hazal’s terms – but simplistically. Hazal were profound and sensitive, multidimensional. Anyone who studies Talmud and Midrash understand this. But when it comes specifically to this berakha, this is somhow forgotten. They would prefer to understand the text simplistically which is problematic. In the article I present an alternate approach.

  16. MJ says:

    Again, it’s not chazal or their sensitivities that are at issue. This isn’t a historical question about what their intent was, nor is it a question simply about a text – it’s about whether today having every male make such a declaration is offensive. These aren’t words I can utter in good conscience because they were written with good intentions. If I wouldn’t say it to a woman’s face then how can I say it as a prayer?

  17. MO says:

    I believe that regardless of their differing opinions both R. Frimer and R. Sperber are sincerely seeking to oved Hashem beemes.This is especially relevant to remember since we are dealing after all with avodah shebalev!

  18. Y. Aharon says:

    I note that R.D. Aryeh Frimer again states that the Bavli’s version of the ‘shelo asani isha’ beracha agrees with that of the Tosefta and Yerushalmi. That is not the version in the Vilna shas which has ‘she’asani Yisrael’ instead, and includes ‘shelo asani boor’. As I noted in a prior post, it would be odd for a censor to change ‘shelo asani goy’ to the positively phrased ‘she’asani Yisrael’, instead of the usual ploy of changing ‘goy’ to ‘akum’. I would, therefore, appreciate citations of manuscript versions of the Bavli which have the same version as the Tosefta. Furthermore, the statement that the wording of the berachot were instituted by Ezra and his court runs into the problem of ‘shelo asani boor’. If that, too, was instituted by Ezra, how could the Amorah, Rav Acha b’ Ya’akov, dispense with it – much less, later generations?

    That being said, I agree with much of what rav Frimer has written – both the praise of R.D. Sperber’s bbok and the criticism. As a fellow chemist having less knowledge of talmud and halacha (and certainly of organic chemistry), I can only admire his accomplishments in both areas. Once more, I wish to acknowledge the involvement of his father in facilitating my meeting the girl whom I married 46 years ago.

  19. Rafael Araujo says:

    Dr. Frimer,

    I believe it stems from people feeling that when it comes to issue of gender, CHAZAL were a product of their age, and today we have identified the viewpoint of CHAZAL through the progress of our society and the work feminism has done in making changes to our worldview. Therefore, the basis for all of these proposals, like adding the Imahos to Birchas Avos or to the Haggadah Shel Pesach, is that if CHAZAL were misogynists, we can make changes to bring our liturgy, among other things, into line with 21st century western society, since the reason for the CHAZAL’s view is social in nature, not halachic.

    In my view, this is a very dangerous point of view.

  20. Rafael Araujo says:

    MJ – it is historical. Today you cannot say this to a women’s face. What about 1500 years ago?

  21. Rafael Araujo says:

    MO – a question for you. Since Rabbi Sperber is proposing a change to the Amidah already made and accepted the Conservative movement, would you agree with me that their change was also seeking what an oved Hashem should do?

  22. IH says:

    Adding to Rafael’s question to R. Frimer: When you use the acronym CHAZAL, what do you mean? I was taught that CHAZAL ended before the period of the Geonim. Yet following some of your footnotes, you seem to include The Mechaber in your definition of CHAZAL. R. Frimer Can you clarify your definition please?

  23. IH says:

    I am hopeful all this discussion is good for book sales. Gil reviewed the book over a year ago (“Nusach Feminist”); and R. Frimer’s views were aired here in two threads just a few months ago, in August: “Keep the Conversation Honest” and “Women’s Changing Status and Liturgical Reform”.

    As for me — With the 3 day Chag/Shabbat, I am now incented to finish reading R. Sperber’s book which was on pause due to Yamim Nora’im reading. So, thank you.

  24. Richard Kahn says:

    Rafael –
    Do you think that everything the Conservative movement did/does is by definition contrary to what an oved hashem should do?

  25. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “MJ – it is historical. Today you cannot say this to a women’s face. What about 1500 years ago?”

    Just so. That’s why those who seeks a change do not have to think, and many do not think, that Chazal were misogynists, as you, erroneously I think, wrote earlier. 1500 years ago, considering the role of women in society in general and in the Jewish community in particular, and considering the level of Jewish knowledge of the women and their participation in ritual, saying shelo asani isha was okay; you could love and admire women and still say it. But today, saying these words on a shabbat morning in a shul with women davening (and yes, in my shul, there are always women present at brachot), or having these brachot as part of a liturgy that women are fully familiar with, is a different story. It’s not an issue of motive — I accept that the original reason for it was because of level of mitzvah obligation; rather, it’s a question of language. We try to be careful that what we say won’t offend others; we argue (at least some of us do) that calling a place Niggerhead Camp, no matter what the motives are of the people calling it that today, is insensitive to many and therefore should not be used. We don’t call autistic people idiot savats as perfectly fine, uopstanding people did when I was groing up.

    I understand the need of those who do not want to change even one word of the liturgy; tradition is important to me too. But I am sad that R’ Aryeh doesn’t seem to fully understand the emotional problems that sensitive people living in the 21st Century have with such exclusionary and, on its face, divisive and dismissive language, and turns that sensitivity into an attack on the motives and sensitivities of chazal when it is no such thing.

  26. MO says:

    Rafael

    I have no personal knowledge of the individuals or the reasoning used of Conservative Rabbis who made changes in Nusach Tefillah. So I can’t comment on their intentions. I am familiar with R. Sperber who is an outstanding scholar whom I admire.

    Personally I am not comfortable with the changes discusssed by R. Sperber (especially regarding the imahot) but the seriousness with which he consists these issues is admirable.

    And we should never lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day after all the polemics and arguments are done it is what goes on inside us that truly matters in our relationship to Hashem.

  27. ruvie says:

    r’ frimer – do you have an opinion or critique of jonathan gershon’s article: on women joining in a zimmun?

  28. IH says:

    Apropos of Kohelet and strong views on liturgy, I thought I’d share this from R. J. Hoffman’s 2010 book on Un’taneh Tokef (p. 15):

    In response to the advice by Ecclesiastes to “keep your mouth from being rash and let not your throat be quick to bring forth speech before God” (5:1), he [Abraham Ibn Ezra] unleashes a lengthy diatribe in which he abjures his readers to be careful about what they say in prayer:

    When we pray, it is forbidden to inject into our prayers piyuttim, the basic meaning of which we do not understand. We should not rely on the goodwill of the author, since there is no one who does not sin, and whose sin might not be continued by the copyists. Take, for example, the poetry of Eliezer Kallir, who illustrates four problems. First, most of his poems are riddles and analogical allusions [which permit so many interpretations that one never knows exactly what one is saying]. Second, he mixes the language of the Talmud into his poems, and everyone knows that there are many languages within the Talmud that are not holy…. Why should we pray in the languages of the Medes, the Persians, the Edomites, and the Ishmaelites? Third, even his Hebrew words are riddled with errors. The fourth problem is that his poetry is filled with midrashic lore, and our Sages said the Scripture should always be presented according to its true meaning. It follows that we should pray only with the true meaning of the text in mind, not according to some esoteric or analogical understanding…. [The analysis continues for an entire page of closely worded argument, after which Ibn Ezra concludes.] I have not been able to elucidate even one in a thousand errors that these poets display.

    While we’re not discussing piyuttim per se at present, it is a good illustration of how contested liturgy has been since time immemorial.

    Mo’adim le’Simcha (by the time this is read by most).

  29. Shlomo says:

    I am in inclination and practice a traditionalist.

    Dr. Ross: Relative to certain people, you are undoubtedly a traditionalist. Relative to others, you are undoubtedly a radical. The labels are not helpful, so better to focus on the particular issue at hand. Which is: What is the point of saying the traditional prayer text? Is there any specific content in it that matters and thus should not be changed, and if so can you identify it?

    While we’re not discussing piyuttim per se at present, it is a good illustration of how contested liturgy has been since time immemorial.

    Aderaba, Ibn Ezra’s approach is based on what he sees as the inferiority of piyutim to the previously established prayer.

  30. Seeing how R. Sperber’s halachic mistakes (noted in II a,b,and c above) are so basic and elementary, I shudder at the thought that he is considered to be some kind of heavy-weight in the Left-wing Orthodox world.

    And it appears that Dr. Ross that the facts of biblical history are subject to revision over time. You mean God didn’t necessarily or permanently separate the tribe of Levi and the descendants of Aharon for special service in the Mikdash for all time?
    I don’t see how a posek could theoretically reinterpret the halachic differences between men and women in theory and practice any more than he could reinterpret a kohen’s status to include non-Aharonic descendants.

  31. “Seeing how R. Sperber’s halachic mistakes (noted in II a,b,and c above) are so basic and elementary, I shudder at the thought that he is considered to be some kind of heavy-weight in the Left-wing Orthodox world.”

    No. The criticisms in II a-c are largely wrong or not to the point. It is Rabbi Sperber who is who would seem to be correct, though it is certainly possible to understand where Rabbi Frimer is coming too from on a halakhic level. “Basic and elementary?” Come on, to say that both men are talmidei chakhamim would be an understatement…

    You can honestly disagree with a someone who is a Torah scholar without degenerating into nasty comments like: “I shudder at the thought that he is considered to be some kind of heavy-weight…”

    Moadim le-Simkhah.

  32. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “Just so. That’s why those who seeks a change do not have to think, and many do not think, that Chazal were misogynists, as you, erroneously I think, wrote earlier. 1500 years ago, considering the role of women in society in general and in the Jewish community in particular, and considering the level of Jewish knowledge of the women and their participation in ritual, saying shelo asani isha was okay; you could love and admire women and still say it. But today, saying these words on a shabbat morning in a shul with women davening (and yes, in my shul, there are always women present at brachot), or having these brachot as part of a liturgy that women are fully familiar with, is a different story. It’s not an issue of motive — I accept that the original reason for it was because of level of mitzvah obligation; rather, it’s a question of language. We try to be careful that what we say won’t offend others; we argue (at least some of us do) that calling a place Niggerhead Camp, no matter what the motives are of the people calling it that today, is insensitive to many and therefore should not be used. We don’t call autistic people idiot savats as perfectly fine, uopstanding people did when I was groing up”

    Moadim LSimcha/Gut Moed- R Frimer’ article should be read by anyone who thinks that Nusach HaTefilah, can be tinked with freely to satisfy the demands of radical egalitarian feminists and their supporters.

    WADR, what you are saying IMO is that being PC takes precedence over Toras Emes which differentiates between men and women in so many ways throughout TSBP and Halacha-No amount of apologetics, however voiced or structured in any community will ever result in the abolition of gender differences between men and women in Halacha regardless of the status of women in the secular world.

  33. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote in part:
    In response to the advice by Ecclesiastes to “keep your mouth from being rash and let not your throat be quick to bring forth speech before God” (5:1), he [Abraham Ibn Ezra] unleashes a lengthy diatribe in which he abjures his readers to be careful about what they say in prayer:

    When we pray, it is forbidden to inject into our prayers piyuttim, the basic meaning of which we do not understand. We should not rely on the goodwill of the author, since there is no one who does not sin, and whose sin might not be continued by the copyists. Take, for example, the poetry of Eliezer Kallir, who illustrates four problems. First, most of his poems are riddles and analogical allusions [which permit so many interpretations that one never knows exactly what one is saying]. Second, he mixes the language of the Talmud into his poems, and everyone knows that there are many languages within the Talmud that are not holy…. Why should we pray in the languages of the Medes, the Persians, the Edomites, and the Ishmaelites? Third, even his Hebrew words are riddled with errors. The fourth problem is that his poetry is filled with midrashic lore, and our Sages said the Scripture should always be presented according to its true meaning. It follows that we should pray only with the true meaning of the text in mind, not according to some esoteric or analogical understanding…. [The analysis continues for an entire page of closely worded argument, after which Ibn Ezra concludes.] I have not been able to elucidate even one in a thousand errors that these poets display.

    While we’re not discussing piyuttim per se at present, it is a good illustration of how contested liturgy has been since time immemorial”

    For a different take on Piyutim and especially those of R ELazar Hakalir, see RYBS’s shiurim on RH and YK.

  34. Steve Brizel says:

    MJ wrote in part:

    “People can legitimately take offense at a statement that in standard speech would be considered offensive.]

    WADR, I can think of many aspects of Halacha, TSBP, etc that would meet the same fate-would you abandon the same merely because ” in standard speech would be considered offensive.” Or-do you merely pick and choose that which is amenable to your POV in the first place?

  35. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Ross wrote in part:

    “But I do believe, as did many halakhically loyal Jews in the past, that no one – not even Hazal or Moshe Rabbenu – can transcend a particular perspective or point of view generated by one’s context and situation when “hearing” Hashem’s word or deciphering its meaning. This simple fact compels us to view halakha as something that can never be regarded as some fixed grand ideal of truth, impartiality and justice totally removed from the ordinary disordered paths of life and human understanding”

    Yet, many “halachically loyal Jews”, regardless of whether they view themselves either as Charedi or MO, would clearly view such comments either as Apikorsus or Kefirah, regardless of the orientation or level of observance of the person who uttered the same.

  36. Steve Brizel says:

    WADR, I am at a loss of understanding how Dr. Ross’s POV can be justified, explained and or rationalized in light of Devarim 34:10 and similar passages such as Bamidmar 12:3,7, and the standard commentaries thereto.

  37. Steve Brizel says:

    One wonders as does Wendy Shalit why so many supporters and apologists for feminism fail to see the damage that the feminist ideology has caused women and families. For more information,see the following link. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/girls-gone-mild-by-wendy-shalit/

  38. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “what you are saying IMO is that being PC takes precedence over Toras Emes…”

    That, of course, is not what I’m saying at all, but there3′s really no purpose is continuing this discussion.

  39. Charlie Hall says:

    ” fail to see the damage that the feminist ideology has caused women and families.”

    “These are well-established facts, and surely they had something to do with the gradual and salutary drop-off in teenage sexual activity and pregnancy rates in the 1990’s”

    Actually, teen birth rates in the US have been falling since 1957. The connection to feminism is definitely not clear. How many of today’s pregnant teens have ever heard of Betty Friedan (who was actually quite conservative in many respects). One commenter on another frum site suggested that Friedan has a share in olam haba because as a result of her efforts, kollel wives can now make enough money to support their husbands!

  40. Charlie Hall says:

    “deleting the very problematic supplications to angels in Shalom Aleikhem (specifically Barekhuni le-shalom), selihot or Hineni”

    The first night of Selichot, the chazzan skipped “machnise rachamim”. I thanked him.

    (The second and third selichot, I davened in a shiva house and we ended after the third verse of the “Shema kolenu” with kaddish. There were a bunch of rabbis there and they seemed to know what they were doing. I suspect a lot of folks were happy not to have to do the vidui.)

    “there is so much variation in the nusha’ot of the various eidot in the text of the middle berakhot of the Amida, yet almost none in the opening and closing ones”

    I have noticed quite a bit of variation in the “modim” brachah. BTW, how did we get the difference between “Sim shalom” and “Shalom rav”?

    ” it is clearly forbidden to remove or modify an obligatory blessing.”

    I’ve been to many, many minyanim — particularly in Eretz Yisrael — where bircat hashachar is not recited by the chazzan. There is even a minyan in my neighborhood where the chazzan starts with yishtabach! I always recite birkat hashachar (yes, including all three shelo asanis) at home as soon as I get up.

    “role that God Himself ordained and commanded for men and women”

    The number of mitzvot that God Himself ordained for men but not for women is actually rather small.

  41. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Simon Holloway,
    As to why four Imahot rather than six – see the sources in note 10 of the complete review.

    R. Seth Kadish,
    I haven’t yet read your book, but as I document in this review, one cannot willy nilly make changes in the berakhot. This is not just the view of the Rambam but also the Shulkhan Arukh. The only exception made was the piyyutim for a variety of reasons stated in the article. It is clear that no changes have been made in the obligatory prayers for well over 700 years. If thibgs were as free as you argue the differences would have have been much greater than they are.

  42. Aryeh Frimer says:

    As far as Dr. Ross’s comments, they are beyond me. All I wrote was that “Indeed, Prof. Tamar Ross8 and other feminists have charged that the Siddur contains an “androcentric bias” — a charge I disagree with and critique.9″ Nowhere do I refer to her as a “Radical” Feminist. As to my usage of the latter term, I generally reserve that for those feminists who advocate a change in orthodox practice based on their feminist critique – despite clear halakhic consensus to the contrary. As to her theology, I refer the reader to “Guarding the Treasure: A Review of Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of the King –Orthodoxy and Feminism,” Aryeh A. Frimer, BDD – Journal of Torah and Scholarship, 18, English section, pp. 67-106 (April 2007). PDF file available online at http://www.jofa.org/pdf/uploaded/1206-DQLN0171.pdf.

  43. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Y. Aharon,
    If you look at Dikdukei Soferim (or Shinui Girsa’ot in Shteizalts)on Menahot 43b it is clear that all the Kitvei Yad and early printed editions have She-lo asani goy. It is only the later printed editions that have she-asani Yisrael [followed by she-lo asani Aved, Shelo asani Isha].
    At this juncture I would like to note that those who argue that we should le-khathila say she-asani Yisrael based on the censored editions – must follow this berakha with she-lo asani Aved and Shelo asani Isha. Because that is what the censored editions say!!!
    It’s only if you hold that the true proper reading is she-lo asani Goy, she-lo asani Aved, Shelo asani Isha – then be-di-avad, if you mistakenly said she-asani Yisrael you are freed from the other berakhot. But you can’t simultaneously hold both contradictory positions.

  44. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Seth Kadish writes:
    “No. The criticisms in II a-c are largely wrong or not to the point.”

    In light of my extensive documentation, you will have to elaborate a bit more as to why the criticisms in II a-c are largely wrong or not to the point. An unfounded broad stroke will not suffice…

  45. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Rafael Araujo on October 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm
    “Today you cannot say this to a women’s face.”

    I simply don’t understand/accept such an approach. I have been blessed with three daughters and what I write in the article is exactly what I told them. I have lectured on women and Halakha for 4 decades, and that is exactly what I tell them. They know that I am not a misogynist.

    Can I tell woman today that they can’t count for a minyan for Tefilla be-tsibbur, because they are not Hayyavot? Of course I can and I do!

    Can I tell a woman that she can’t serve as a shelihat tsibbur because she is not Hayyevet in Tefilla be-tsibbur? Of course I can and I do!

    Can I tell a woman that she can’t blow Shofar for the community, because she is not inherently Hayyevet? Of course I can and I do!

    Can I tell people that Judaism is not egalitarian, that there is role playing, and differing obligations. Of course I can!

    So why can’t I tell a woman that she is not Hayyevet in Mitsvot asei she-hazeman geramman – and by saying She-lo Asani Isha I accept willingly the more difficult and dangerous role Hashem has given me. As I explain in the paper, this is not male bravado with a touch of triumphalism; but a sober acceptance of the spiritual role I have been given. If one or many insist on misunderstanding the intent of the berakha, then the problem is their’s alone. I will just have to continue (for the next 40 years, IYH) educating others as to the real intent and meaning of the berakha

  46. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “Can I tell woman today that they can’t count for a minyan for Tefilla be-tsibbur, because they are not Hayyavot? Of course I can and I do!

    Can I tell a woman that she can’t serve as a shelihat tsibbur because she is not Hayyevet in Tefilla be-tsibbur? Of course I can and I do!

    Can I tell a woman that she can’t blow Shofar for the community, because she is not inherently Hayyevet? Of course I can and I do!

    Can I tell people that Judaism is not egalitarian, that there is role playing, and differing obligations. Of course I can!”

    But you don’t get up on the bimah every morning and proclaim it loudly. The fact that women’s obligations in moitzvot is different from men’s is one thing; how we speak about it is another. I would have thought, Reb Areyeh, you would understand this a bit more.

  47. Joseph Kaplan says:

    And to make the point a bit finer: I assume, that when you finish saying all these things to women, you don’t add: So because of all these differences thank God I wasn’t made a woman.

  48. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Reb Joseph writes,
    “you don’t add: So because of all these differences thank God I wasn’t made a woman”.
    No, that’s not what the berakha means. “She-lo” means “Blessed…Who did not” not “…because He did not.”

  49. IH says:

    R. Frimer — with all due respect, find a new topic to research. You have reached the point of diminishing returns and are starting to sound like a crank.

  50. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Joseph Kaplan writes:
    “But you don’t get up on the bimah every morning and proclaim it loudly. The fact that women’s obligations in mitzvot is different from men’s is one thing; how we speak about it is another. I would have thought, Reb Aryeh, you would understand this a bit more.”

    If I can’t say it from the Bima, I shouldn’t be saying it at all! If someone is offended by what I say, let them come and talk to me and find out what I truly mean. Should we wipe out the word “niggardly” from the English Language, because illiterates and uneducated will misunderstand its meaning?

    Am I to be offended by every Cohen who goes up to the Duchan and proclaims aloud that he has the Sanctity of Aaron which I don’t have? He indeed has obligations and privileges I don’t have. That’s Judaism: it insists on role playing and is not egalitarian when it comes to religious roles and positive commandments.

  51. IH says:

    Counterexample: in Aleinu, many (most) Ashkenzaim do not say:

    שֶׁהֵם מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וָרִיק, וּמִתְפַּלְּלִים אֶל אֵל לֹא יוֹשִׁיעַ

    even though we know we know the history and its inclusion in many modern Siddurim.

  52. Aryeh Frimer says:

    If someone doesn’t say “she-hem mishtahavim…” it is girseta de-yankuta (the errors of his/her youth). All Siddurim (e.g., Artscroll, RCA, Koren, Rinat Yisrael) published in the last twenty five years, perhaps more, have it. When I arrived in Israel for the first time in 1964 it was already the universal custom to say “she-hem mishtahavim…” All the siddurim published at that time in Israel – which used old plates – had an asterisk with the words inserted at the bottom of the page.

  53. IH says:

    The reality in the US, from my vantage point is that it is not said. Not even in the Avodah of Mussaf Yom ha’Kippurim!

  54. IH says:

    In the Koren OU edition, btw, the line appears in parentheses (i.e. optional) with no explanation (p. 181).

    I’m younger that you, but I recall this being one our chauvinistic rebellions against the status quo in 1970s BA in the US. Siddur Rinat Yisrael had significant penetration in those days in MO, and yet the line never made a significant comeback.

  55. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Give it a few more years. The question is what your children are saying…

  56. Aryeh Frimer says:

    IH asked for a list of my recent publications, see:
    http://www.bermanshul.org/frimer/bio.pdf

  57. IH says:

    Using your empirical skills, evaluate the penetration of “she-hem mishtahavim…” in the US since Rinat Yisrael for B’nei Chul was published in 1972 with the penetration of what you call “radical feminism”.

    Give it a few more years. The question is where our collective children are davening as their daughers reach Bat Mitzva.

    ——

    Incidentally, it is interesting to note how many words have flowed on these two comparable liturgical issues. Not to mention their emotiveness. That too says something.

  58. Hirhurim says:

    IH: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t say it.

  59. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Gil: You need to get out more.

  60. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote:

    “The reality in the US, from my vantage point is that it is not said. Not even in the Avodah of Mussaf Yom ha’Kippurim”

    Which Machzor do you use, and which reality are you referring to? If not Rinat, ArtScroll or Mesoras HaRav…

    WADR, even the 1949 edition of the Birnbaum siddur and 1951 edition of the Birnbaum Machzor, which any student of the Siddur and Machzor will tell you is halachically inferior to either Rinat , ArtScroll, Mesoras HaRav, Koren or any standard Charedi Machzor such as HaMachzor HaShalem on such a litmus test as providing instructions to the Mispalel for the proper recitation of HaMelech HaKadosh, and provides no translation for the Avodas YK, Eleh Ezkarah, and other sections of the Machzor, notes that the passage in question was deleted because of “fear of the official sensors” and left in a footnote which IMO was to satisfy the American culture milieu of the times.

    Perhaps, the combined rise of consciousness re Israel after the Six Day War, the increased interest in the background leading to the Shoah, the Soviet Jewry movement and the rise of BTs and RYBS’s refusal to engage in ecumenical theological dialogue were all factors as to why all Siddurim and Machzorim restored the censored line to its rightful place. IIRC, RYBs devoted a teshuvah drasha to the importance of eradicating “Vhaellim Carus Yikraseun” and realizing “Ki Lcha Ticra kol Berech”, especially in the context of rejecting all “isms” as a substitute for Malachus HaShem. WADR, I would dstrongly disagree with your characterization of the same as a “chauvinistic rebellions against the status quo”

    Joseph Kaplan-Obviously, rather than continue the discussion, you would rather dictate the terms of the same or view the same as beyond the pale of how a so-called modern person should even think of talking, as if there is no reason why any self identified MO person would not embrace radical egalitarian feminism, its advocates and apologists.

  61. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “If I can’t say it from the Bima, I shouldn’t be saying it at all! If someone is offended by what I say, let them come and talk to me and find out what I truly mean.”

    But that’s exactly what happens. When you say these things you say them, I assume, in the context of a lecture where you explain exactly what you mean. I doubt you’d get up on the bimah every morning and gratuitously say them.

    “Am I to be offended by every Cohen who goes up to the Duchan and proclaims aloud that he has the Sanctity of Aaron which I don’t have? He indeed has obligations and privileges I don’t have. ”

    I’m sorry, Reb Aryeh, that supports my point. I’m a cohen and I never bless God for not making me a yisrael; I bless him for making me a cohen and giving me the kedushathat a cohen has. That’s all I ask for; let us men bless God for making us males and giving whatever privileges and obligations males have.

  62. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “Joseph Kaplan-Obviously, rather than continue the discussion, you would rather dictate the terms of the same or view the same as beyond the pale of how a so-called modern person should even think of talking, as if there is no reason why any self identified MO person would not embrace radical egalitarian feminism, its advocates and apologists.”

    Just to be clear. I’m perfectly happy to continue this discussion (as you can see I am doing so with RAF). But since you all too often put words in my mouth that I never said and throw around buzz words (e.g., radical feminism etc.) rather than trying to deal with the substance of the arguments (as RAF does), I find discussing them with you to be futile. If to want to discuss issues rather than calling people names dictating terms, then I guess that’s what I’m doing. Sorry.

  63. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “IH: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t say it.”

    Next time you’re in Teaneck, daven in Cong. Rinat Yisrael.

  64. Hirhurim says:

    I’ll take your word for it. I just find it strange to object to a pasuk.

  65. IH says:

    Steve — Personally, I use Machzor Raba, which does include it. But that is beide the point. There are usually things in the Machzorim/Siddurim owned by any given shul that are not said.

    And, I again point you to Koren/OU Siddur p. 181.

    Perhaps someone who owns a copy of the Koren Sacks Rosh HaShana Mahzor can check Aleinu there, both in its normal mode and its Musaf mode.

  66. IH says:

    “I just find it strange to object to a pasuk.”

    Gil — leverage your network and ask the editors of the Koren/OU Siddur why it appears in parentheses with no further explanation.

  67. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Joseph Kaplan,
    I do agree with you that the issue that raises the most consternation is the negative formulation. I cite the explanation of Rabbis Zadok haKohen and Nissim Alpert, who independently suggest the same reason. To wit, Hazal wanted to communicate
    to us that the Creator only gives us the opportunity. He defines
    who we are not; it is up to us to define who we are and maximize
    our positive potential. I like that suggestion. I much prefer that to erasing the affirmation of roles (gender and lineage) in Judaism, which is the intent of the berakhot.

    “I doubt you’d get up on the bimah every morning and gratuitously say them.” But if I educate my community and family well enough, if I debunk those who insist on simplistic reading of Hazal – then I won’t have to stand on the Bima every morning to explain. [By the way, in most shuls in Israel they start from Rabbi Yishmael...] Everytime, I make Kiddush – I don’t stop to explain the the term Melakha in the Torah doesn’t refer to moving around furniture in the house, or Force times distance (W = F x D; physics) but the 39 melakhot. Why? Because I’ve already educated the community and family as to what the term means. The same has to do with the identity berakhot in Birkot haShahar.
    But there are those who resist this education because it doesn’t fit with their perception Hazal and Halakha’s attitude toward women.

  68. IH says:

    “I like that suggestion [...] the intent of the berakhot.”

    This sums it up well. You are entitled to like what you like; and, similarly to have a view of original intent.

    But, there are dissenting views which also have intellectual, historical and theological validity. You’ve disagreed. Noted.

  69. IH says:

    “But there are those who resist this education because it doesn’t fit with their perception Hazal and Halakha’s attitude toward women.”

    And this shoe fits your feet as well.

  70. MO says:

    RAF writes:

    “I would like, however, to cite the comments of R. Reuven Margaliot, which I personally find very satisfying.

    A woman is not punished if she does not fulfill time determined positive commandments, and her share in the World to Come is like that of a man. Hence, there might well be room for a male Jew to think that it might have been better had he been born a woman, for then he would have been freed from the yoke of these commandments. Hence, [the Rabbis] established that each male should make a daily declaration that these mitsvot are not a burden.”

    With all due respect, I don’t find this explanation convincing. The three first brachos are clearly of one piece. On RAF’s reasoning we might have thought that it would be better to be a slave so we thank God for making us freemen. Is there any society in which is it better to be a slave than a free man?

    The Brachos seem to be clearly saying that just as it is better to be a free person than a slave so it is better to be a jew than a goy and its better to be a man than a woman.

    If we had any doubt that this is the intent, it seems to be confirmed by the fact that a woman does not praise God for not having made her a man or for having made her a woman, but for having made her “kirtzono.”

    For those who do not believe that men are superior to women there are three options– either say something you don’t believe, change the bracha, or try to find a better explanation. I personally prefer the third option– thus to me the bracha must remain a “Tzorikh Iyyun.”

    So at the end of the day, while I sympathize with RAF’s intentions, I am not convinced by his explanations.

    At a practical level, I believe that the best solution is not say the Bracha out loud betzibbur and let it be a personal matter for individuals between themselves and their Creator.

  71. Hirhurim says:

    IH: I asked over two years ago. There’s a story behind those parenthesess but I was asked not to discuss it publicly.

  72. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “I do agree with you that the issue that raises the most consternation is the negative formulation. I cite the explanation of Rabbis Zadok haKohen and Nissim Alpert…”

    You’ve presented this reason before and, I must admit, it was one of the better ones that I’ve heard. But to paraphrase a well known scholar in this area, one person’s better explanation is another person’s apologetics. MO’s analysis and response resonates much more with me, and thus his conclusion — “At a practical level, I believe that the best solution is not say the Bracha out loud betzibbur and let it be a personal matter for individuals between themselves and their Creator” — sounds so eminently reasonable that it is difficult to understand why it has not become the universal standard. (When I was in aveilut, I much preferred being the shliach tzibbur when I was visiting in Israel.) Of course, that solution would leave Hirhurim and other similar groups bereft of a perennial discussion.

  73. Aryeh Frimer says:

    MO writes:
    “With all due respect, I don’t find this explanation convincing. The three first brachos are clearly of one piece.”

    Yes, they are talking about obligation in Mitzvot – not social status

    “On RAF’s reasoning we might have thought that it would be better to be a slave so we thank God for making us freemen.”

    Correct; because we are talking about obligation in Mitzvot. Indeed, the Talmud asks as to why males make two Berakhot: She-lo Aved and she-lo asani Isha since women and non-Jewish slaves have essentially the same obligations in mitzvot. To which the Talmud answer that an eved is worse than a woman. And this is because he lacks full Kedushat Yisrael which a woman has. See: R. Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, Resp. Mishpetei Uziel, old ed.: III, H.M. sec. 3; new ed.: IV, Inyanim Kelaliyyim, sec.4.. R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, cited in: R. Zvi Schachter, Erets haTsvi, sec. 12, no. 12, pp. 96-97; in R. Menachem Genack, Gan Shoshanim, sec. 4, p. 10; and in Reshimot Shiurim, Shavuot-Nedarim II, R. Zvi Joseph Reichman, ed. [New York, 5756], Shavuot 30a, p. 7, end of note 12, p. 8, s.v “Shoneh ha-ishah,” and pp. 9-10, s.v. “Mistaber eifo,” and note 14.
    R. Moshe Feinstein, Resp. Iggerot Moshe, O.H. IV, sec. 49; O.H. VI, sec 2. R. Feinstein notes that – though their obligations are similar – a non-Jewish slave, unlike a woman, cannot recite a berakha should he perform a mitsvat aseh she-hazeman gramma. This is because his kedushat yisrael is limited to what he is obligated. On the other hand, a woman has full kedushat yisrael, but was exempted from the performance of specific mitsvot. Hence she can recite berakhot even on mitsvot from which she was exempted.
    The eved’s lack of Full kedushat Yisrael further expresses itself in his prohibition to marry a Jewess.

    “Is there any society in which is it better to be a slave than a free man?” You are assuming the berakha has to do with social status. But the Tosefta and Yerushalmi makes it clear that it does not!

  74. Aryeh Frimer says:

    MO writes:
    “If we had any doubt that this is the intent, it seems to be confirmed by the fact that a woman does not praise God for not having made her a man or for having made her a woman, but for having made her “kirtzono.”

    As I have argued, the berakhot that Hazal established were in the negative and deal with increasing obligation in Mitsvot. As the Tur testifies, the berakha “She-asani kirtzono” was not established by Hazal, but introduced centuries later. {Indeed, sefaradiyyot don’t say the berakha with Shem u-malkhut.} Hence, nothing can be learned from it regarding the three identity berakhot Hazal established.

  75. MO says:

    “MO: With all due respect, I don’t find this explanation convincing. The three first brachos are clearly of one piece.

    RAF: Yes, they are talking about obligation in Mitzvot – not social status”

    You are assuming that obligation in Mitzvot cannot be separated from social status. They cannot. For greater obligation in Mitzvot also confers greater social privileges. Thus a man who is obligated to daven also can have the honor of being counted in a minyan, being a shaliach Tzibbur, being called to the Torah etc… A man who is obligated to study Torah can also have the honor of being a Rabbi etc

    “As the Tur testifies, the berakha “She-asani kirtzono” was not established by Hazal, but introduced centuries later.”

    But lemaaseh having women say this Bracha while men say Shelo asani Ishah seems to clearly reflect an understanding that men are superior to women. So how do you deal with this Bracha? Tachlis, do you instruct your daughters to say it? And if you do, how do you explain it to them?

  76. Aryeh Frimer says:

    MO,
    MO,
    I reiterate, the identity berakhot are not about social status – if they were mamzerim and converts would have their own berakhot!

    Hazal were not the authors of she-asani kirtzono; hence it tells us nothing about those that were. I teach my daughters to follow Rema who rules to say it because it is a very old minhag, and I try to live by Shulkhan Arukh. But it is still a problematic berakha.

  77. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “I’m sorry, Reb Aryeh, that supports my point. I’m a cohen and I never bless God for not making me a yisrael; I bless him for making me a cohen and giving me the kedushathat a cohen has. That’s all I ask for; let us men bless God for making us males and giving whatever privileges and obligations males have.”

    FWIW, and another and far more expansive Pshat in the Bracha of Asher Kidsanu Bkdushasho Shel Aharon Vzivanu Lvrach Es Amo BaHavah-see Machzor Mesoras HaRav for YK at Pages 670-671-namely to personify Aharon HaKohen, a spontaneous love of the Kohen for the whole of Israel,as a conduit for the blessings of God on the Jewish People, and a dual role as one who educates and enlighens the people , as based on Malachi 2:7. Yet, someone who is not a Kohen cannot recite these brachos-regardless of whether he personifies the Midos of Aharon HaKohen and spends most of his time learning and teaching Torah.

  78. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote in part:

    “And, I again point you to Koren/OU Siddur p. 181″

    The reference to the verse in question in the paperback edition of the above Siddur includes the verse in question in parentheses, as it is in the ArtScroll Siddur.In the Rinat Yisrael Siddur, the verse in question is printed as part of Aleinu without parentheses,

  79. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan wrote:

    “Lawrence Kaplan on October 16, 2011 at 10:47 am
    Gil: You need to get out more.

    Hirhurim on October 16, 2011 at 10:55 am
    Or…

    Larry Kaplan-see Brachos 61b-the Avnei Nezer explains that R Akiva seemingly stated to Papous that only by living by Torah, like fish in the water, do the Jewish People maintain their Chiyus. Why should R Gil “get out more” if the alternative would be the halachic and hashkafic equivalent of walking into a building that is in grave danger of collapsing?

  80. MO says:

    RAF:

    I appreciate what you are doing. I am not personally convinced, but I appreciate it.

    I believe that my approach to Shelo Asani Ishah has some similarities to your approach to sheasani Kirtzono.

  81. Aryeh Frimer says:

    MO,
    I can live with a respectful standoff… (:-)!

  82. Steve Brizel says:

    MO-please see Kelim 1: 6-9-are not the same rooted in degree of obligation and Kedusha, as opposed to social status?

  83. Noam stadlan says:

    How does ‘shelo asani bor’ fit into this? Doesn’t it show that this isn’t an issue of commandedness in mitzvot? And how did we come not to recite it? (Steve might claim that it was due to pressure from radical boorism). :-)

  84. IH says:

    “There’s a story behind those parenthesess but I was asked not to discuss it publicly.”

    I bet it’s pretty straightforward to figure out just by comparing it to the non-OU version of the same Siddur. I don’t have access to one, but I checked the Koren/Sacks/Rohr Rosh ha’Shana Machzor which includes the following note on the Chazarat ha’Shatz Musaf Aleinu (p. 595, bolding mine):

    One line from the original prayer – “For they worship…” – aroused controversy. […] Because of the fear of further animosity and persecution, many communities removed it from their prayer book, though some continue to say it today. “

  85. IH says:

    It is “though some continue to say it today” that should have been bolded.

  86. IH says:

    Of course, one wouldn’t want to give the impression that sensitivity to the strong feelings of others has been a factor in our two-thousand year old evolution of our liturgy.

  87. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Noam Stadlan asks:
    “How does ‘shelo asani boor’ fit into this?”

    See Rashi, Menahot 43 s.v. “Kulei hai nami” in his second Pshat – that’s exactly why shelo asani boor was rejected – because it had nothing to do with Hiyyuv beMitsvot.

  88. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “FWIW, and another and far more expansive Pshat in the Bracha of Asher Kidsanu Bkdushasho Shel Aharon Vzivanu Lvrach Es Amo BaHavah-see Machzor Mesoras HaRav for YK at Pages 670-671-namely to personify Aharon HaKohen, a spontaneous love of the Kohen for the whole of Israel,as a conduit for the blessings of God on the Jewish People, and a dual role as one who educates and enlighens the people , as based on Malachi 2:7. Yet, someone who is not a Kohen cannot recite these brachos-regardless of whether he personifies the Midos of Aharon HaKohen and spends most of his time learning and teaching Torah.”

    That’s all very true. But the thrust of my comment was that the bracha that I say as a cohen when I duchen is in the positive; that is, I don’t bless God for not creating me a yisrael the way most men bless God for not making them a woman. Were the morning brachot modeled on the cohen’s bracha, there would have been 88 comments to RAF’s post.

  89. Hirhurim says:

    IH: No, you clearly haven’t figured it out. E-mail me

  90. IH says:

    Gil — 4:50pm was a general comment, not my imprsssion of the OU Editors. I have no interest in information that is not public. If the OU Rabbis want to play games, they can play with themselves.

  91. Shlomo says:

    Of course, one wouldn’t want to give the impression that sensitivity to the strong feelings of others has been a factor in our two-thousand year old evolution of our liturgy.

    As the machzor makes clear, the issue with “shehem” was avoiding persecution, not being sensitive to anyone’s feelings.

  92. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote in part:

    “If the OU Rabbis want to play games, they can play with themselves”

    How often do we see an example of Zilzul Horim UMorim?

  93. Hirhurim says:

    No one in the OU had any say in the matter. I found out the story afterward and it involves others.

  94. IH says:

    As I said, the way to see what editorial choice was made by the OU is straightforward. There is a non-OU version of the same siddur to which one can compare.

    Perhaps one day we will see a future version of the Koren Siddur that has “She’lo Asani Isha” in parentheses as well.

  95. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-In the Mesoras HaRav Machzor for RH, one finds the phrase in question in brackets for Mincha for weekdays and thereafter as part of Aleinu in Malchuyos in Musaf. You suggested somewhat sarcasstically that “one wouldn’t want to give the impression that sensitivity to the strong feelings of others has been a factor in our two-thousand year old evolution of our liturgy”

    I would suggest that the phrase relates to how we understand the ultimate purpose of Malachiyos-that all mankind will eventually recognize HaShem. Why on earth is such a concept either insensitive or not faithful to the basic purpose of Malchiyos?

  96. IH says:

    Steve — Yes, that is the point. “She’hem Mishtachavim” clearly “belongs” in the text and yet many (most) American MO communities do not say it despite that persecution is not a threat.

  97. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote:

    “Steve — Yes, that is the point. “She’hem Mishtachavim” clearly “belongs” in the text and yet many (most) American MO communities do not say it despite that persecution is not a threat”

    But assimilation and a lack of awareness of Hashkafa 101, which is one of key elements of the Musaf of RH are obviously lacking. Therefore, WADR, we should say it loudly and proudly.

  98. IH says:

    An interesting take in R. Freundel’s 2010 “Why We Pray What We Pray” — after 3 pages of the history of “She’hem Mishtachavim” (p. 235):

    “In today’s more religiously tolerant atmosphere, where one religion’s censorship of another religion’s liturgy has become less and less acceptable, at least in western countries, this sentence has made something of a comeback. In the early 20th century, Dutch congregations were reciting this verse. So too the religious-Zionist youth group B’nei Akiva brought this verse back to its services as did the Chabad-Lubavich community. In other communities or synagogues there are different customs. Some recite it, some don’t and some continue to debate what to do. I am not familiar with anyone who spits during Aleinu, but I have been told that some Chassidic synagogues do.”

  99. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-Obviously,in the US, asssimilation and intermarriage continue to skyrocket-with ignorance of Hashkafa 101, and the elements of Musaf 101, including Shehem Mishtachavim being IMO one of the key reasons, that need to be emphasized in a positive manner. As far as Israel goes, terrorists in Israeli prisons have frequently stated that a key difference betweeen Islam and Judaism is the difference between a reward of 72 Bsulos and our emphasis on the preservation of life.

  100. IH says:

    Putting it back in context, the provenance of Aleinu is as old as Birkot ha’Shachar and yet Othodoxy is split on whether to say the integral sentence of “She’hem Mishtachavim”.

    There is very little emotionalism or community divisiveness between the camps. No raging debates on the intent of Chazal, etc. No labeling or name calling, etc. No attacks on motives. Just different customs in different shuls. Nu!

  101. IH says:

    As per Google Books, the non-OU version of “The Koren Siddur, American Edition” includes She’hem Mishtachavim *without* the parentheses: http://tinyurl.com/3bwrv52. Same page number, same commentary, just no parentheses.

    I am now curious about the British (or Canadian) editions if anyone has them…

  102. Hirhurim says:

    IH: Not only do I know for a fact that your deduction is incorrect, but you are ignoring an important piece of publicly available evidence. Whatever. Not my problem.

  103. IH says:

    Gil — I lost you. I am not trying to deduce anything. If my point in 6:27 is not clear, let me know.

  104. MDJ says:

    >> Larry Kaplan-see Brachos 61b-the Avnei Nezer explains that R Akiva seemingly stated to Papous that only by living by Torah, like fish in the water, do the Jewish People maintain their Chiyus. Why should R Gil “get out more” if the alternative would be the halachic and hashkafic equivalent of walking into a building that is in grave danger of collapsing?

    Steve,
    Prof. Kaplan was simply saying “Puk chazi”. Your response was way over the top (albeit not for you.)

  105. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “But assimilation and a lack of awareness of Hashkafa 101, which is one of key elements of the Musaf of RH are obviously lacking. Therefore, WADR, we should say it loudly and proudly.”

    My guess is that my rabbi, a prominent student of the Rav, knows Haskafa 101 as well as you do if not, I would submit, just a tad better. And yet when he davens for the amud on musaf RH, he does not say it “loudly and proudly”; he omits it altogether as is usually our shul’s practice. So while you can hold any opinion you want, you might wish to reconsider your insulting comment; it’s still before Hoshana Rabbah so it’s not too late.

  106. Jon Baker says:

    IH: Birchot haShachar are from the Gemara, an explicit braita. Aleinu comes from the Heichalot literature. Some attribute it to Rav (tanna hu upalig) which agrees with Meir Bar-Ilan’s (the living one) book on the heichalot literature and liturgy.

    So yes, they do date from the same period (late Tannaim early Amoraim), at least in part. But the birchot hashachar are all there in the gemara, except for “hanotein laya’eif koach”, while the Aleinu is only really known up to “umodim” to be of ancient provenance.

    I don’t think anybody disagrees about “shehem mishtachavim” being part of the prayer, only whether or not it was politic to print it in the siddurim when it contains a clear pun on the name of the Chrsitian god.

  107. IH says:

    Jon – thanks, but I am missing where it takes you.

    My point is that no one objects to American MO Jews choosing not to say She’hem Mishtachavim, which even the OU Koren Siddur tacitly acknowledges as legitimate. Yet, the thought that some people would contemplate She’lo Asani similarly unleashes accusations.

    Should we balance out Gil’s “Nusach Feminism” with “Nusach Wimps”; or write sentences like RAF’s “The truth, however, is that for radical feminists, there is much more at stake in this benediction than just its formulation” about radical ecumenism; or that not saying She’hem Mishtachavim “suggests that the Torah’s set of priorities is not always consonant with those of modern day radical” tolerance?

    Or, perhaps, we ought to go the other way and, as Gil put it in his 2007 posting on Nachem: “I can understand and respect — even if I disagree with them — those who feel uncomfortable reciting in a prayer…”.

  108. lawrence kaplan says:

    MDJ: Thank you for your support. To elaborate on your point, my comment was just a lighthearted way of saying “puk hazi,” and, I believe, was so understood by Gil. I was thinking of responding to Steve before your comment, and then I thought to myself, “What’s the point?”

    Steve: I don’t get the point of the Avnei Nezer. It seems to me that his comment, as related by you, is just the plain peshat of the gemara, which, by the way, I have taught to my students many times. Are you sure he didn’t say something else as well which you accidentally neglected to mention?

  109. Tal Benschar says:

    The comparison between she hem mishtakhavim la hevel varik and she los asani ishah is utterly specious.

    The former was omitted because of censorship and quite legitimate concerns about persecution. Although now that these are no longer an issue in most places where Jews live (and indeed many kehillos have put back the phrase), the omission remains in many places out of inertia, our out of a mistaken (IMHO) view that “what-we-always- did” equals a minhag.*

    In contrast, the move to elminate or amend she los asani ishah is very much ideologically driven, in the view of many is based on an ideology foreign to and indeed in contradiction to the Torah. Further many of the advocates of the change have crossed the line to bizayon Chazal and makchish maggidehah shel Torah. (The original blog piece, IMO, went way over that line.)

    So, sorry, the live-and-let-live attitude that applies to the former will not be applied by many to the latter.

    __________________
    * A similar phenomenum exists with respect to selichos on yom kippur. The sources indicate that the proper order of tefillah is to include selichos — meaing recitation of the 13 middos — in all the tefillos of YK. Yet the printers of machzorim have omitted them except from Maariv and Neilah, and that is the most widespread “minhag,” at least among Ashkenazim.

  110. S. says:

    IH

    “Putting it back in context, the provenance of Aleinu is as old as Birkot ha’Shachar and yet Othodoxy is split on whether to say the integral sentence of “She’hem Mishtachavim”.”

    I don’t think you are factually correct. Orthodoxy is split? As far as I can tell Orthodoxy is comprised of those who have restored it and those who just never bothered to do so out of inertia.

  111. IH says:

    S. — I refer you back to Joseph Kaplan’s comment about the practice in his shul in Teaneck and my comment from R. Freundel’s book yesterday at 6:14pm. The key bit of the latter is: “Some recite it, some don’t and some continue to debate what to do.”

    While, like many things, some do not say it out of inertia; there was also a willful rejection of restoring this sentence by many in the American Jewish MO community.

    Tal — I agree that “the live-and-let-live attitude that applies to the former will not be applied by many to the latter.” But, let’s be honest about why that is — and it has little to do with the textual purity argumentation RAF presents.

  112. S. says:

    “While, like many things, some do not say it out of inertia; there was also a willful rejection of restoring this sentence by many in the American Jewish MO community.”

    R. Freundel said “Some continue to debate what to do.” That’s not exactly documentation of a debate.

    As for Joseph Kaplan, all he said was “Next time you’re in Teaneck, daven in Cong. Rinat Yisrael.” Again, no mention of a debate. My shul also doesn’t say it – entirely out of inertia. Now its possible that 60 years ago people were debating it, but I’m unaware of any debate in MO today, much less something which can be described as a “split” [in attitude].

  113. IH says:

    S. — also, the commentary in the Koren/Sacks/Rohr Machzor explaining why the sentence is in parentheses: “many communities removed it from their prayer book, though *some* continue to say it today.” (emphasis mine)

  114. IH says:

    Ah. I did not mean “split” in attitude. I meant in practice.

    Indeed, my point is that it is utterly uncontroversial to: a) not say it; and, b) have a modern Siddur or Machzor in the US in which it appears in parentheses.

    Imagine the hew and cry if Shelo Asani Isha, similarly, would be printed with parentheses? Although, that may still happen in my lifetime.

  115. IH says:

    hue and cry, for textual purists :-)

  116. S. says:

    “S. — also, the commentary in the Koren/Sacks/Rohr Machzor explaining why the sentence is in parentheses: “many communities removed it from their prayer book, though *some* continue to say it today.” (emphasis mine)”

    The action regarding removal of this line in the printed texts largely took place in the 18th century, and under pressure from gentiles. This was before liturgical change was tied in with issues of reform. So it’s unlikely that we can return to that more innocent time. Furthermore, the trend was and is to restore the phrase, even though if you really think about it it’s fighting words (do we really think that Christianity is hevel and rik? If so, then how about we follow the laws pertaining to idolaters) and we don’t like the nasty references to Judaism in Christian liturgies.

    I just don’t see shelo asani ishah following that trajectory, although many things we don’t see will happen.

  117. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “As for Joseph Kaplan, all he said was “Next time you’re in Teaneck, daven in Cong. Rinat Yisrael.” Again, no mention of a debate.”

    I don’t think the rabbi’s position is out of inertia. As an example, we say selichot in all the YK teffilot, and since it’s not in our machzorim, the shul has a special slichot handout it uses in all its minyanim on YK. So we’re not an inertia shul and he’s not an inertia rabbi.

    Unfortunately, IH, I think ours is a losing battle. More and more MO yeshivot say it; one assistant principal told me the reason his school cahnged their policy and decided to say it was because they use the Artscroll siddur and it would be to confusing to the students to omit it. I was underwhelmed by the reasoning. My guess is that my sul will be more and more in the minority and that by the next generation it will be said by the vast majority of the O community including the MO. I think that’s sad, but considering its inclusion in MO siddurim (parentheses or not) I think the battle has been lost.

  118. IH says:

    S. — what percentage of today’s American MO Jews do you reckon had ancestors impacted by the Prussian edicts of 1703, 1716 and 1750 (to which I think you are referring)?

  119. S. says:

    “I don’t think the rabbi’s position is out of inertia. ”

    Fair enough, and my apologies for implying otherwise (which was not my intention). But I don’t think even this indicates the existence any kind of debate in MO about she-hem mishtachavim. Likely your rav sees it as a fortuitous circumstance that it was removed, but would have not remove it himself.

  120. S. says:

    “S. — what percentage of today’s American MO Jews do you reckon had ancestors impacted by the Prussian edicts of 1703, 1716 and 1750 (to which I think you are referring)?”

    Look at siddurim in Europe, east and west, from the 18th and 19th century. They took it out in Russia and Poland and Hungary too.

  121. Y. Aharon says:

    I continue to disagree with the claim that the ‘shelo asani isha’ beracha is strictly based on the lesser mitzva requirement of a Jewish woman. While that is the rationale given in Tosefta Berachot, the T.B. Menachot 43b concludes with amending the tana’itic ‘shelo asani boor’ to ‘shelo asani aved’, and distinguishes between a Jewish woman and, presumably, Gentile slave on the basis of status (an eved is ‘zil tefei’).

    I don’t understand the stance of some commenters on the parenthetic lines in ‘Aleinu’. I have davened in many shuls, both Hareidi and MO, (in and outside NYC), and have rarely heard the ‘sheheim korim lehevel velarik…’ said aloud – except in Chabad (where the spitting action also occurs). The absence of vocalization of the above paretnthetic line is particularly noticeable in community MO shuls where the first part of Aleinu is recited aloud.

    I maintain that the parenthetic lines should not be said. How can we object to being disparaged in traditional Christian texts when we do the same? Furthermore, it is simply untrue that all Gentiles worship foolishness and ineffectual deities. Muslims worship the same GOD as we, even if their understanding of His will and our status is much different. Even conventional Christians can be said to worship the same deity, even if their understanding of that deity is radically different than ours.

  122. Tal Benschar says:

    IH: Your analogy is still specious. THe fact that some say it and some do not does not change the facts that (1) it was removed because of censorship and persecution, not ideology and (2) the failure to reinstate it by some is due mostly to inertia. I am aware of very little, if any, “debate” about the issue. I do not know of and have never heard of a single article or blog post that advocates leaving the phrase out on ideological grounds. There may be some who do so for such reasons, but their reasoning is entirely private and hidden. There is accordingly no reason to make an issue out of it, any more than there is to make an issue out of Nusach Ashkenaz v. Nusach Sefarad.

    To put it more baldly, one involves at worst issues of laziness and inertia. The other involves at worst issues of heresy. Not surprisingly, the latter is protested, the former is not.

  123. Tal Benschar says:

    I don’t think the rabbi’s position is out of inertia. As an example, we say selichot in all the YK teffilot, and since it’s not in our machzorim, the shul has a special slichot handout it uses in all its minyanim on YK. So we’re not an inertia shul and he’s not an inertia rabbi.

    Rather than speculate, why don’t you ask him why. I suspect the reason is something along the lines of “that is the minhag ha olam.”

  124. Shlomo says:

    To put it more baldly, one involves at worst issues of laziness and inertia. The other involves at worst issues of heresy. Not surprisingly, the latter is protested, the former is not.

    Furthermore: One involves picking between two established customs of different ages. The other involves intentionally rejecting the only existing custom in favor of a newly invented formulation.

  125. Steve says:

    I can’t speak to that rabbi’s reason, and I myself say it, but one rabbi told me that his shul doesn’t say it for pretty much the same reason it ceased being said in the first place. There are those who still see antisemitism around every corner and under every bed – not to mention in every Israel-related newspaper editorial.

  126. MO says:

    Back to the shelo asani ishah question. Since as RAF notes, sheasni kitzono is not in the gemara, and Sefardim say it without shem and malhut why not just change women’s bracha to shelo asani ish without shem and malhut?

    That would preserve a sense of honoring hashem for gender differences while removing the appearance of women being inferior to men without changing a bracha established by hazal.

  127. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-WADR, and in all seriousness, putting aside the issue of the one verse in Aleinu that we have been discussing, IMO, the current Siddurim and Machzorim ( ArtScroll, Koren, Mesoras HaRav) are vast improvements over Birnbaum , De Sola Pool, etc in passing a simple and yet crucial litmus test-the importance of saying HaMelech HaKadosh,and the consequences of failing to do so and the Psukim for Karbanos in Musaf,as well as providing translations of vast portions of the Chazaras HaShatz on RH and YK that were simply ignored in Birnbaum.

  128. Steve Brizel says:

    Y Aharon wrote in part:

    “I maintain that the parenthetic lines should not be said. How can we object to being disparaged in traditional Christian texts when we do the same? Furthermore, it is simply untrue that all Gentiles worship foolishness and ineffectual deities. Muslims worship the same GOD as we, even if their understanding of His will and our status is much different. Even conventional Christians can be said to worship the same deity, even if their understanding of that deity is radically different than ours”

    Really? Proof please? Do you recite Malchiyos on RH if you seriously subscribe to the above contention?

  129. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan-I read your conversation with R Gil as implying that R Gil’s POV was limited by his hashkafic POV. That was exactly the point of R Akiva’s response to Pappas-A Jew lives, breathes and thinks by dint of his or her Torah knowledge and when a Jew leaves the sea of Torah knowledge, he or she can and will very often wind up the intellectual and cultural equivalent of a dead fish.

  130. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan-your rav is entitled to say whatever version of Aleinu he deems appropriate. Did your rav ever speak to RYBS directly or to any other Talmid Muvhak of RYBS about the issue and how it might implicate RYBS’s views in Confrontation? As I stated, whether one says or does not say the version in question has zero halachic consequences on RH or during the year as opposed to failing to recite HaMelech HaKadosh.

  131. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan wrote:

    “My guess is that my rabbi, a prominent student of the Rav, knows Haskafa 101 as well as you do if not, I would submit, just a tad better. And yet when he davens for the amud on musaf RH, he does not say it “loudly and proudly”; he omits it altogether as is usually our shul’s practice.”

    Who defines the shul’s practice-a rav or whatever is deemed as a “shul’s practice”?

  132. Rafael Araujo says:

    I can’t believe I am reading this. The censors won if we buy Joseph Kaplan’s and Y Aharon’s sentiments.

    I mean, Aleinu in its entirety, even without this phrase is objectifiable since it insults our fellow Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Bahai, Buddhists, Shintoists, etc. in our multi-cultural and pluristic society.

    Now that’s PC if I ever saw it!

  133. Rafael Araujo says:

    Who defines the shul’s practice-a rav or whatever is deemed as a “shul’s practice”?

    In many MO circles, the laity define it. If the Rov did not remove its reciation from davening, the laity would set the tone and demand its removal.

  134. ruvie says:

    mo – not only sefrdim but r’ yaakov emden is his siddur rules no shem or malchut. i have never seen a reference recommending shelo asani ish – however, the leket yosher (Rabbi Yisroel Isserlin – Baal Terumas Hadeshen) prefers women to say – shelo asani beheimah. he also days one can change this beracha – kirzono. i think if we had that version there would be much more to say.
    the question is the wording the most important part of the these blessings or is it that there should be 3 blessings with regards to personal status and/or obligations (min or max)? can more be added? it seems the gemera in menachot (bavli) ends with zil t’fei – go and add – there seems to be a time when people said 4 blessings including boor(bur) – meiri berachot 62b.

  135. Joseph Kaplan says:

    What you stated was that those who do not say shehem… in musaf on RH don’t know haskafa 101. The fact that your comment insults people like me is nothing new; I can live with it. But it is insuulting to my rabbi, whether or not he spoke to the Rav about this particular issue. He is a know talmid chacham and it’s no insult to you to say that I have no doubt he is a much greater talmid chacham than you. Your failure to undersatnd that is, however, simply par for the course.

    “Who defines the shul’s practice-a rav or whatever is deemed as a “shul’s practice”?”

    In my shul, it’s usually the rav; e.g., the YK slochot custom I mentioned earlier. But the practice re shehem… is pretty obvious since he often is the shliach tzibur for musaf on the yomim nora’im (he has a wonderful chazzunish voice), and he does not say shehem… And that is how the shul sings aleinu on shabbat.

  136. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan-thanks for the clarification. BTW, for those interestd, the minhag of reciting Slichos on YK that you mentioned can be found in the Machzor Mesoras HaRav for YK.

  137. ruvie says:

    it seems no one hase alluded to possible origins of the three blessing (bavli – r’ meir and tosefta – r’ yehuda).

    “It has been pointed out by various scholars that Rebbi Yehudah’s law regarding these Berachot may be a direct response to similar blessings made by Greek philosophers. Plutarch, the famous Roman historian, writes (Plutarch, “Lives, Volume IX, Demetrius and Antony. Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius”, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, p. 595.) “Plato, at the point of his death, congratulated himself, in the first place, that he had been born a man, next that he had the happiness of being a Greek, not a brute or barbarian, and last the he was a contemporary of Socrates.” Plutarch (46 – 120 CE) was a contemporary of Rebbi Akiva, Rebbi Yehudah’s teacher, so it is very possible that Rebbi Yehudah’s statement is adapted for Jews based on what he heard as a common Greek story as quoted by Plutarch. “

  138. Steve Brizel says:

    I wrote:

    “Obviously,in the US, asssimilation and intermarriage continue to skyrocket-with ignorance of Hashkafa 101, and the elements of Musaf 101, including Shehem Mishtachavim being IMO one of the key reasons, that need to be emphasized in a positive manner. As far as Israel goes, terrorists in Israeli prisons have frequently stated that a key difference betweeen Islam and Judaism is the difference between a reward of 72 Bsulos and our emphasis on the preservation of life”

    How on earth can that be viewed as an insult, when one sees such ignorance on a daily basis?

  139. S. says:

    “I can’t believe I am reading this. The censors won if we buy Joseph Kaplan’s and Y Aharon’s sentiments.”

    To me this sounds like Fackenheim’s it’s-ossur-to-give-Hitler-posthumous-victories thing. What if the censors were right (it’s anti-gentile)?

    Note that I don’t think we should expunge anything in the liturgy. But what is this “the censors won” business? Why should that matter? The censors have won anyway, for example every time you say “Akum,” a roshe tevot invented by censors, or learn countless Gemaras which have changed words.

  140. ruvie says:

    y. aharon – “..distinguishes between a Jewish woman and, presumably, Gentile slave on the basis of status (an eved is ‘zil tefei’).”

    rashi and tosafot (and others)had a text that read zil t’fei (go and add a blessing)- while we have eved zil t’fei – where zil is an adjective to eved and hence refers to status – (version that rif,rosh, beit yosef had) i think you are right when you say that the understanding of the sugya cannot be only about mitzvot (the tosefta’s categories shift from status to mitzvot to fear of hashem as well and there is no harmony for the reason for the 3 berachot – something that r’ frimer did not mentioned and why we have 2 reasons in rashi and not one).

  141. Steve Brizel says:

    S wrote:

    “To me this sounds like Fackenheim’s it’s-ossur-to-give-Hitler-posthumous-victories thing. What if the censors were right (it’s anti-gentile)?”

    Would you agree with or rationalize why the Talmud was subjected to being burned by the RCC?

  142. IH says:

    Tal, Shlomo – you’re missing that some American MO Rabbis & Shuls wilfully rejected the re-insertion of She’hem Mishtachavim, davka because they felt it was inappropriate to be insulting to our non-Jewish neighbors. I remember being lectured about this in the 1970s when I actively sought the re-insertion in an institution where Siddur Rinat Yisrael (which was among the first to re-insert it) was used.

    I am neither advocating it being said, or not; just using it as a counterexample to RAF’s argument. You can disagree, but it is not specious to compare the tolerance of one act of self-censorship to the intolerance of another act of self-censorship – both to liturgical compositions that are more equal than unequal in provenance.

  143. S. says:

    >Would you agree with or rationalize why the Talmud was subjected to being burned by the RCC?

    That question is so disconnected from what I said that I’m tempted to just dismiss it altogether, but since I don’t want it to enter your head that I think the Talmud should be burned or censored, the answer is no.

  144. Rafael Araujo says:

    S – on akum, I disagree. We coopted the term and used it for ourselves, almost like African-Americans took the “n” word and use it among themselves to dilute the power of the word. In this instance, we have every reason to reinstate it except that some want to be politically correct and say that this is offensive to Christians and so leave it out. We use akum! Here, we DON’T use the phrase and keep it out. Big difference.

  145. Rafael Araujo says:

    What if the censors were right (it’s anti-gentile)?

    This is a question Jews should be asking themselves? Seriously?

  146. Tal Benschar says:

    Tal, Shlomo – you’re missing that some American MO Rabbis & Shuls wilfully rejected the re-insertion of She’hem Mishtachavim, davka because they felt it was inappropriate to be insulting to our non-Jewish neighbors. I remember being lectured about this in the 1970s when I actively sought the re-insertion in an institution where Siddur Rinat Yisrael (which was among the first to re-insert it) was used.

    IH: What you are missing is that no one paid any attention to that. There was no kind of ideological movement or even active discussion about. Some rabbonim or shuls simply acted a certain way, or more accurately failed to act a certain way (i.e. an omission — failure to reinstate the phrase) and no one was the wiser as to why or whether any consciensce thought went into the decision at all.

    I am also dubious how widespread the phenomenum was at all. In most places the phrase was kept out due to inertia — at least that is my (and S.’s) impression.

    Not to mention that S.’s point above is very valid — the original change happened some time ago, for very valid reasons both halakhically and hashkafically. Both versions have been around for some time. That some shuls kept one version over another, for reasons undisclosed (or maybe for no reason at all), is hardly comparable to the lo asani ishah situation.

  147. IH says:

    Tal — we are in violent agreement regarding the attention paid. I see a more willful decision making process than inertia due to my personal experience in the 1970s when the issue was being discussed amongst engaged American MO (driven by the B’nei Akiva’niks and the success of Siddur Rinat Yisrael).

    ——

    Surely, there must be an academic article that analyzes the (mostly self) censorship of She’hem Mishtachavim. As mentioned there are a little over 3 pages in R. Freundel’s book; but, this angle alone is worth at least a 25 page article.

  148. Tal Benschar says:

    “What if the censors were right (it’s anti-gentile)? ”

    How about the part of Alenu that says as follows:

    Alenu leshabeach . . . she lo asanu kegoyey ha aratzos ve lo samanu ke mishpechos ha adama, she lo sam chelkenu kahem, ve goraleinu ke khol hamonam

    Sounds pretty “anti-gentile” to me. To my ears, if anything omission of the phrase she hem mishtakhavim la hevel varik umispallelim el el lo yoshiah makes the whole thing far more offensive. Why are we praising and thanking Hashem for not making us like the Gentile nations? It’s one thing to say, because we bow to the King of kings, they bow to nothing. Quite another to leave out that reasoning.

    Just my personal thoughts. (Hope that some of the PC-niks don’t now decide to ditch Alenu!)

  149. GIL:

    “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t say it.”

    i can’t speak for what people do privately, but in my entire life i’ve only heard it said publicly in my current shul.
    (i don’t know about schools in general, but my son did not learn it in his school)

    ” There’s a story behind those parenthesess but I was asked not to discuss it publicly.”

    don’t be such a tease.

  150. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Just my personal thoughts. (Hope that some of the PC-niks don’t now decide to ditch Alenu!)”

    From your mouth to moreorthodoxy’s ear :)

  151. JOSEPH KAPLAN:

    “I think that’s sad”

    why so? because you theologically object to the line or because it tampers with established minhag? i understand the former (but personally don’t care either way) but not the latter.

    IH:

    having skimmed the thread i fail to see how the line in aleinu supports your position re. birchos hashachar.

  152. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that Tal is correct for a reason that noone has discussed yet-all Brachos, and especially a Birkas HaMitzvah refer to Elokeinu Melech HaOlam, Asher Kidshanu BMitzvosav-as opposed to any other religious deity, regardless of how another faith community communicates with its deity.

    See also the the Nusach HaBracha for Ahavas Olam,etc and many of the Tefilos of Shabbos, YT and the Yamim Noraim-all refer to HaShem’s special relationship with Klal Yisrael because of Matan Torah, etc. Are the same equally objectionable from a PC POV, and if not, why not?

  153. IH says:

    Tal — there is a difference, as you know, between being particularist and being insulting.

    As Jews, we know all too well when direct quotations from Muslim or Christian scripture is selectively quoted to bash us.

    Or perhaps, unlike many Jews, you have no issue with the Pope reviving the Tridentine Mass, as an example?

  154. IH says:

    Abba — having skimmed your response, I fail to see what you fail to see :-)

  155. Tal Benschar says:

    Tal, Shlomo – you’re missing that some American MO Rabbis & Shuls wilfully rejected the re-insertion of She’hem Mishtachavim, davka because they felt it was inappropriate to be insulting to our non-Jewish neighbors

    One additional thought. You characterize the decision as “willful,” but assuming that many rabbonim did make a conscious decision to retain the nusach that omitted the she hem mishtakahavim (and I am dubious how widespread that was), the notion that it is “inappropriate to be insulting to our non-Jewish neighbors” could be understood to be a concern about igniting anti-Semitism. That is a perfectly legitimate concern (indeed the very reason the change was made in the first place), and while it seems overblown to me in America 2011, I cannot say that those rabbonim were necessarily wrong in their time and place. Indeed, even today in say, France or the Netherlands, anti-semitism is a very real concern. If someone told me that today, a rav in France said not to say that phrase, it would not at all surprise me nor would I object.

    So that is another difference between the two cases — to the extent anyone made a conscious decision to retain the old nusach, the reasoning may have been perfectly unobjectionable.

  156. Tal Benschar says:

    Tal — there is a difference, as you know, between being particularist and being insulting.

    Yes, but my point is that omitting the she hem mishtakahavim phrase makes the whole thing more insulting, not less.

    Or perhaps, unlike many Jews, you have no issue with the Pope reviving the Tridentine Mass, as an example?

    The Pope can pray any way he likes to his getchke, makes no difference to me. My only issue is that he and his church not incite violence against Jews (or anyone else, for that matter). They seem to have a history of doing that, although much less lately.

  157. IH says:

    Tal — frankly, at this point you’re making up what you want to believe. The adoption of Siddur Rinat Yisrael into American MO Yeshiva Day Schools and Shuls was the start of several sets of discussions and decisions taken within (pre-Centrist) Modern Orthodoxy that included this issue and others related to how MO liturgy should deal with Religious Ziomism (e.g. T’filla l’Shlom ha’Medina). This was also an era of debates on vocalization (e.g. kamatz katan) that were, in part, also brought to the surface by the adoption of Siddur Rinat Yisrael.

  158. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote:

    “Tal, Shlomo – you’re missing that some American MO Rabbis & Shuls wilfully rejected the re-insertion of She’hem Mishtachavim, davka because they felt it was inappropriate to be insulting to our non-Jewish neighbors”

    Like it or not, even in the US, merely by being a Shomer Torah Umitzvos, there is much that one can argue which appears to our non Jewish neighbors to be cultlike, insular, bizarre or insulting. Where would you draw the line?

  159. IH:

    “STEVE BRIZEL:

    “as well as providing translations of vast portions of the Chazaras HaShatz on RH and YK that were simply ignored in Birnbaum”

    vast? i admit that the last few years, coinciding with when i started using birnbaum, i’ve missed a lot of mussaf for babysitting duty, but i don’t recall it lacking as much as you imply in english. could be wrong.
    for davening purposes i much prefer birnbaum for its translation clarity and flow and its aesthetic simplicity. main grip is he doesn’t follow through on his promise to eliminate the need for page flipping.

  160. IH says:

    Please note that I am not saying Siddur Rinat Yisrael was the cause of these discussions, just that it catalyzed willful decision making. Just as ArtScroll is having an impact today (ref: Joseph Kaplan on October 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm)

  161. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “why so? because you theologically object to the line or because it tampers with established minhag?”

    Mainly the former (although I’m not sure I’d use the word theological), but with a tad of the latter. IOW, if we had continued saying that phrase for the past 400 years, while I might not be confortable with it I don’t think I’d feel strongly enopugh to advocate removing it from the liturgy. But once it was out of the liturgy for 400 year (even as a result of the censors), to reintroduce such an insulting phrase (sorry Tal you don’t seem to understand why saying others pray to nothingness and spit is different from saying that we are different from them — I guess calling it PC takes away the need for true analysis) teaches a lesson that I don’t think should be taught. But this is a battle that I think I’m losing.

  162. Steve Brizel says:

    Abba-compare Birnbaum and ArtScroll vis a vis HaMelech HaKadosh-which gives the Mispallel better halachic information?

  163. IH:

    “The adoption of Siddur Rinat Yisrael into American MO Yeshiva Day Schools and Shuls”

    come on, how many shuls (and schools?!) “adopted” rinat yisrael? i can’t speak for the 70s, but with regards to the 80s and beyond i think you are vastly exaggerating its use (and influence) in america.

  164. IH says:

    Abba — as far as I know, the Yeshiva Day Schools who were teaching Israeli Hebrew adopted it by the mid 1970s. It had the imprimatur of Misrad ha’Chinuch. It thus became the Artscroll for that segment of American MO because what the kids used at school became what was used at home.

  165. Tal Benschar says:

    (sorry Tal you don’t seem to understand why saying others pray to nothingness and spit is different from saying that we are different from them — I guess calling it PC takes away the need for true analysis)

    JK, perhaps you should supply us with your “analysis.” Seems rather thin to me. Always easier to “pound the table” and make an ad hominem attack than actually analyze something.

    First of all, nowhere does it say that one should spit.

    Second, as I quoted above, the prayer says a great deal more than we are “different” from them. We are thanking God for NOT making us like the gentiles. We have a different “portion” and a different “fate.” (chelkenu, goraleinu).

    Why are we better than the gentiles? Are we smarter? Genetically superior? Is there something inherenlty wrong with being a Gentile? As stated the prayer invites a racist interpretation.

    Including the phrase certainly denigrates other religions and faith systems (and I can certainly see how a priest would find it insulting), but not gentiles per se. All gentiles need do is accept the One God and they are perfectly fine — as indeed the very next paragraph of Alenu prays for the day when that will happen.

    So actually, counsel, it is not a matter of PC, it is a matter of analysis of what the words mean in context, and what the amended version can be read to mean.

  166. STEVE BRIZEL:

    “compare Birnbaum and ArtScroll vis a vis HaMelech HaKadosh-which gives the Mispallel better halachic information?”

    a) i asked you for clarification re. your statement about birnbaum lacking vast amount of translation. how is this relevant?
    b) i haven’t used artscroll for a while, please clarify what halachic info you are referring to (although i guess if i don’t know what you are talking about, its absence in birnbaum didn’t matter to me)

  167. ruvie says:

    its interesting to note the discussion on whether the elimination or restating in many shuls of “shehem mishtachavim..” is inertia or objecting to the sentence there can be no doubt why we say “shelo asani goy” according to the tosefta – not because of mitzvot (they have less than we do) but because of jewish superiority over other people: check out the quote(Tractate Berachot, Chapter 6, Tosefta 23)
    – גוי שנאמר (ישעיהו מ:יז) כל הגוים כאין נגדו מאפס ותהו נחשבו לו.
    has anyone seen a comment that objects to saying this beracha?

  168. Rafael Araujo says:

    “has anyone seen a comment that objects to saying this beracha?”

    Just follow the daily postings as moreorthodoxy and they’ll come around to this soon :)

  169. ruvie says:

    tal – “We are thanking God for NOT making us like the gentiles. We have a different “portion” and a different “fate.” ”

    according to the tosefta quoted above hahsem considers them a zero: translation of the tosefta above(plus a little more to compare with women):
    [The reason for saying a Beracha for not making him] a gentile is because it says ‘All nations are like nothing to Him. He considers them to be empty and void.’ (Yishayahu 40:17)6 [The reason for saying a Beracha for not making him] a woman is because women are not obligated in Mitzvot (commandments).”7

  170. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “JK, perhaps you should supply us with your “analysis.” Seems rather thin to me. Always easier to “pound the table” and make an ad hominem attack than actually analyze something.”

    Make you a deal; you make your argument without using calling something PC and I’ll supply my analysis.

  171. IH says:

    Ruvie — the words themselves, She’lo Asani Goy, are particularistand not insulting pe se.

  172. IH:

    “Abba — as far as I know, the Yeshiva Day Schools who were teaching Israeli Hebrew adopted it by the mid 1970s. It had the imprimatur of Misrad ha’Chinuch. It thus became the Artscroll for that segment of American MO because what the kids used at school became what was used at home.”

    my school, which would have been the first to use it, did not use it. i don’t recall seeing in shuls or in homes. (with the exception of my current shul i don’t think i’ve ever even seen it in a shul book case, unless a lone lost copy). i only knew about it because my father used it. i’m probably about 5-10 years younger than you, if that matters.

  173. IH says:

    The challenge with the other 2 is that the words themselves can reasonably be interpreted to be insulting.

  174. Tal Benschar says:

    JK — my argument was made in my posts at 4:31 and 5:18. Neither relied on the concept of PC. The term “PC” was mentioned as part of a throw away, parenthtical at the very end of the first post.”(Hope that some of the PC-niks don’t now decide to ditch Alenu!)”

    The term was mentioned in response to YOUR post at the end of the second. Neither posts incorporated that term in their analysis.

    So why don’t you just ignore those two sentences, and you will have my analysis. IF you need me to, I can cut and paste the prior posts, or just click on “Older comments.”

  175. Y. Aharon says:

    I, more or less, expected that my remarks on those lines in Aleinu would set off a vigorous reaction from the ‘usual suspects’. It should be unnecessary, but let me assure the readers of this blog that I have no problem with the Aleinu prayer other than the issue of reinserting the lines that had been omitted for centuries. Of course, we have every right to consider ourselves the ‘chosen people’ as is explicitly stated in the torah and nevi’im. However, that election is meant for the benefit of the nations (ohr goyim) and their education. That mission can’t be accomplished if we denigrate their monotheistic proclivities. Rather, our interest should be in teaching a more refined vision of the deity. After all, Tosafot ruled that Christians were not in the category of idol worshippers despite believing in a tripartite deity, one of whom appeared as a man. The Rambam considered that Islam and Christianity were on the path towards a kosher monotheistic religion. Accordingly, a distinction should be made between those who accept some form of monotheism and those who don’t. The lines in question make no such distinction. So, it’s not just a question of not causing offence to Muslims and Christians, but a question of being truthful in our prayers and in keeping our mission in mind.

  176. IH says:

    Abba — the 5-10 years are probably salient, but we are both trapped by our own expeiences here. Without some more objective external data, I don’t think there is much more to say. I am curious, though, why your father would have used it (the hardback B’nei Chul edition is copyrighted 1972).

  177. IH:

    a) he used the siddur because it was the zionist siddur
    b) he used the machzor because as a shaliach tzibbur on the yamim noraim he wanted a carefully edited edition

  178. S. says:

    Rafael Araujo

    “S – on akum, I disagree. We coopted the term and used it for ourselves, almost like African-Americans took the “n” word and use it among themselves to dilute the power of the word. In this instance, we have every reason to reinstate it except that some want to be politically correct and say that this is offensive to Christians and so leave it out. We use akum! Here, we DON’T use the phrase and keep it out. Big difference.”

    The problem is not the term, but that it messes up pshat in our literature, as does the promiscuous switching between terms like tzedoki, epikores, kusi and so forth (many of which were also implemented by censorship). I realize that in all cases we can’t know what it originally said, but it’s more than just an invented term. My point is that it came from the same censors and we continue to let it mess with the correct understanding of many things because we don’t know who the Gemara is talking about. In addition, when we use it ourselves we are not speaking in a classical rabbinic category, but in a category that has nothing to do with the Talmud. “Star and constellation worshippers” means what and whom exactly?

    As for whether it is offensive to Christians – of course it is, or can be. Note that I am not instructing Christians to be offended by it. They can feel free to not be offended by it.

    >This is a question Jews should be asking themselves? Seriously?

    I didn’t say we should spend too much time in it, but since we’re talking about it here – why not? If you have a good response why it isn’t, let’s here it. If you think it’s so outrageous that it doesn’t even deserve a response, say so.

    Tal Benschar

    >How about the part of Alenu that says as follows:

    Maybe it is offensive too. That’s not a “gotcha!”

    In any case, there’s a difference between shev ve’al ta’aseh and actively removing something. If it makes the whole thing more offensive, which is not an opinion I’m sure that I share, this was not noticed by those who demanded the censorship in the first place. I’m not sure, but I suppose it is possible that the Christians agreed that the Jews do not share the chelek and gorel with them.

    And yes, I’m aware of the irony of contemplating whether or not the people who were guilty of unwarranted antisemitism may have been right about the sentiment of a particular phrase. But the truth is the truth. It’s neither inherently offensive or inoffensive simply because of who was offended by it 300 years ago.

  179. Joseph Kaplan says:

    TB: Y. Aharon did a pretty good job but let me add the following. The thrust of the other lines in Aleinu is about us. And yes, it compares us to others, but this is a religious piece; we’re allowed to talk about our religion and say it is the true one. That’s what people whop take their religion seriously believe. But shehem… is not speaking about us; it is speaking only about them, and it is speaking about them in extremely derogatory terms (which are not used in the lines you referred to); spit and nothingness.

    Let me use a very mundane example. I’m a Yankee fan. If I say I’m happy I’m not a Red Sox fan (or a Met fan), I don’t think RS or Met fans would be particularly insulted. I think it’s better to be a Y fan and they think it’s better to root for their teams. Acceptable discourse. But if I said the Red Sox and Mets are a bunch of creeps and lowlifes they would have reason to be. Language is important and meaningful. And calling someone else’s God spit and nothingness is insulting. I don’t really know how to explain it any better than that.

    Or let me try this example. I wouldn’t mind if you said that you’re happy you married your wife and not mine. But I would be plenty angry if you called my wife a slut.

  180. S. says:

    As an example of what I was talking about above – although unfortunately it doesn’t pertain to “akum” – see the bottom of Shabbos 88a, where we see

    ההוא צדוקי דחזייה לרבא דקא מעיין בשמעתא ויתבה אצבעתא דידיה תותי כרעא וקא מייץ בהו וקא מבען אצבעתיה דמא א”ל עמא פזיזא דקדמיתו פומייכו לאודנייכו אכתי בפחזותייכו קיימיתו ברישא איבעי’ לכו למשמע אי מציתו קבליתו ואי לא לא קבליתו א”ל אנן דסגינן דסגינן בשלימותא כתיב בן תומת ישרים תנחם הנך אינשי דסגן בעלילותא כתיב בהו וסלף בוגדים ישדם

    There was a certain Sadducee who saw Raba engrossed in his studies while the finger[s] of his hand were under his feet, and he ground them down, so that his fingers spurted blood. ‘Ye rash people,’ he exclaimed, ‘who gave precedence to your mouth over your ears: ye still persist in your rashness. First ye should have listened, if within your powers, accept; if not, ye should not have accepted.’ Said he to him, ‘We who walked in integrity, of us it is written, The integrity of the upright shall guide them. But of others, who walked in perversity, it is written, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them.

    Now anyone reading this should immediately realize that it is not talking about a Sadducee at all. Say what you want about Sadducees, and even allowing that in Rava’s time another Jewish heretic could have been called a “Sadducee,” a Jew did not refer to other Jews as “you people.” Nor did he see his own ancestors as not being part of na’aseh ve-nishma, not even a Jewish heretic. This should be self-evident. But I once heard a talmid chochom build a whole drasha based on this Gemara, sort of a spin on the whole “lachem ve-lo lo” thing. Before I spoke to him about it I grabbed the quickest available thing which could shed light on it, which was an Ein Yaakov, and sure enough it said ההוא מינא, which means that he was not – or need not have been – Jewish at all. Later I looked and saw the Soncino points this out in their note, and Artscroll says nothing.

    Is it the end of the world? Not exactly. But don’t we take time and effort to correctly understand the Gemara? So it’s not utterly worthless. In this case it answers a difficulty which anyone should see with the text, and it also prevents a faulty drasha, which anyone in the audience should rightly have not been buying completely.

    For what its worth, note that in the Hebrewbooks Shas (text provided by Moznaim – Vagshal) the corrupt text is retained

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/shas.aspx?mesechta=2&daf=88b&format=text

    while in the Mechon Mamre version, it says “hahu mina.”

    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/b/l/l2109.htm

  181. IH says:

    Steve’s mention of the Birnbaum Machzor prompted me to look at the 1951 edition on my shelves. In the t’filla text, of course, it does not have She’hem Mishtachavim; but, the commentary for the respective Aleinu’s in RH Malchuyot and YK Avoda (pp. 377 & 807) includes the following:

    “Since the fourteenth century, incessant attacks were concentrated upon Alenu on account of the passage שהם משתחוים להבל וריק, ומתפללים לאל לא יושיע (“they worship vanity and emptiness and pray to a god that cannot save”). Hence this passage was deleted from the Ashkenazic prayerbooks. In Italian prayerbooks, however, it was changed to read שהיו instead of שהם and לאלילים instead of להבל וריק so that it clearly refers to the ancient pagans.”

    R. Freundel only references the tense change and footnotes Elbaum and Idelsohn as his source. I don’t own Elbaum, but my checked the Idelsohn Appendix 3 reference which confirms Birnbaum’s 2 changes.

    Interesting that the tense change — so controversial in regard to the Conservative Sim Shalom siddur – is a tactic borrowed from the Italian editing of She’hem Mishtachavim. And further to my point regarding the need for scrupulous intellectual honesty in discussing Shelo Asani Isha et al.

  182. MDJ says:

    Ramaz HS in the early 80′s used Rinat Yisrael.

  183. Þanbo says:

    MDJ: if you were at Ramaz HS in the early 1980s, we probably know each other. Send me an email at thanbo at gee mail dot com, let me know who you are.

    Jon Baker ’83

  184. [...] Feminism and Changes In Jewish Liturgy by R. Aryeh Frimer – Full text here and discussion here: link. [...]

  185. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Ruvie writes:
    The reason for saying a Beracha for not making him] a woman is because “women are not obligated in Mitzvot (commandments).”

    All the Rishonim learn that the intention is: “women are not obligated in ALL the Mitzvot (commandments).” Many actually have that as their girsa. See the notes of R. Shaul Lieberman ad. loc. in Tosefta.

  186. Aryeh Frimer says:

    I must admit that I was quite surprised that no Moreorthodoxy defendants picked up on my comment from October 16, 2011 at 6:33 am. I noted that if you look at Dikdukei Soferim (or Shinui Girsa’ot in Shteizalts)on Menahot 43b it is clear that all the Kitvei Yad and early printed editions have She-lo asani goy. It is only the later printed editions that have she-asani Yisrael [followed by she-lo asani Aved, Shelo asani Isha].

    It follows therefore that those, like Rabbis Lopatin and Kanefsky, who argue that we should le-khathila say she-asani Yisrael based on the censored editions – MUST follow this berakha with she-lo asani Aved and Shelo asani Isha. Because that is what the censored editions say!!!
    It’s only if you hold that the true proper reading is she-lo asani Goy, she-lo asani Aved, Shelo asani Isha – then be-di-avad, if you mistakenly said she-asani Yisrael there are poskim who hold that you are freed from the other berakhot.

    But you can’t simultaneously hold both contradictory positions: Say she-asani Yisrael le-khathilla AND Claim that it frees you from say SAA and SAI. It’s simply a tartei de-satrei (self-contradictory)!

  187. Shlomo says:

    Or perhaps, unlike many Jews, you have no issue with the Pope reviving the Tridentine Mass, as an example?

    1. The Catholic Church has been responsible for much violent antisemitism in the past. If a Jew ever quotes Aleinu as their justification for, say, attacking an Arab, then maybe I’d think about revising Aleinu.

    2. Are we really embarrassed to say that we think our religion is correct and others are incorrect? That’s all Aleinu says. My understanding is that Tridentine Mass goes further by attributing negative character traits to Jews.

    3. The “many” Jews who ask Catholics to revise their prayers tend to identify more with secular humanism than with halachic observance.

    willful decision making

    To repeat myself: Aleinu, even according to you historical narrative, was a decision between two existing customs, each with a serious justification (at this point). Shelo asani isha is a case of rejecting the only legitimate custom.

  188. Tal Benschar says:

    JK: The problem with your explanation is that it is simply not true to the text of Alenu. Even omitting she hem mishtakhavim, we are still stating something in the negative — we are thanking God for NOT making us like the Gentiles and not giving us their portion and fate. In another thread, you protested that the negative statement in she lo asani isha is insulting. The same applies here.

    That’s why your analogy about your wife in the following:

    Or let me try this example. I wouldn’t mind if you said that you’re happy you married your wife and not mine. But I would be plenty angry if you called my wife a slut.

    simply does not hold water, because you have changed the parameters from the prayer we are discussing.

    To use your analogy and make it more accurate, which of the following do you think is more or less insulting:

    1. Thank God I did not marry JK’s wife.

    2. Thank God I did not marry JK’s wife, she is a radical feminist, which I cannot stand.

    IMO, the first is the more insulting. It invites all kinds of speculation about what I think is wrong with your wife.

    Now obviously one can see it differently. Insults are in the eye of the beholder. As S. pointed out, the censors who demanded removing she hem mishtakhavim seemed to have been less bothered by the rest. But as to which is the more problematic, I think the omission can lead to a worse understanding, for the reasons I have already stated.

  189. IH says:

    Shlomo — there are excellent reasons to be very conservative in approaching changes to liturgy. But, let’s not be prissy about it. The Aleinu example demonstrates that we have been willing to self-censor prayers as old as She’lo Asani Isha. The Ashkenazim wholesale eliminated an integral sentence; and the Italians edited it to that it would not cause offense. And despite the lack of need for self-censorship today — and full knowledge of the history — many refuse to re-insert the original text. No one here has provided any compelling halachic reason why “She’lo Asani Isha” cannot be treated in the same way: i.e. in parentheses.

    RAF – you have a way with words that is sometimes off-putting. E.g. the royal “we” in your article/post; and in this morning’s comment, the phrase “Moreorthodoxy defendants”. Both are valid English, but also allow inferences to be made: correct or incorrect.

  190. Aryeh Frimer says:

    In the article, I cite R. Nissim Alpert and R. Zadok haKohen as to why these berakhot are formulated in the negative. Hazal wanted to communicate to us that the Creator only gives us the opportunity – He defines who we are not; it is up to us to define who we are and maximize our positive potential. I just discovered that a similar idea is expressed by R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, Birkei Yosef, O.H., sec. 46, end of no. 7.

  191. Aryeh Frimer says:

    IH,

  192. IH says:

    I should add there does not seem to be any evidence of halachic process (e.g. Sh’ut evidence) involved in the self-censorship of She’hem Mishtachavim. But, perhaps RAF can research it to defend his position…

  193. Aryeh Frimer says:

    IH,
    My apologies, that should have been “Moreorthodoxy Defenders.”

    As to the Royal “we,” it is the style used when writing scientific papers. Don’t infer anything from it. If I mean to insult someone (which is rare) there won’t be any doubts; they’ll know for sure! (:-)!

  194. MDJ says:

    R’ Frimer,
    This is not a scientific journal. There are many locutions that are standard in scientific literature, including excessive use of the passive voice, that have no place in other writing. Good scientific writing is often simply bad writing, and belongs nowhere but in scientific journals. It’s bad enough when I have to put up with it in it’s place. It’s appalling when scientific writing standards are used to defend non-scinetific writing.

  195. S. says:

    IH, Reform, Reform, Reform. Playing with the siddur was not an issue until liturgical change motivated by reform came into play. Yes, you find discussions and hasagot on some changes in the siddur before that, but that was the standard milchemta shel Torah. No one perceived those who made changes as descending down the slippery slope toward irreligion.

    But once you can’t put the genie back in the bottle without a radical change in the way the past 200 years of our history has been perceived. Reform. Goyish Judaism. This is exactly what the non-feminist Orthodox think about shelo asani isha, and they’re not going to change their mind about it. As you probably know, there was even a kerfuffle and a polemic about a single nikkud (geshem/ gashem), let alone an entire beracha.

  196. IH says:

    S. — so lets stop the subterfuge of articles such as this. I have no issue health debate, but no tolerance for intellectual dishonesty.

  197. Aryeh Frimer says:

    MDJ,
    That was a little over the top on the criticism regarding a style I apologized for. Deal with the arguments

  198. Aryeh Frimer says:

    IH
    intellectual dishonesty??????

  199. S. says:

    “S. — so lets stop the subterfuge of articles such as this. I have no issue health debate, but no tolerance for intellectual dishonesty.”

    That’s my opinion. It’s not necessarily conscious. Rabbi Frimer, for instance, is not being less than honest, God forbid!

  200. IH says:

    RAF — Yes, I believe I have been clear and consistent in my comments (typos, for which I apologize, aside). Deal with the argument.

    Gil — Yep, I respect your intellectually honest view as expressed there.

  201. IH says:

    S. — Agreed.

  202. MDJ says:

    R. Frimer,
    I agree it was a bit over the top, though I would note that I was not objecting to your use of “we” but to your justification of it as standard in scientific writing. As an editor, reviewer and consumer of scientific and philosphical academic writing, the fact that what passes as good writing there violates most of the conventions of actual good writing is a real peeve of mine. As for the substance, I have no comment on the argument, nor did I mean to imply that I do. Indeed, I don’t recall entering this debate at all in any substantive manner.

  203. Tal Benschar says:

    IH:

    The only one being intellectually dishonest is you. To compare removal of a line from Alenu due either to outright censorship by the non-Jewish world or very real fear of anti-semitism, to censorship of a berakha instituted by Chazal because it does not conform to the feminist zeitgeist is the height of intellectual dishonesty.

    That the issue of whether to put back she hem mishtachavim may have been discussed in your circles 30 years ago was not noticed by anyone, and given that the other nusach has been around for centuries and is mostly retained due to inertia makes the whole analogy utterly specious.

    I and S. have thoroughly debunked it above, and your use of it to attack R. Frimer as dishonest is contemptible.

  204. IH says:

    Tal – in this forum, arguments are intellectually dishonest; not people. And you have debunked nothing other than rehearsing what you wish to believe.

  205. IH says:

    Gil – I also applaud your intellectually view in the also germane: http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2007/07/nachem-nowadays-ii.html

  206. S. says:

    To add another wrinkle to the antisemitism angle, people may not appreciate just how immediate it was. Not deadly necessarily, but really harassing and very much real. Since we were talking about “akum” yesterday, how about the fact that R. Shabbetai Bass was arrested and tried (or perhaps deposed) for printing this book, which contained a certain poem (pg. 15 – 16 of the pdf). There were many problems that the authorities (egged on by the Jesuits in Prague) had with it, but this line specifically was singled out, “ואשרוף בית עכו”ם ובית המצרית.” “Akum,” you see, stood for עובדי כריסטוס ומרים, or so they said. R. Shabbetai was able to refute the charges and was acquitted and released. But this was the sort of menacing sword which lay over Jews in those times. Is it any wonder that they realized they had no choice but to make changes in their literature?

    You can read all about it, including R. Shabbetai’s examination and testimony in R. Sabbathai Bassista und sein Prozess by Ludwig Oelsner (Leipzig 1858).

  207. IH says:

    S. — Was the anti-Semitism any different than the 12th century period of the Crusades when Aleinu was introduced to the end of davening 3 times each day (instead of just during the Yamim Nora’aim)?

  208. IH says:

    “The use of Aleinu at the end of the prayer service beginning in the twelfth century – the era of the Crusades – opens up another chapter in its history. That is its role in the Christian-Jewish conflict of that time period. In 1171, the city of Blois, thirty-four Jewish men and seventeen Jewish women were burned at the stake because they refused to accept baptism. The contemporaneous records of this act of martyrdom tell of these Jews singing Aleinu with a ‘soul stirring’ melody as they gave their lives to sanctify God’s Name.”

    p. 228 R. Freundel’s “Why We Pray What We Pray”

  209. Steve Brizel says:

    Abba wrote:

    “) i haven’t used artscroll for a while, please clarify what halachic info you are referring to (although i guess if i don’t know what you are talking about, its absence in birnbaum didn’t matter to me”

    Birnbaum contains no halachic information as to whether the recitation of HaMelech HaKadosh is mandatory and what to do if one fails to recite the same. WADR, I think that Birnbaum’s entire presentation suffers from a lack of such important knowledge for the Mispalel.

  210. Steve Brizel says:

    Y Aharon wrote in part:

    “Of course, we have every right to consider ourselves the ‘chosen people’ as is explicitly stated in the torah and nevi’im. However, that election is meant for the benefit of the nations (ohr goyim) and their education”

    The above thesis would make sense if we recited a Birkas HaMitzvah on every mitzvah, including those, if I can paraphraseR Saadyah Gaon, that can be deemed rational or intellectual and capable of being understood easily and equally by Jew and Gentile. Yet, as per Rashba and other Rishonim, we recite a Birkas HaMitzvah on those mitzvos aseh that distinguish us from Gentiles. When one compares the nusach of any such Birkas HaMitzvah and so many other portions of the Nusach HaTefilah, the above thesis IMO cannot stand a sustained critique. As RYBS stated in many of his shiurim on RH, , we recite Malaciyos, Zicronos and Shofaros as a reinforcement of the uniqueness of the content to the Jewish People, as well as our fervent hope that all of the nations will recognize Malchus HaShem-as opposed to viewing other faith communities as having already done so.

  211. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-look at it this way-which portioons of the Siddur would you not place in parentheses because of your perception of their overly particularistic and insulting style? Which Halachos , Sugyos and sefarim would you advocate viewing or censoring and deeming beyond the pale of any serious student of Torah in the same way?

  212. S. says:

    “S. — Was the anti-Semitism any different than the 12th century period of the Crusades when Aleinu was introduced to the end of davening 3 times each day (instead of just during the Yamim Nora’aim)?”

    In the 12th century you could probably count the number of Christians in all of Northern and Western Europe who could read Hebrew on your hands and toes. Also, there hadn’t been hundreds of years of accumulated ethnographic studies on the Jews and Judaism in the 12th century. Also, printed books didn’t exist.

  213. IH says:

    And in the Maharil’s time (c. 1365 – 1427)?

    There are 2 references in Sefer Maharil per R. Freundel — that I have not not validated myself — which indicate She’hem Mishtachavim was self-censored by then.

  214. S. says:

    I’m not sure what your point is. There were real pressures from outside to censor the liturgy. The fact that you can find times and places where there was less pressure and the Jews were not censored or did not self-censor does not mean that when they did censor it that they could have or should have resisted it.

    Look, I don’t think removing shelo asani isha is the federal case that a lot of people seem to think it is, but the truth is that in much of Orthodoxy there just isn’t any internal or external pressure to remove it. So why would they? If they would believe that R. Weiss etc. weren’t trying to be the avante garde of Orthodoxy then they’d probably just ignore it altogether rather than being outraged.

  215. IH says:

    S. — my point is that if one takes RAF’s thesis seriously, then the fact that that we made a significant change to Aleinu (either by removal of a line, or by editing it to be less insulting) is not that poshut to wave away.

    To take it one step further, either Chazal’s original intent counts as a valid argument, or it doesn’t. And if it does, then the criterion needs to be shown to apply to other cases of prayers that are close in provenance to Shelo Asani Isha, such as Aleinu.

  216. IH says:

    For the record, I am not asking for Shelo Asanai Isha to be removed. RAF chose to attack those who defend the proposition that it is not outside the Pale of Orthodoxy. And, I challenge that polemic.

  217. IH says:

    S. — With respect, I also think your assumptions about the history are faulty.

    A lynchpin of RAF’s thesis is that of his reading of Chazal’s intent. Aleinu, with She’hem Mishtachavim, was written in times of violent oppression of Jews and codified into daily prayer at a time of violent oppression. So, I see no justification for concluding that saying She’hem Mishtachavim due to the threat of anti-Semitism is congruent with the intent of Chazal which was subsequently solidified by Rishonim. And we have no record of any halachic process for its removal by Acharonim despite the intent of Chazal. In other words, it is likely the decision to remove or Conservative-style edit the line was a socio-political decision rather than a halachic one.

    So, if RAF is correct in his thesis, then we should also be seeing articles in Hakira et al. criticizing those radical ecumenists who dare violate the intent of Chazal in regard to She’hem Mishtachavim. Or, perhaps, this criterion of original intent is not one that is taken seriously outside of the context of slamming the so–called “radical feminists”.

  218. MO says:

    There is an important different between Shelo Asani Ishah and Shehem Mishtachvaim– The fact that Shelo Asani Ishah is in the Bavli.

    While Shehem Mishtachvim may be as old as Shelo Asani Ishah, as the Rambam notes in the introduction to the Mishneh Torah the Bavli has special authority because it was accepted by all of Israel.

    While decisions of later poskim and codes can be rejected it is much more problematic to remove a halakha laid down by the Bavli.

    For that reason I think that a much more promising strategy is to change “sheasani Kirtzono.”

  219. IH says:

    justification for concluding that NOT saying

  220. IH says:

    MO — accepted, but it is not in the Bavli as Tefilla b’tzibur; or even Birkot ha’Shachar, if memory serves.

  221. Joseph Kaplan says:

    There have now been 221 comments. I wonder if anyone has had their minds changed even a little bit. (I admit that mine was not.)

  222. Ruvie says:

    Mo – ” While decisions of later poskim and codes can be rejected it is much more problematic to remove a halakha laid down by the Bavli.”

    Interesting point. Can we ignore halachot inscribe in the Bavli even though it’s authoritative? I think we do – but how often and when and why is the question – just see which halachot the rambam ignored as an example. How about those child marriages in the middle ages without the consent of the young maiden – really against the the Halacha laid down n the Bavli and so on. There is a precedent ( not that I think it should be applied here, btw).

  223. MO says:

    Ruvie:

    I didn’t claim that we never ignore/reject a halakha laid down in the Bavli, just that it is more problematic to do so. My point was that comparing censoring the Aleinu to rejecting shelo asani ishah is an imprecise analogy because of the special authority that the Bavil possesses.

  224. Steve Brizel says:

    I posed the following queestions to IH:

    “IH-look at it this way-which portioons of the Siddur would you not place in parentheses because of your perception of their overly particularistic and insulting style? Which Halachos , Sugyos and sefarim would you advocate viewing or censoring and deeming beyond the pale of any serious student of Torah in the same way?”

    I await IH’s answer.

  225. IH says:

    Steve — see: IH on October 18, 2011 at 9:27 am

  226. Aryeh Frimer says:

    IH,
    The difference between She-lo Asani Isha (SAI) and She-hem Mishtahavim (SHM)is very simple. In the case of SAI it is a 3 word berakha. It is forbidden to change the text leKhathilla and if one does it changes the thrust and intent of the berakha – as I argue at length in the paper. Hence I am NOT yotsei even be-di-avad.

    In the case of Aleinu in Yom Kippur Davening, it was forbidden to change the text and it was only done under duress. But the change occurred in a very long berakha. The meaning and thrust of the berakha remained unchanged. Hence, bediavad one is yotsei.

  227. Shlomo says:

    S. — my point is that if one takes RAF’s thesis seriously, then the fact that that we made a significant change to Aleinu (either by removal of a line, or by editing it to be less insulting) is not that poshut to wave away.

    Maybe changing Aleinu was wrong (I wonder: what about the “shaat hashmad” halacha?). But in certain cases, customs can become binding even if they shouldn’t have come into existence in the first place. The debate over reverting Aleinu nowadays is a debate over whether it is such a case. Changing “shelo asani isha” nowadays would be a second wrong, and two wrongs don’t add up to a right. (Though three rights add up to a left…)

    There have now been 221 comments. I wonder if anyone has had their minds changed even a little bit. (I admit that mine was not.)

    If not among the commenters, then perhaps among the readers :)

  228. IH says:

    RAF — a) sources please; b) but, your thesis in this article is intent — to which I am objecting.

    Shlomo — the fact remains there are Orthodox kehillot that do not say She’hem Mishtachavim out of conviction, not due to minhag. This is the similarity to the brouhaha over Shelo Asani.

  229. IH says:

    On the broader topic of changing minds, that comment could be made about any thread here: controversial or not. What I am hopeful we each get out of the exercise is a better understanding of the other side on any given topic and an opportunity to fine-tune our own thinking.

    The Talmud gives us model to which many of us aspire, but do not always succeed:

    מפני מה זכו בית הלל לקבוע הלכה כמותן
    מפני שנוחין ועלובין היו
    ושונין דבריהן ודברי בית שמאי
    ולא עוד שמקדימין דברי בית שמאי לדבריהן

    Yasher Koach to Gil for making this possible. Chag Sameach.

  230. Aryeh Frimer says:

    IH,
    Sources are in the Hakira article
    http://www.hakirah.org/Vol%2012%20FrimerA.pdf
    Pitka tava and Hag Sameah

  231. Steve Brizel says:

    I asked IH twice what sections of the Nusach HaTefillah he would not encapsulate in brackets or parentheses as being overly fundamentalistic, or worse.

    IH referred me to the following post:

    “Shlomo — there are excellent reasons to be very conservative in approaching changes to liturgy. But, let’s not be prissy about it. The Aleinu example demonstrates that we have been willing to self-censor prayers as old as She’lo Asani Isha. The Ashkenazim wholesale eliminated an integral sentence; and the Italians edited it to that it would not cause offense. And despite the lack of need for self-censorship today — and full knowledge of the history — many refuse to re-insert the original text. No one here has provided any compelling halachic reason why “She’lo Asani Isha” cannot be treated in the same way: i.e. in parentheses”

    WADR, I asked for all or as many sections of the Tefila that IH would elect for such a treatment based on his POV other than Aleinu or the two brachos that have occupied this thread so far. IMO, the above quoted post begs the question and fails to answer my query.

  232. IH says:

    Steve — I like Nusach ha’Ari as there are a lot of parentheses to choose from :-)

  233. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote:

    “Steve — I like Nusach ha’Ari as there are a lot of parentheses to choose from”

    IH-WADR, I asked you which Brachos, Tefilos, Sugyos, and Sefarim you would think deserve to be treated with parentheses. A retort to Nusach HaAri, especially since we both share the same views on Chabad messianism, IMO strikes me as again begging the question.

  234. IH says:

    Steve — when you ask serious questions, I answer them. When you ask whether I’ve stopped beating my wife yet, I answer (or not) accordingly. Chag Sameach.

  235. IH says:

    I will say that if one is not challenged, or sometimes disturbed, by the literal meaning of at least some of our liturgy — and it is different for different individuals — that person is almost certainly not thinking about the words.

  236. IH says:

    The issue for some people, both with She’hem Mishtachavim and with Shelo Asani Isha, is when (as Gil wrote in Nachem Nowadays II):

    “The Gemara (Yoma 69b) relates how Jeremiah and Daniel deviated from Moshe’s formulation of prayer (“Ha-Kel Ha-Gadol Ha-Gibor Ve-Ha-Nora”) because they saw destruction and exile that seemed to contradict God’s greatness and awesomeness. The Gemara explains that God’s seal is truth and these two sages could not bring themselves to lie about him. R. Eliyahu Dessler (Michtav Me-Eliyah, vol. 3 p. 276) explains that both Jeremiah and Daniel believed in God’s greatness and awesomeness. However, because of what they saw they could not truly feel it and therefore could not honestly say it, even though they believed it to be true.

    [...] we can’t lie to God and contradict our feelings.”

  237. IH says:

    RAF’s answer, if I may be so bold, is that in regard to Shelo Asani Isha it is because these individuals do not properly understand the bracha. But, the fact remains that there are Talmedei Chachamim for whom that just doesn’t work.

  238. Steve Brizel says:

    IH-You stated on numerous posts in this thread that certain Tefilos ( two Brachos of Birchos HaShachar and one verse in Aleinu),should not be recited because of a purported need for sensitivity towards women, the instance of Shelo Asani Ishah and non Jews, in the context of Alenu, as well as IIRC Shelo Asani Goy ( which can and should be changed as per RHS to Akum, because the term “Goy” in Chumash and Tanach refers to the “Goy Echad”, namely Klal Yisrael).

    I challenged the basis of that statement because IMO, such a premise cannot be reconciled with any Mitzvah that requires a Birkas HaMitzvah, and that much of Nusach HaTefilah, the bedrock formulation of all Brachos, and especially any Birchas HaMitzvah rests on the unique relationship between HaShem and Klal Yisrael, and asked you what such Brachos, Tefilos, Sugyos and Sefarim you would relegate to having parentheses or brackets to satisfy the need for sensitivity.

    On two separate occasions, I asked for a simple answer-what is the outer limit of your premise and provide us with some examples where such logic would take the editor of a Siddur or Machzor that would satisfy your sensitivities.

    Evidently, you prefer not to directly answer the question, and now view the same as the equivalent of “When you ask whether I’ve stopped beating my wife yet, I answer (or not) accordingly”, as if I assumed that I had the answer to the question before I phrased it-which WADR, was not my intent, but rather to continue the discussion, and see if there were any other such Tefilos that you would subject to an intellectual or emotional litmus test of your own sensibilities, and suggest that the same be relegated to a parenthesis or brackets that the same are at best of an optional nature?

    However, as a semi or quasi answer, you wrote:

    “I will say that if one is not challenged, or sometimes disturbed, by the literal meaning of at least some of our liturgy — and it is different for different individuals — that person is almost certainly not thinking about the words”

    I would preliminarily observe that RYBS viewed the Siddur and Machzor as stating many elements of Yesodei Emunah or Hashkafa 101. Given that starting point, IMO, we may at last be getting to the crux of the issue-which aspects of which portions of the “literal meaning of at least some of our liturgy — and it is different for different individuals” prompt such a reaction? Are the sections that you hinted at those that proclaim the unique relationship between HaShem and Klal Yisrael?

    I would agree that if one reads the words of the Siddur or Machzor without either going word for word through the classical commentaries or attending or listening to shiurim that explicate the same, you will feel challenged or disturbed. Having seen the fact that you are far from unaware of the same, I now ask -what aspects of the literal text of the Tefilos, as explicated by the classical commentaries or by great Talmidei Chachamim, leave you challenged or disturbed?

  239. IH says:

    “You stated on numerous posts in this thread that certain Tefilos ( two Brachos of Birchos HaShachar and one verse in Aleinu),should not be recited because of…”

    Steve — I think you have misread my comments. All I have said that:

    a) One can reasonably compare Orthodoxy’s lack of reaction to those who refrain from saying She’hem Mishtachavim with the polemical reaction to those who refrain from saying Shelo Asani Isha.

    b) Healthy debate is good and proper; but, name-calling polemics are unwise particularly when the arguments they employ can be questioned as to their intellectual integrity.

    My comments about parentheses were in the context of noting the OU Koren Siddur’s use (and comparing it to other Siddurim/Machzorim) and I made the forecast that perhaps in the future we will see similar treatment of Shelo Asani Isha in a Koren edition.

    Before Chag I do not have time to review all my comments in this thread, but I recall one other reference in which my intent (and I hope my words) were that Orthodoxy should be tolerant of those who treat Shelo Asani Isha as if it were in parentheses for the reasons I explained most recently at 1:07pm.

    Your attempt to personalize it is out of bounds.

  240. IH says:

    Steve — So what does your Yesodei Emunah or Hashkafa 101 tell you is the meaning for these 2 politically uncontroversial excerpts from Kriyat S’hma u’Virchoteha on Shabbat:

    הָאֵל הַפּותֵחַ בְּכָל יום דַּלְתות שַׁעֲרֵי מִזְרָח. וּבוקֵעַ חַלּונֵי רָקִיעַ. מוצִיא חַמָּה מִמְּקומָהּ. וּלְבָנָה מִמְּכון שִׁבְתָּהּ. וּמֵאִיר לָעולָם כֻּלּו וּלְיושְׁבָיו. שֶׁבָּרָא בְּמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים

    and

    הַמִּתְגָּאֶה עַל חַיּות הַקּדֶשׁ. וְנֶהְדָּר בְּכָבוד עַל הַמֶּרְכָּבָה. זְכוּת וּמִישׁור לִפְנֵי כִסְאו. חֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים מָלֵא כְבודו

    Since you seem so confident you know the emes, perhaps you can improve my kavana.

  241. IH says:

    FWIW, the Artscroll RCA Edition Siddur also has She’hem Mishtachavim in parantheses.

  242. Steve Brizel says:

    Ih-Shavua Tov/Gut Voch!-I don’t pretend to know the emes, but Tefilos do consitute a great portion of basic Hashkafic bedrock.
    The first excerpt that you quoted merely underscores that the Divinely inspired creative process continues via tecnological and scientific developments on a daily basis. See Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo for a well known elucidation of this concept.

    See Nsiv Binah Vol.2,Page 197 for comments by R Y Yakovson ZL re a possible understanding of the excerpt of the Piyut Kel Adon that you cited as noted by Baer, Avudraham, , which refer to the same as Divine Attributes that man must emulate and acquire. (I would welcome your insight as well as that of R Larry Kaplan with respect to the reference to Yad :Yesodei HaTorah 3:9 on Page 198)

    Alternatively, I would note that R M Wohlgemuth ZL in “A Guide to Jewish Prayer” states at pages 112-113 that the acrostic piyut Kel Adon discusses the sun and moon, as well as the other visible planets, as a means of stressing that the planets have no power on their own, but rather their task is to carry out God’s will and to strengthen our faith in HaShem.

    I would also add the obvious point that RYBs noted that any Tefilah that is composed in an alphabetic or similar format merely is man’s expression of his awareness that human language cannot be possibly complete enough for man to praise God( See The Lord is Righteous in all of His Ways, at Page 134).

  243. IH says:

    Shavua Tov, Steve. Thanks. You do realize, I’m sure, the first verse is a reflection of Babylonian cosmology as reflected in the Talmud (ref: RNS’ monograph The Sun’s Path at Night). The second is a reflection of midrashic Heichalot literature that is sprinkled throughout our davening. Both of which literal concepts are challenging/disturbing to the Rambam-infused hashkafa that we claim is normative.

    The point being that your mantra of “Yesodei Emunah or Hashkafa 101” is problematic in regard to T’filla. As per the quotation from Ibn Ezra that I shared on October 12, 2011 at 5:52 pm, “When we pray, it is forbidden to inject into our prayers piyuttim, the basic meaning of which we do not understand. We should not rely on the goodwill of the author, since there is no one who does not sin, and whose sin might not be continued by the copyists.” But, of course, this is not what we do – we do rely on them for a significant portion of our liturgy.

  244. Rabbi Frimer,

    I apologize if seemed I made short shrift of the halakhic part of your essay by strongly disagreeing earlier without fully explaining. I was responding to a commentator and not to you. Your request for clarification in the comments was certainly right.

    In general, I has enormous respect for your expertise and writing on halakhic topics, and have gained much from reading them in the past (even in cases where I didn’t agree). The problem is that in this particular case I do not think the halakhic part was done well at all: You took an extremely complicated and nuanced halakhic sugya and presented it in a way that was both oversimplified and biased.

    However, when I tried to write a brief response during the insanity of the chagim I found that it wasn’t worthwhile, and that what was needed was a way to at least make people aware of the complexity of the issue. I’m now trying to put together some sort of a meaningful response that may appear as an independent blog post in response.

  245. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Dear Seth,
    Yiyasher Koach on you clarification. Yes this is a very complicated sugya. I tried to set down the ground rules as clearly as I could and as I understood them. I don’t believe that Prof. Sperber would disagrees about the rules I set down. Nor did he do so in the debate (Book Launch) we had on the subject at Lander college in Jerusalem, last January. See: “Feminism and Changes in Jewish Liturgy – A Review of R. Prof. Daniel Sperber’s On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations,” Lander Institute, Jerusalem, Jan. 13, 2011. For the audio of the entire book launch (2 lectures and R. Sperber’s response), see: http://www.zshare.net/audio/90903527c94eb4a2/.
    Kol Tuv. I’ll try to keep my eyes open for your comments.

  246. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote:

    “You do realize, I’m sure, the first verse is a reflection of Babylonian cosmology as reflected in the Talmud (ref: RNS’ monograph The Sun’s Path at Night). The second is a reflection of midrashic Heichalot literature that is sprinkled throughout our davening. Both of which literal concepts are challenging/disturbing to the Rambam-infused hashkafa that we claim is normative.

    The point being that your mantra of “Yesodei Emunah or Hashkafa 101” is problematic in regard to T’filla. As per the quotation from Ibn Ezra that I shared on October 12, 2011 at 5:52 pm, “When we pray, it is forbidden to inject into our prayers piyuttim, the basic meaning of which we do not understand. We should not rely on the goodwill of the author, since there is no one who does not sin, and whose sin might not be continued by the copyists.” But, of course, this is not what we do – we do rely on them for a significant portion of our liturgy”

    IH-RYBS was clearly aware of Ibn Ezra’s position, which reflects Ibn Ezra’s views on Midrashim in his commentary on Chumash in many places, but commented on many different occasions that Piyutim enriched our understanding of the Kedushas HaYom in terms of Halacha and Hashkafa. I would argue that IBn Ezra’s views were never accepted by the Paytanim whose Piyutim, etc focus on the key elements of the Yamim Noraim and the themes of Gadlus HaAdam and Shiflus Adam that one finds therein.

    WADR, while the Rambam posits a rational POV, the same is by no means normative or dominant. RYBS once commented that he wondered what Sefardim did all day on RH and YK without Piyutim that explicated and highlighted the the Kedushas Hayom.

    I would argue that there are certainly Halachos in the Yad and Perush HaMishnah which cannot be reconciled with a purely rational POV ( see Yesodei HaTorah 8:1, Teshuvah 7, 8, 10; see also the comments on Rambam’s views why a Jewish husband is expected to willingly give his wife a get, and the comments of Rmbam at the end of Maseces Makos-all of which cannot be viewed as Drush B’ alma)I would also contend that one can find exploration of Gadlus HaAdam and Shiflus HaAdam as well as Malchiyios, Zicronos and Shofaros in the very structure of Hilcos Teshuvah.

    The fact that we have a strong Midrashic tradition proves that there were other equally valid POVs utilized in many Aggadic and Midrashic passages, which renders them inspiring in the context of Tefilah , important in Hashkafa, but which were never considered by the Rishonim as binding or to be treated with the same gravity. As R C Eisen points out in a superb article in Hakirah, Maharal’s major chidush, which was certainly not known by the Rov Binyan UMinyan of Rishonim and Mfarshim, was the demand that Aggadic and Midrashic passages, even those which had no connection with Pshat, be given the same weight as Halacha and Yesodei HaDaas.

  247. orthodox feminist says:

    The discussion of these topics is both theoretical and moot. There is in Orthodoxy no real formal social, political or halachic mechanism for changing the prayers. That is why they stay the same, with latitude for local variations, despite the obvious need for thoughtful and reasoned reform. Sperber and Frimer and others here ought to address and resolve this weakness, rather than spin their wheels in pilpul.

  248. Jon Baker says:

    R’ Frimer:

    I only read this thread over Shmini Atzeret, and I’m somewhat surprised at the apparent methodological flaws in it. I don’t think earlier commentators have addressed these issues.

    My basic problem is this: is it normal method, Professor, to ignore almost all the empirical data, decide on a conclusion based on theory, and to use theoretical and textual sources primarily from one side of the argument?

    I will explain:

    1) You claim that there is no variation in the first three or last three berachot of the Shmoneh Esreh after the time of the Geonim. But the Geniza manuscripts, as well as various Ashkenazi siddurim from all over Europe, from the Comtat Venaissin to current Duchening and Friday night davening, all testify to the opposite.

    Meanwhile, you dismiss the whole enterprise of historical textual evidence, which R’ Sperber quoted extensively, in part of a footnote [38]. Dismiss it, apparently, unread – did you read Luger on the Geniza evidence for the Shmoneh Esreh? You said above that you hadn’t read Kadish, which has been a major source on such issues for over a decade. Just because it was not addressed or ordained in the theoretical (halachic) texts does not make differing practice invalid – viz. Dr Gra”ch’s famous “Rupture and Reconstruction”.

    2) In favor of a singular text for the first/last 3 brachot, you cite the Rambam (who has been shown by Dr Kadish to be a daat yachid), apparently supported by later Sephardi rishonim – Ritva, Rashba, Mechaber. And that text, of course, is the Bavli text, which has become dominant since the efforts of Tosafot in the Middle Ages to promote the Talmud Bavli as the pre-eminent halachic text.

    Meanwhile, the Avignon siddur of 1760 has a very different text for Retzeih. Being in the south of France, much of the rest of the nusach is heavily influenced by Spanish nusach, and looks much more like Sefardi nusach in the intermediate brachot, but Retzeih retains the old Eretz Yisrael heavy emphasis on the Temple service.

    So it’s hard to say, based on the empirical (puk chazi) evidence, that everything was set in stone “as it was in the beginning, so it is and ever shall be.” (T’Pau, “Amok Time”).

    3) The fact that Sephardi (Abudraham, R Yehuda b. Yakar, R Amram Gaon, and Rambam of the “official text” theory all have the same text simply reflects their common origin in Bavel minhag. Only one source you cite is from Ashkenaz, the Mahzor Vitri. And looking at the Seder R Amram Gaon, I don’t see how you can use him as a textual witness to the unchanging text – the first two brachot are mostly ellipses (BA”Y elokeinu v’elokei avoteinu … koneh hacol … BA”Y magen avraham), and the third is completely different from ours.

    So your sources for a singular unchanging text consonant with current versions, seem to come from mostly one side of the argument (bavel, with almost nothing from Ashkenaz or Eretz Yisrael, whose community and minhag didn’t die out until the 13th century), and further, don’t even lack for variations among themselves.

    Also, Ashkenaz has been somewhat more fluid than Bavel with the text and existence of Brachot. You dismiss the positive formulations of the morning brachot as non-standard, even though they’re attested in various printed and ms. siddurim, but don’t seem to address the much more controversial issue of brachot in nusach Ashkenaz that are not attested in the Gemara, such as she’asani kirtzono itself, and hanotein laya’eif koach. So once again, empirical evidence is against you, while theory is with you.

    Now. For the most part I don’t disagree with your conclusions: 1) there’s a big difference between changing a 5-word bracha, and adding a phrase to Aleinu that was only removed because of censorship and/or eivah; 2) the scriptural/literary reasons for not adding the Imahot are pretty darn strong; 3) I don’t see any great problem with the more/less mitzvot explanation for Shelo asani isha. Although my wife’s rationale also makes sense (we don’t have to go through the mess and pain of periods, even the infertile who have no real hope of bearing children).

    But to argue based on halachic grounds that it is impermissible to change the texts of the brachot of the Amidah flies in the face of much empirical evidence, which your review did not adequately address.

  249. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Dear Jon,
    There is an enormous amount of scholarship in your posting but I have chosen not to deal with each of your excellent points. Let me just note, that as far as the geniza fragments go – we know nothing or very little about their authorship and timing. Hence it is impossible to place them in any halakhic framework. What we do know is that they were NOT accepted leHalakha. And while they are historically interesting they have essentially become halakhically irrelevant.

    My major point is that we don’t live in the pre-geonic period and as Orthodox Jews are bound by the Halakhic process. What was true 2500 years ago is not true now. R. Sperber would like to have total flexibility, but as I point out from the Rambam, Kessef Mishneh, Shulhan Arukh down to the Mishna Berura – there are rules about where and how to add prayers. And these were accepted by the Poskim for more than a thosand years.

    If you go from Eida to Eida, you will find very few substantive differences in the Berakhot and Shemoneh Esrei. If everyone could do as he/she liked we would have am infinate number of variations. BUT WE DO NOT! What ever differences we observe have been around for 700-1000 years if not more. R. Prof. Sperber lives in the 21st century and he is bound by the rules of Shulkhan Arukh and the codes. I demonstrate in my review that he violates the rules as we have them. The fact that the situation may well have been more fluid two millenia ago may be true – but that is totally irrelevant to an orthodox Jew of the 21st century.

    Jon, if you essentially agree with my bottom line on the three points I tackled in this review – then I don’t think I was that much off the mark.

  250. Jon Baker says:

    Well, if you’re going to continue to uphold theory over practice, as this response does, I can’t say anything – your current agenda to quash the “excesses” of LWMO has blinded you to very obvious understandings of the facts that take into account *all* the facts, including the empirical data.

    You say “they were NOT accepted lehalacha” – which is exactly my point, that halacha does not always determine “correct” practice. Look at, e.g., feeding the ducks at tashlich. For hundreds of years, from the middle ages down to my old LOR in Park Slope, rabbis have railed against feeding the ducks/fish at tashlich – they’re not your animals, you can’t feed them on Yom Tov, taking food for them is muktzeh. But parents still take food for the kids to feed the ducks or fish.

    Or how about the royte bendel? The earliest source to mention it, the Tosefta, calls it “darchei Emori”, but lots of people today beyond the Bergian “Kabbalists” wear them. Or Kapporos, which the Mechaber wants to abolish as darchei emori, but the Rema permits davka because it’s what people do, and is an ancient custom.

    So too here, the same shift to current text which you read as evidence that the other texts were “not lehalacha”, I read (given that as late as 1760 there still was no standard text, and that alternate texts for the first and 17th brachot continue to exist in Friday night and Duchening services in nusach Ashkenaz) that *in conjunction with this other empirical data* as saying that the Rambam’s (and thus the Shulchan Aruch’s) strictures on changing those texts is not adhered to in Ashkenazic communities.

    As for conscious changing of the tefillah text, I dispute your claim that “But nowhere do we find examples where, under normative conditions, leading scholars consciously corrupted what they knew to be a perfectly proper text—so as to correspond to some passing fancy or ideology.” I see the Chasidic shift to “nusach sefard” as exactly such a conscious corruption. Because “nusach sfard” is neither true Sephardi nusach nor true Ashkenazi nusach, but a compromise. Nusach Ari is yet a further compromise between NS and NA. I davened out of a Tehillat Hashem recently, and the text is somewhere in between Artscroll’s NS and NA.

    The Ari introduced changes for ideological reasons as well, not to mention the siddur printers, confusion over rabbinic writings, etc. (Daniel Frisch says in Usfartem Lachem that the siddur printers basically introduced the whole sefiros thing for Sefiras haOmer; a series of misunderstandings of letters about the Ari because of misprints gives us the hakafos service on Simchas Torah the way we have it – see Yaari, Toldot Chag S”T).

    Further, by the same token as that by which you say that the Eretz Yisroel Nusach was “NOT accepted leHalakha”, I’d say exactly the opposite – that shifting nusach, the process of changing nusach, whether for personal or ideological reasons, *is* accepted beyond the Sephardim. You look at the text, and say “what I say is the One Right Text”, I look at the texts and see that the *process* of changing texts is integral to post-, as well as pre-Shulchan-Aruch practice.

    So, on empirical (and since puk chazi is part of the halachic process) and thus halachic grounds, I don’t see that there’s a halachic reason for Ashkenazim to reject addition of the Imahot. Literary reasons, aggadic reasons, yes, but not halachic. Esp since we see that within the past 250 years, chassidim have consciously tinkered with the tefillah text for ideological reasons. Your vaunted stability since “pre-geonic times” does not exist.

    If they are not nevi’im, they are benei nevi’im (bnot nevi’im?). Why not a limud zchus, rather than a harsh rejection?

    Anyway, late for shacharit again – I’ve been davening at an NS place, despite being basically NA. The “ideology” here being that the NS place has a 7:45 minyan, every day, while Slabodka, while NA, is often closed on school breaks, and I never seem to know when those will be.

    Have you noticed that Modim Derabbanan is substantially different between NS and NA? That’s the 18th bracha. More/less emphasis on the quid-pro-quo nature of the text, which acc. to R Brill, is not supposed to be part of Jewish prayer – bakashos are not petitionary (quid pro quo) prayer.

  251. Jon Baker says:

    P.S. ignore that last paragraph, it was entirely wrong. I don’t see substantial differences between Ashk and Seph Modim Derabbanan. It’s still puzzling to me, since the last 3 are supposed to be hodaah, not bakasha, and we’re not supposed to pray for a quid pro quo, but there it is – universally said since the gemara despite “structural” or “ideational” required content.

  252. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Jon,
    My secret is out. I am a Halakhic Jew. I thought that was what Orthodoxy was all about. Yes, I admit it: I follow Shulkhan Arukh especially if the Nosei Kelim concur. I’m sorry if that throws a wrench into Prof. Sperber’s attempt to be creative.

  253. IH says:

    I think that last comment nicely sums up the subject. Thank God for the real Halakhic Jews like Prof. Frimer.

  254. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Jon,
    I want to publicly apologize if my sarcastic comments to you reflected any zilzul of your or R. Sperber’s scholarship.

    However, regarding your specific charge that Chassidut consciously changed what they knew to be perfectly correct texts – this is something we will have to agree to disagree on. As I argue in the article, the Ari, his students and subsequent followers (Admorim Hassidim; mekubalim) – stated explicitly that they were moving back to a more authentic text. What’s more, their changes did not undermine the original intent of the berakha, and hence, as indicated by the Kesef Mishne and many others, were valid bediavad . As I have argued, the changes Prof. Sperber proposes are totally different. They are theologically unsound and run contrary to Hazal’s intent. Hence such changes would not have been valid even bediavad. These proposed changes are by no means new proposals. They have been in the air for close to 50 years – and have been soundly rejected by the gedolei yisrael, in part for the reasons I delineate. As I cite in my article, several scholars from the conservative movement, like Prof. Golinkin, have rejected some of them as well. R. Prof. Sperbers resurrection of these proposals does not make them any more valid.

  255. Richard Kahn says:

    Prof. Frimer,

    The GRA made plenty of emendations to the siddur, among other texts, and he did not see himself as returning to some earlier, more authentic text. Do you dispute this?

  256. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Richard,
    The Gra’s emendations were minor and all attempts to return to a more authentic text. He generally based his changes on Shinui Girsa’ot or Talmud Yerushalmi. He did not, as Prof. Sperber is attempting to do, take a perfectly good, well-documented text, certainly not a berakha established by Hazal, and change it.

  257. Rafael Araujo says:

    Agree. Take a look at the new Siddur HaGRA. There is not much difference between Nusach HaGRA and Nusach Ashkenaz.

  258. IH says:

    Prof. Frimer — Sorry, is it Rabbi Sperber or Prof. Sperber?

  259. Aryeh Frimer says:

    IH,
    It is Rabbi Prof. Sperber. He has smicha from Yeshivat Kol Torah in Israel, earned a doctorate from University College, London in the departments of Ancient History and Hebrew Studies. And is a Prof. Emeritus in Talmud at Bar Ilan University. In 1992, Sperber won the Israel Prize, for Jewish studies. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Sperber We have served together on a variety of Committees. He is a wonderful scholar and a genuine ba’al middot. Despite our sparring on women’s issues, we get along personally very well .

  260. IH says:

    As you are aware, the title “Prof.” has been used in Jewish Cultural Wars by Orthodox Rabbis to avoid calling Rabbis of other denominations (even those with Orthodox smicha) their due.

    I trust from your response that you categorically consider Rabbi Prof. Sperber wholly Orthodox, even though you spar with him on halachic issues related to women.

  261. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Yes

  262. [...] A reply to Rabbi Aryeh Frimer, “The Wrong Changes in Jewish Liturgy” [...]

  263. Geoffrey says:

    As always, hiding from the Reform movement, the Jewish movement that invented liturgical reform, demanded the inclusion and equality of women in worship, and has discussed all the reasons for change. And, may I add, the fundamental pity of all this intellectual energy spent to defend humanly destructive ideas within our tradition. I don’t care what Toraitic or rabbinic rationales you offer, our traditional liturgy ignores and degrades the status of Jewish women. All the erudition you can muster just become a good mind devoted to rationalizing bad ideas.

  264. Feminist says:

    By appending the adjective “radical” to all mention of feminists, the author not-so-subtly tries to undermine the legitimacy of women’s claims about the discriminatory nature of Orthodox Judaism. Orthodox batei knesset are clubs in which half the population is not allowed to wear the uniform (tallit/tefillin), not allowed to participate in club activities (kriat torah/davening from the amud), not allowed in the main room and not allowed to be seen or heard. Imagine the outcry if it was sephardim behind that curtain rather than women.

  265. [...] Aryeh Frimer, The Wrong Changes in Jewish Liturgy, [...]

  266. [...] Wrong Changes in Jewish Liturgy,” Hirhurim – Musings, October 11, 2011, available online at: link. Share and [...]

  267. Ben Kurtzer says:

    Dear Rabbi Frimer,

    Thank you for a very detailed and insightful article. There are many attempts to rationalize the formulation of the berachot in the negative. What is not addressed is why that same formulation would not apply to women. For example:

    “R. Nissim Alpert suggests an insightful rationale as to why these berakhot are formulated in the negative. Hazal wanted to communicate to us that the Creator only gives us the opportunity. He defines who we are not; it is up to us to define who we are and maximize our positive potential. Interestingly, the same idea appears in the writings of 19th century R. Zadok haKohen.”

    If it is up to us (meaning both men and women) to define who we are, then women should recite “shelo asani ish”.

  268. Josh Hosseinof says:

    See Siddur Tefillah shel yehudei Paras, which is available on hebrewbooks.org – this was R’ Shlomo Tal’s Phd dissertation. It is a nusach of tefilah that was in active use until the 18th or 19th century by Persian and Bokharian jews, until a Moroccan Rabbi visited them and convinced them to change to the standard Eidot Hamizrach nusach. There are textual changes, some quite significant, in many of the berachot including the first three and last three of shemoneh esreh. So I wouldn’t discount the Geniza manuscripts quite so easily as that as we do know that some of these were in use quite recently.
    There is also the Italian nusach, which is nearly extinct like the persian nusach, which also has significant differences compared to Ashkenaz, Eidot Hamizrach and Teiman.

  269. Adam says:

    Though I’m largely in agreement with Rabbi Frimer’s halakhic arguments, his historical and theological apologetics are emblematic of what I can not accept about Orthodoxy. Jon Baker’s challenges are on the mark, and thus Rabbi Frimmer must revert to an Orthodox approach, i.e. an untraditional pattern of rationalizations and polemics which would have been entirely foreign to pre-modern Jews. In order to justify Orthodox-identified Jews, any apologetic can be accepted. At the same time, historical and textual evidence can only be accepted when it does not threaten the paradigm of univocal truth. This is an excellent demonstration of what differentiates Orthodoxy from critical scholarship.

  270. Shalom Spira says:

    R’ Adam,
    Thank you very much for your illuminating comments. At the same time, this website is devoted to Orthodox Judaism, such that I assume the director of the website (our Rosh Yeshiva R. Student) will axiomatically posit that critical scholarship, intellectual honesty and Orthodox Judaism are all synonymns. Note that R. Sperber and R. Frimer both identify themselves as Orthodox Jews. Whether the Halakhah follows R. Sperber, shlit”a, or R. Frimer, shlit”a, is a technical issue within Orthodox Judaism, but both sides sincerely embrace Orthodox Judaism (to their eternal credit).

 
 

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