Volume 16 Number 66
                       Produced: Sat Nov 19 23:01:28 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Anthropomorphism: G-d, Induction and Beyeseans
         [Stan Tenen]
Israeli Army
         [Binyomin Segal]
Long and Short Qamatz
         [Mark Steiner]
Modifications to Brachot


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 1994 13:19:26 -0800
Subject: Anthropomorphism: G-d, Induction and Beyeseans

I would like to add a possibility to Seth Weissman's careful discussion.  
What if the seeming anthropomorphisms are just like the problem we have 
been discussing about "Yom"?  Could it be that Hashem really does have 
"Yadim", but that the meaning of that in Hashem's context is not the 
same as in our human context?  Just like "Yom" did not mean "day" until 
humans arrived and CHOSE to identify this basic cycle in B'reshit with 
the basic "night/day" cycle they discovered in their lives, doesn't it 
make sense to consider that "Yad" (or "Yadim") also ONLY came to refer 
to human hands when we humans CHOSE to make that identification?

What I am saying is that we may have gotten it all backwards.  It is not 
that we have been inappropriately anthropomorphizing Hashem, but rather 
that Hashem is allowing us to make us more like Him.  We are being 
G-dized, Hashem is not being anthropomorphized in Torah or Torah 
teachings.  This is a subtle, but essential difference.

I believe that this sort of reversal of meaning has also occurred in 
some other vital aspects of our teachings.  It is NOT that our 
traditional teachings are in any way wrong.  Rather it is that we, in 
our day, perhaps mostly because of the severe trauma of repetitive 
persecutions, have come to invert or reverse our understanding of _some_ 

Let me provide what I hope will be a non-controversial example.  We are 
taught the "Golden Rule."  There are several versions of this "rule".  
The Jewish version says that "we should not do to others what we do not 
wish others to do to us", the non-Jewish version says that "we should 
only do to others what we wish others to do to us", the slang version 
says "what goes around comes around", the alchemists and magicians say 
"as above, so below", and the mathematicians refer to the unique 
property of the irrational number now called The Golden Mean (or the 
related, but different, Golden Section) usually designated by the Greek 
letter Phi.  (Phi (and its gematria cousins) is the operational 
equivalent to our letters Vov, Samek and Final Nun - but that is another 
story.)  Phi is the ONLY number possible whose inverse (1/phi) is Phi 
minus 1 and whose square (Phi^2) is Phi plus 1.  Thus, minus 1, so 
below, is the same as plus 1, as above.  No other ("ordinary" 
irrational) number can have this property.

My point is that we now understand the Golden Rule as a general 
admonition.  Don't do this, do not have this done to you.  This is taken 
as advice and as guidance.  I am saying that this may be an absurd 
understanding somewhat akin to our saying: "try to obey the law of 
gravitation."  The Golden Rule (as Hillel stated it) IS "Torah (albeit) 
on one foot."  This is NOT a gentle suggestion, it is a HUK (Chet-Qof) - 
a given law, a "law of nature" that we cannot disobey (whether or not we 
agree with it or understand it) any more than we can disobey the law of 
gravitation.  (This is an example of a kind of "karma" in a Jewish 

This (possible - after all this is only my theory) perspective on the 
Golden Rule alters our response to the Golden Rule, and it alters its 
apparent relationship to Torah.  I don't  think it is necessary to try 
to discuss the consequences of this here, but I hope we can agree that 
if true, there would be real consequences. 

BTW, maybe I am being entirely naive here.  I really don't know if these 
ideas about the Golden Rule and/or about "anthropomorphisms" that seem 
to be applied to Hashem are old ideas that our sages have already 
discussed at length, new ideas that have not been considered recently, 
or completely outrageous ideas that have already been decided against.  
(My reasoning comes solely from my independent research on B'reshit and 
the alphabet.)  However, I think this may be what Seth Weissman was 
referring to when he wrote: "In the spiritual realm, we imitate G-d, 
rather than describe G-d as being human-like."

My research suggests a very meaningful sense for terms such as 
"outstretching His arm" as applied to Hashem.  I believe we have 
identified the aspect of Hashem that we humans later chose to associate 
with our outstretched human arm.  If we examine what FUNCTION our arm 
(and hand) fulfills we can understand how this might have been derived 
from the function of Hashem's "outstretched arm (and hand)" - regardless 
of the fact that we can know nothing about Hashem or His Arm.

Stan Tenen


From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
Date: Sat, 19 Nov 1994 20:09:14 -0600
Subject: re: Israeli Army

Arnold Lustiger writes:
>I honestly hope that I can be proven wrong.

And I think Esther Posen describes the difference between the
academic/halachic issue & the requirement for halaros hatov.

In this regard I can share a story that my rebbe told me when I was
learning in Israel. My rebbe was in the Mir Yeshiva during a number of wars
- starting from 67. He told his students that Rav Chaim Shmulevitz - the
Rosh Yeshiva of Mir - told his students during the war that the protection
of Israel was accomplished through a partnership between their learning and
the soldiers fighting. Rav Shmulevitz made it clear that they depended on
the soldiers - and that as long as soldiers were fighting there was an
added responsibility to learn with focus and not waste a moment.

And while it may be true that some do not learn this lesson, the leaders of
the charedi camp certainly feel that this hakaros hatov is required and
teach it to their students. (reminds me of an apocryphl story about the
Satmer Rebbe. When asked how many chasidim he had, he responded, "depends
for what. to fight for me I have thousands, but to help a widow or donate
to a yeshiva I have less than a hundred.")



From: Mark Steiner <MARKSA@...>
Date: Sat,  19 Nov 94 23:34 +0200
Subject: Re: Long and Short Qamatz

	Leading Hebrew linguists agree that the distinction between long
and short qamatz does not exist in the Massoretic system.  If it did,
there would be two distinct symbols for it, as between segol/hataf
segol, qamatz/hataf qamatz.  The idea that there are two qematzim
derives from "dikduk" which are the theories of Sefardic grammarians who
tried to read their own (non-Massoretic) pronunciation of Hebrew into
the Massoretic system.  The result was that they identified the
Massoretic qamatz and patax (x=het), and also made an imaginary
distinction between two forms of qamatz.  As for the Ashkenazim, the
consensus is that their pronunciation was also non-Massoretic during the
time of Rashi, say, but in later generations accepted the authority of
the Massoretic system, not only in theory (as did the Sefardim) but also
in practice.  The Terumas Hadeshen (previously quoted in mail-jewish
only for his responsum on wife-beating) reflects the transitional
period, since he warns Torah readers not to make the prevalent "mistake"
of confusing qamatz with patax, tseireh and segol.  Thus it turned out
that the Ashkenaz vowel system is probably the only one which follows
the Massorah consistently.  Any suggestion, then, that the Ashkenazic
system ignores the distinction between long and short qamatz in the
Massorah is completely misleading-- there is no such distinction.  As
for the Sefardic attempts to fit their pronunciation into the Massoretic
one, including some of the postings on the subject in mail-jewish, they
resemble attempts to maintain that the earth is the center of the
universe by adding epicycles.  A true grammar of Biblical Hebrew based
on the Massoretic pronunciation only has yet to be published.
	This is not to denigrate the Sefardic pronunciation, which is
also ancient.  The fact is that there were a number of systems of vowel
symbols in use at the time of the Baalei Massorah in Tiberias.  One of
them, for example, reflects the pronunciation of the Yemenites, has the
vowels above the letters instead of below, and has no distinction
between patax and segol, which is why the Yemenites pronounce patax and
segol identically.  But for some reason (perhaps the authority of the
Rambam) the non- Massoretic systems were rejected by the halakha.


From: <Andrew_Marc_Greene@...>
Date: Fri, 18 Nov 1994 11:39 -0400
Subject: Modifications to Brachot

I have recently heard several people modifying the brachot at the
beginning and end of their aliyot. The modifications have been, at a
minimum, reconjugating the verbs to the feminine, and at a maximum, also
replacing "Adonai" with "Yah".

The context is a minyan that permits some latitude in individual
practice (eg, some Shalichei Tsibbur (prayer leaders) use the past tense
when referring to the Musaf offerings; some include the Imahot
(matriarchs) in the first bracha of the Amida; some do straight

What I'm looking for are arguments both for and against these changes.

What I've found so far are these:

Regarding modfications in general to the liturgy, the Rabbis seemed to
encourage it as long as one knows what one is doing. Cohen, in
"Everyman's Talmud", (pp. 85f) quotes Avot 2:18, "When you pray, regard
not your prayer as a fixed task." He quotes Ber 29b as including in this
"any one who is not able to add something new" However, Kehati, in
summarizing the mishna in Ber. 33b, writes "If any person adds
supplications of his own in the Shemona Esrei, he must be careful to
word them correctly, so as not to utter heretical ideas or assertions
that carry false implications. If he does utter such statements, he is

What I get from these various sources is that modifying the liturgy is
encouraged because it keeps the meaning fresh and prevents our prayer
from becoming a rote rite; however, we must be very careful in choosing
these changes. The final example in the Mishna of Ber. 33b censures one
who repeats "Modim" -- "We give thanks" -- because that might imply the
heresy of a dual deity. This may bear relevance to our current question:
if one is recasting the torah brachot in the feminine, is that
suggesting a heresy (i.e., assigning gender to God) or merely countering
an existing linguistic heresy (i.e., assigning gender to God)?

Regarding the form of the bracha, we find in our morning services the
passage from I Chronicles 29:10-13 which begins "And David blessed God
in the presence of the whole congregation; David said `Barukh Atah H',
Elohei Yisrael Avinu....'" As far as I can tell, in all of the places
where the Mishna indicates which bracha is to be said in given
circumstances, it only gives the conclusion of the bracha, and "Barukh
Ata H'" is implicit -- i.e., it never appears in the entire
Mishna. Donin, in "To Pray as a Jew" (p. 66), discusses the form of the
bracha and says that Rav and Shmuel argued over whether or not the word
"Atah" belonged in our formula; with Rav's position that we should say
"Atah" prevailing (of course). But Rabbi Donin doesn't give a citation
(which he usually does elsewhere in that book); does anyone know where
this discussion is?

Certainly the bracha under consideration here is known to the Talmud.
It appears in Berachot (11b) in its entirety -- except for the first six
words, which I assume are implied to be the usual "Barukh Atah H'
Eloheinu, Melekh Ha'Olam". However the context is, as best as I can
tell, discussing the brachot associated with reading the Shema; and, of
course, this same bracha is required as part of Birchot haShachar (the
morning blessings).

However, regarding the practice of saying this blessing and its
counterpart surrounding each aliyah, our contemporary practice seems to
differ from what was common in the days of the Talmud.  The mishna in
Megillah 21a says (Neusner's translation) "He who begins the reading of
the Torah and he who completes the reading of the Torah says a blessing
before and afterward." Donin (p. 239) explains: "Originally the first
Torah blessing was said solely by the first person before he began to
read; the second blessing was said only by the last person after he had
completed his reading. Those in between read their portion without
reciting any blessings at all. This explains why Borkhu, a call to
prayer and an invitation to bless God, preceeds the first blessing. The
first person said it because it was the beginning of the Torah reading
service, just as the Borkhu said before the Shema marked the beginning
of the public worship service.  Only during the later Talmudic period
did the sages rule that every one who came up the read from the Torah
also had to recite both blessings. This innovation was introduced so as
not to deprive any member of the congregation -- those arriving after
the start of the Torah reading or those leaving before its end -- of the
chance to hear both blessings. (Meg 21b)"

So, returning to the original questions and summarizing what has, I'm
afraid, run a little long:

* Is it valid to change brachot?  If so, when?  And how?

* Do these specific changes merely make these brachot invalid for their
purpose, or are they no longer even brachot, or are they acceptable?

* May one / Must one / Must one not answer "Amen" when hearing them?  

* May one read if one is the baal korei?  One can certainly study Torah
-- reading from the scroll or a chumash -- as long as one has said the
bracha oneself in birchot hashachar; the concern would be that reading
between such modified brachot would be tacitly accepting them as valid.

* Do these changes compromise the community's responsibility (assuming
that they invalidate the brachot)? Does the answer to this change if
they are middle vs. outer aliyot?

* Are these changes close enough to heresy that they should be prevented
(or, if that is not practical, that one should avoid praying with a
community that permits them)?

In conclusion, I'd appreciate people referring me to sources (preferably
in English, I'm afraid; my Hebrew and Aramaic are very slow... :-) that
would shed light on these various topics.



End of Volume 16 Issue 66