Monday, November 20, 2006


Here at Mah Rabu, there have been lots of posts where I've said "I'll talk about that in a post of its own", and then never gotten around to it. So now, one by one, I'm going to try to write those posts. If you can think of any Mah Rabu posts that were supposed to have been written and haven't been written yet, say so in the comments.

As promised, this is the post where I list the microscopic differences between the prayers that I say and the prayers printed in the traditional siddur that I use, in order to encourage others to do the same and open up a conversation.

I don't claim that this is entirely self-consistent, and it's certainly subject to change.

The siddur that I use most often on Shabbat is the Koren chumash with the Shabbat (and immediately pre-Shabbat and post-Shabbat) services in the back, so I'll just use that and go in order.

[UPDATE: I should have specified nusach Ashkenaz rather than just assumed that it was the default; Koren comes in both flavors. I apologize for the ethnocentrism. Thanks to JewDot for indirectly bringing this to my attention.]

p.3: In the first blessing of the Amidah, I use the version in all Reform siddurim of the last 15 years:
בא"י א-להינו וא-להי אביתינו ואמותינו, א-להי אברהם, א-להי יצחק, וא-להי יעקב, א-להי שרה, וא-להי רבקה, א-להי לאה, וא-להי רחל, ... וזוכר חסדי אבות ואמהות, ומביא גאולה ... בא"י מגן אברהם ועזרת שרה.

So this version includes both the patriarchs and matriarchs, lists both groups in chronological order, but doesn't put the group as a whole in chronological order (probably to maintain "א-להי אברהם, א-להי יצחק, וא-להי יעקב" as a unit, based on Exodus 3:15), and talks about redemption rather than a (single) redeemer.

Some argue that 1) avoteinu is inclusive to cover both genders, 2) if you say "avoteinu v'imoteinu" here, then you've made it be uninclusive in all other cases, 3) if you say "avoteinu v'imoteinu" here, then you have to do that in all other cases. I respond 1) maybe, but there's no harm in doing it this way here, 2) I don't think this kind of consistency really exists (outside the Gemara's games) where if a word means something in one place then it must mean that in all other places, 3) in hachi nami.

In the second blessing of the Amidah, I also use the version in Reform siddurim, changing מתים to הכל in all four places. God does not revive the dead, but God gives life to everything. Living in the US (with all Ashkenazi lineage, AFAIK) but having lived in Israel and picked up some Eretz-Yisrael minhagim, I'm agnostic about מוריד הטל.

p.5: In the extra blessing that was added to the Amidah, I use the version from Ha-avodah Shebalev, the Israeli Reform siddur:

התועים אליך ישובו, והרשעה כרגע תאבד, והזדון תכניע במהרה וימינו. בא"י שובר רשע ומכניע זדון.

This version focuses on destroying evil, not destroying evildoers.

p.6: For the antepenultimate blessing, I use the version in Gates of Prayer:

רצה ה' א-להינו בעמך ישראל, ותפלתם באהבה תקבל, ותהי לרצון תמיד עבודת ישראל עמך. א-ל קרוב לכל קראיו, פנה אל עבדיך וחננו. שפך רוחך עלינו, ותחזינה עינינו בשובך לציון ברחמים. בא"י המחזיר שכינתו לציון

Also, on this page and anywhere else it says אבותינו, I add ואמותינו.

p.8: Kaddish. I add ועל כל יושבי תבל in each of the last two lines (I don't understand why many people add it only to the last line).

p.9: Aleinu. Like most siddurim until recently, I don't say the line "שהם משתחוים להבל וריק". But I like one thing about that line: the particle "she-", which introduces a subordinate clause, rather than "va-", which introduces an independent clause. Both this line and the next line ("ואנחנו כורעים") are supposed to be part of a subordinate clause, but when the first of those lines is eliminated, then "ואנחנו כורעים" appears to be an independent clause. So I change one letter in the usual text of Aleinu and say "שאנחנו כורעים". I think this version is less problematic. Instead of saying "You have separated us from everyone else. [full stop] We bow down to you...", it says "You have separated us from everyone else in that we bow down to you", and "we" can be defined as broadly or as narrowly as you want.

Kabbalat shabbat: pretty straightforward and uncontroversial.

p.17: I don't say Bameh madlikin. And I'm almost never at services where anyone does.

p. 21 (in Ge'ulah): משה ומרים ובני ישראל

p. 22 (end of Hashkiveinu): הפורש סוכת שלום עלינו ועל כל עמו ישראל ועל כל יושבי תבל ועל ירושלים

Amidah: same issues as above, and for all other Amidahs.

p. 28 (Me'ein sheva): avot v'imahot as usual. I should probably say מגן אבות ואמהות and find a way to squeeze this into the melody. מחיה הכל

Aleinu and kaddish as above.

p. 31 (kiddush for Shabbat day): my family's minhag (German, I think) is to say just Veshameru and then the al kein line.

p. 33 (Yigdal), which, in my cultural context, I am almost infinitely more likely to sing on Friday night than before shacharit: I follow the Reconstructionists. The word משוחנו in the penultimate line becomes גאולתו (with the added bonus of a rhyme within the line), and מתים יחיה א-ל becomes חיים מכלכל א-ל in the last line (grabbing a different piece of the Gevurot in the Amidah).

p. 35 (birkot hashachar): Following all liberal siddurim I'm aware of (and, I hear, some old manuscripts too), I say שעשני בן-חורין and שעשני ישראל. Following Siddur Sim Shalom and Siddur Eit Ratzon, I say שעשני בצלמו.

p.36-45 (other preliminary material, up through Rabbi Ishmael and kaddish derabbanan): I pretty much never have occasion to say this stuff.

Pesukei dezimrah: I don't change what it says in the psalms.

p. 61-63 (Nishmat through the chatimah): אביתינו ואמותינו when appropriate

p. 65 (Yotzeir Or): Right before El Adon, לתחית המתים becomes לחיי עולמים, following one option in Siddur Eit Ratzon.

p. 70 (Ge'ulah): Following Siddur Eit Ratzon,
אמת שאתה הוא ה' א-להינו וא-להי אבותינו ואמותינו
מלכנו מלך אבותינו
גואלנו גואל אמותינו

p. 71 (Ge'ulah): משה ומרים ובני ישראל again

Amidah: mostly same as before. In the intermediate blessing, ערלים changes to ערלי לב, in reference to Deuteronomy 10:16, Deuteronomy 30:6, etc. (similar to changing בבשרנו to בלבנו in birkat hamazon).

p. 82 (Berich Shemei): I don't usually say this. Not for any principled reason.

p. 86-87 (Yekum Purkan): Usually this is my bathroom break, but if I happen to be saying this, I obviously take out ונשיא and ונשיהם. (In Siddur Sim Shalom, they fix it in Hebrew but not in Aramaic. Is this dog-whistle politics? Are they assuming that anyone who understands Aramaic is ok with women being less than full members of the community?)

At this point, my main Shabbat morning minyan says the "prayer for our country". So yeah, I guess I say it without modification for the moment. Let's hope for the best. In the prayer for the state of Israel, I say שתהי ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו, following Soloveitchik.

p. 88 (birkat hachodesh): I follow the minority of siddurim in saying החודש הבא (not הזה), because it makes logical sense. And I like the longer Eretz Yisrael version of יחדשהו.

p. 89 (Av Harachamim): Skip! I'm not into martyrdom or revenge.

Musaf: Yes, I say musaf. I'm not convinced by the usual Reform arguments for taking it out. It goes something like "The musaf prayer is said in place of the additional sacrifice that was offered on Shabbat and holidays in the Temple, and we're not interested in rebuilding the Temple, so we don't say prayers that are based on Temple offerings." To which I respond "Is that so? Then WHAT ABOUT SHACHARIT AND MINCHA?" The whole large-scale structure of Jewish prayer as we know it is modeled after the structure of Temple worship (yes, I'm siding with Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi on Berachot 26b; what are you going to do about it?), so it seems arbitrary to eliminate musaf while maintaining the rest of the structure.

p. 93 (the middle blessing of musaf): I keep it in the future tense. I understand it metaphorically, and hope for future redemption, rather than fixating on the literal animal offerings of the past.

Shabbat mincha: mostly the same as everything else

p.111 (the middle blessing of mincha): Anyone know a version of this that includes the imahot?

p. 114 (end of the mincha amidah): Yeah, I like the Eretz Yisrael minhag of doing Sim Shalom here on Shabbat (and Shalom Rav on weekdays).

Weekday maariv: mostly the same

p. 137 (Baruch Adonai Le'olam): I don't say this (as in Eretz Yisrael and many other minhagim). How is it ok to add an extra berachah here?

And that's about it. How about you?


  1. I recently had some sidur-related thoughts in the second half of this post:

  2. My current shul uses a siddur compiled by our rabbi, and I really like its solution to the thorniness of that line in the aleinu which asserts (traditionally) that we weren't made like the nations of the earth: we change the letter aleph in "lo" to a vav. The pronunciation is the same ("she'lo asanu...") but the meaning has changed: now it means "who made us for [himself] like the nations of the earth" -- or, as I prefer to think of it, "who made us for Yourself, like the nations of the earth." In other words, we're all made for God, we all belong to God: us, the other nations, every created being and thing.


  3. (Ashkenazic base)
    I change very many instances of the suffix -kha back to -akh, as they were originally, which besides the originalness has the added benefit of looking to the untrained eye as if it were epicene, since i like the idea of epicinity in reference to God but don't like the idea of really messing with the text so much.

    I also say on Shabbat at the end of the middle brakhot of the ‘Amida the original Ashkenazic formula וישמחו בך ישראל אוהבי שמך as still found in the Frankfurt minhag, as opposed to וינוחו בו/בה/בם ישראל מקדשי שמך.

    I insert שהם משתחווים להבל וריק ומתפללים אל אל לא יושיע back into ‘Aleinu but leave off ונאמר... at the end. I also feel no guilt over periodically skipping Berikh Shemeih and Qabbalat Shabbat, which were like ונאמר added by the Kabbalists.

    In my siddur i have marked instead of שלא עשני גוי the ancient alternate שעשני ישראל and the more modern variant שלא עשני נכרי; for a while i used the positive formulation, but i ended up going mostly with נכרי because the negative formulations have more general weight of tradition behind them, but it sounds more polite.

    in Elohai Neshama i say אתה בראתה בי ואתה יצרתה בי ואתה נפחתה בי

    I say the Vihi Ratzon after Hama‘avir Sheina Mei‘einai in first person singular, i.e. שתרגילני, ודבקני, תביאני, בי, ורחקני, דבקני, יצרי etc. (based on a complicated essay about the different variations of this berakha i nth eback of my siddur)

    I say משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם during the winter and משיב הרוח ומוריד הטל during the summer (family tradition).

    My family tradition is to just say על כן... for Saturday Day kiddush.

  4. On the avot paragraph/avot in general:
    I do think that adding "v'imoteinu" each time works against the use of "avoteinu" as gender-neutral inclusive language. That's not because there's any claim to absolute consistency. Instead, it's because you're explicitly making something that could have been understood inclusively into something that can only be understood exclusively. Since you don't accept the argument against it, to each his own :-)

    I don't add the imahot to the first b'racha, but, for parallelism and Biblical allusion's sake, I like this version of chatimah (which is not approved of by a teshuva given to my minyan, but I think is used in the more recent Sim Shalom):
    מלך עוזר ומושיע ומגן ופוקד. בא"י מגן אברהם ופוקד שרה.
    For consistency with a majority of Rabbinic sources, I would prefer to order "Elohei Rachel vEilohei Leah."

    משה ומרים ובני ישראל

    This one bothers me. The text "Mi chamocha" was, in fact, not said by Miriam (if you go by the Torah's text).

    Yekum Purkan...In Siddur Sim Shalom, they fix it in Hebrew but not in Aramaic.

    Bothers me as well. I just read "v'tafla." I think it was just an oversight.

    In Shabbat Amidah ערלים:
    Also heard this (alternate nusach) as רשעים

    (the middle blessing of musaf): I keep it in the future tense. I understand it metaphorically, and hope for future redemption, rather than fixating on the literal animal offerings of the past.

    Interesting where we differ in liberalism vs. conservatism with the liturgy. I'm fully in favor of changing this to past tense.

    p. 114 (end of the mincha amidah): Yeah, I like the Eretz Yisrael minhag of doing Sim Shalom here on Shabbat (and Shalom Rav on weekdays).

    Sim Shalom acts as a continuation of birkat kohanim, which is not said at mincha. Does the Israeli minhag have birkat kohanim in mincha? Some chassidic nusach messes this up as well (notably, Chabad nusach, which never uses the Shalom Rav paragraph).

    (Baruch Adonai Le'olam): I don't say this (as in Eretz Yisrael and many other minhagim). How is it ok to add an extra berachah here?

    How is it ok to add "Hashkiveinu" and a Hatzi Kaddish? The whole connecting geulah to tefilah thing is so severely messed up in Ma'ariv anyway.

    On something Steg brought up incidentally:
    is stupid. Especially the mincha one, which I can't figure out how it makes any sense unless you correct שבת to שבתות as is done in Chabad nusach.

  5. wowza. kol ha kavod on putting that together! why do you say in the avot (veimahot) sara, rivka, leah, ve rachel when the torah never lists leah before rachel?

  6. Jacob married Leah first, and Leah became a mother of Israelite tribes first.

  7. See this article by Rabbi Einat Ramon or this one by Rabbi Alan Kaunfer. There are midrashic and talmudic references to Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah(in that order). If you wanted to included Bilha and Zilpa, I could understand that. But referring to Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel has no historical precedent.

  8. Baruch Hashem l`olam (& yir'u `eineinu) is just a post-Talmudic bracha added to Ma`ariv. Not all that unlike Baruch She'amar added to Shacharit.

    Re Bameh madlikin, my appreciation of reciting that chapter went up by a zillion percent (approximately) when I started davening in neighborhood Sfardi shuls (I live in a heavily Kurdish neighborhood). There, Bameh madlikin is recited out loud by the shatz, with the oilom chiming in with the last few words of each mishnah. That is generally the showpiece of the evening's chazzanut, so it's just a pleasure to listen to with a good chazzan.

  9. But referring to Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel has no historical precedent.

    I have no special expertise on this specific question, but I'm nevertheless reasonably sure there is some historical precendent for this order. My understanding, which has been reinforced by one of my Sephardi teachers, is that this order is more commonly used in Sephardi (and perhaps Edot HaMizrach) contexts. I also know of at least one old Sephardi "women's tefillah" that references the imahot in this order.

  10. as long as we're not marginalizing women...
    what happened to bilhah and zilpah?

  11. Great post.

    Lately, in the various places it occurs (Birkat Hamazon, Mizmor L'David), I've been saying (and I apologize that even though I'm writing this from J-lem, I still can't seem to get the Hebrew font to work): H' oz l'amo yitein, H' yivarech et kol am bashalom.

    I don't know for sure its grammatically correct - but it sure makes me feel better!

  12. If we're all descended from Judah, Benjamin, and Levi (the others being the ten lost tribes), then we're not descended from Bilhah or Zilpah.

  13. There's a theory that the 10 Lost Tribes simply re-assimilated into the Jewish people during the Babylonian exile, around the same time that the rest of us (excluding Levites/Kohanim) lost our individual tribal affiliations.

    There's also Shim‘on, who assimilated into Yehuda during the First Temple period, as well as some of the southern Efrayimites who were in Judahite-controlled areas when the Northern Kingdom fell.

  14. Yay for thoughtful prayer!! Additional notes from my own practice. 1) Adding Bilha and Zilpah can be seen as a reminder of the intersections of class and gender oppression. Our actual genetic linage is not important. We are talking about religious rituals. What is important is that it is meaningful, not that it is factual. 2) I've begun to enjoy saying מחיי מתים because it is an expression of messianic future. Its not that I believe the dead will come to life. I don't ever believe the messianic age will come. Rather, I focus on eternally deferred redemption. What is important about the messianic concept is the desire to see a better world not the fulfillment of that utopia. Hopefully the desire for a better world can compel people to action. Thinking the messiah is near, however, leads to fundamentalism. To the extent that most of the Jewish world has put its faith in Israel as the messiah, or at least imbued it with messianic meaning (רשית צמיחת גאלתינו), emphasizing the current lack of messianic redemption can take on nice anti-zionist tones.

  15. On the subject of Rachel and Leah, and in what order to invoke their zechut - I have a feeling that most people who've thought about it have already made up their minds, but just the same, here is an interesting text, based on this week's Torah reading.

    Rashi to Bereishit 31:4 comments:

    'and [Jacob] called Rachel and Leah.' First Rachel and then Leah, because she (Rachel) was the mainstay of the household, because, on her account, Jacob had joined Laban. Even Leah’s children acknowledged this matter, for Boaz and his tribunal of the tribe of Judah say,“like Rachel and like Leah, both of whom built, etc.” (Ruth 4:11). They place Rachel before Leah. — [from Tanchuma Buber, Vayetze 15; this translation from R' A.J. Rosenberg, published by Judaica Press and available on-line]

  16. On the order of the Imahot:

    Leah precedes Rachel in Ruth 4:11. Ilana Pardes has a beautiful drash on this in her "Countertraditions" book.

    But really, if we're including all sheish imahot (as they're termed in Bamidbar rabbah), then the order of the four wives of Ya’akov should follow the traditional midrashic acronym for their names, “BaRZeL” (which is also Hebrew for iron or steel). I.e., the order is Bilhah, Rachel, Zilpah and Leah. Alternative orders each have significant drawbacks (e.g., the order of Ya’akov preference with Rachel coming first, or their ranking in the social hierarchy with former handmaidens coming last, or the order in which they provided male heirs with Leah coming first, etc). BaRZeL is the order adopted by our community in DC.

    Separate question on the final bracha in the amidah (birkat shalom):

    Does anyone know the origin of adding "v'chol tov" after "rachamim v'chayim v'shalom"? I've seen it in several random siddurim (both nusach sfard and nusach ashkenaz).