Volume 32 Number 56
                 Produced: Sun Jun 18 20:58:17 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Honesty in Prayer
         [Bill Bernstein]
Honesty in Prayer / Nahem
         [Sheri & Seth Kadish]
Instructions in Sidurim-Birnbaum has it right (2)
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu, I. Harvey Poch]


From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 09:24:14 -0500
Subject: Re: Honesty in Prayer

>A couple of recent posts dealt with "honesty in prayer" and changing the
>wording of certain prayers to fit "modern reality":

The Rambam in h.Brochos 1.5 writes that one who changes the nusach of a
brocho or adds or detracts from it--this is nothing other than error.  A
remember seeng or hearing somewhere else a stronger maamar chazal
(statement of the sages) on this but cannot locate it just now.

But aside from traditional-type objections I have a more personal one to
this line of reasoning: the Yirushalayim Ir HaKodesh that our tefillos
speak about is a city with a king, a kohein gadol, a temple etc etc.  I
learned once the mishnayos in Bikkurim describing how they brought the
bikkurim up to the temple.  I became very sad when I thought I would
probably never see such a beautiful and simple ritual.  Compared with a
city that has a bikkurim ritual like the one described in the mishna,
the Jerusalem of today really would be like a garbage heap.  If we start
modifying the tefillos to minimize the feeling of galus (yes, even in
Israel it is galus) then we lose the impetus to mourn for what we don't
have and to long for what we know we should.


From: Sheri & Seth Kadish <skadish@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 18:34:19 +0300
Subject: Honesty in Prayer / Nahem

	I've been following this discussion with great interest, because
I've done some work on the topic myself.  Not only that, but some time
ago I put out the very same query about "Nahem" (on another list) and
learned some interesting things, which I will cite below.

 I do believe, however, that ideological issues have gotten mixed
up with halakhic ones in this discussion.  Furthermore, the definition
of the halakhic questions on mail-Jewish so far has been blurry, because
two separate issues have been confused:

 1) In general, is it halakhically permissible to change the
words in various berakhot? 
 2) Specifically, when a berakha refers to a
specific historical situation, but new events make the text
anachronistic, *can* and *should* the text be changed?  Isn't it
"dishonest" to say the old nosah?

 I dealt with the first question at great length in Part III ("Kavvana
and the Siddur") of my Kavvana book.  (Last year I came across a superb
discussion of all the shitot rishonim in the essay "Ahat arukah ve-ahat
ketzarah" by Rabbi Yitzhak Shilat of Maalei Adumim, to be found in his
encylopedic book on the halakhic sugyot in the first two chapters of
Berakhot: "Rosh Devarekha".  His discussion parallels mine for the most
part, though we dealt with a few aspects differently.)

 The bottom line on question #1 is that there is an argument.  The
overwhelming majority of geonim and rishonim, both in Ashkenaz and
Sefarad, were lenient.  In fact, those who dealt with the issue at the
greatest length, the commentaries of Rashba and Rashbatz on Berakhot
11a, came to the conclusion that not only may words be changed as long
as they keep to the theme of the berakha, but that Hazal never even
composed a text in the first place, only an overall stucture: 19
berakhot on pre-ordained themes.  But how to express those themes was,
for the most part, left up to the pray-er himself.  Centuries ago, this
position provided the halakhic basis for the recitation of piyyutim in
the middle of berakhot (a controversy which has lasted to this very
 The major exception to this near-consensus was, however, perhaps the
most influential halakhist of all: the Rambam.  Rambam held that Hazal
composed berakhot, word-for-word, because of people's inability to do so
on their own in Hebrew.  The words themselves are thus part of the
decree, and shouldn't be modified.  For this reason (among others)
Rambam waged an all-out campaign against piyyutim.  The Shulhan Arukh
accepted Rambam's position as proper practice, even against the weight
of most hakhmei Sefarad, while the Rema ruled according to the Rashba.

 *All* opinions agree that, after the fact, if one has prayed using
different words he has fulfilled his obligation, as long as he doesn't
omit any idea that Hazal explicitly required (e.g. asking for rain in
the winter).

 To conclude, there is at least some justification for a strict view on
this matter in halakhic literature.  But there is great room for
leniency as well.  Plus, there are excellent hashkafic arguments for
both sides, and the practical answer may really have less to do with
halakha and more to do with the individual pray-er, and how he best
achieves kavvana.

 Now for question #2, the Nahem question.  The rishonim were bothered by
this question as well, and discuss it from the following angle: did
berakhot have the same words during Temple times as they do in exile?
In my Kavvana book I only mentioned this issue briefly in a footnote to
two sources; since then I have come across two more.  In all:
	1) Siddur Rav Saadia Gaon, p. 6
	2) Hiddushei ha-Ramban on Berakhot 49a (end)
	3) Tashbatz, volume 2, #161
	4) Mabit, Beit Elokim, Sha`ar ha-Yesodot, chps. 38, 41 (16th century)

These sources differ widely in context and outlook, but they all held
that the berakhot about Jerusalem were said differently in Temple times.
Of halakhic relevance are mostly #2 and #3.  Rashbatz assumes this to be
true as a matter of course, because he also held that there is no
binding text for berakhot in the first place.  More interesting is
Ramban, who forbade changing words in general (for reasons different
than the Rambam; Ramban's students later rejected this position of their
master).  Ramban wrote that the body of the texts of such berakhot (as
opposed to the hatimot) are decreed according to the times.

 I would be very thankful to anyone who can refer me to other sources
that mention this problem.  I've looked, but so far with no further

 The upshot of all of this is that there seems to be no halakhic reason
to stop people from saying Nahem in a way that makes sense according to
present realities.  On the contrary, from the halakhic material it seems
the natural thing for a person to do if he wants to serve Hashem

 The reason this *doesn't* seem natural to some people is for two
separate hashkafic reasons:

 1) Kabbala.  Though the halakha is little concerned by the exact words
of berakhot, kabbala considers them terribly important.  Thus, someone
whose understanding of prayer is shaped by kabbalistic ideas, especially
by kabbalat ha-Ari, will justifiably be averse to modifying berakhot
based on historical changes.

 2) Modern ideological confrontations.  Specifically two of them: Reform
and Zionism.  As far as Zionism goes, the opposition of most of the
Torah world is well-known, and certainly had some impact on the
opposition to Rosenfeld's new "Nahem" text.

 The the 19th century war that was waged against the early reform
movement had great Torah scholars proclaiming that even the smallest
change in prayer was blasphemy.  The greatest anti-reform polemical
tract was entitled "Elu divrei ha-berit".  It is no accident that this
book's complete opposition to even the slightest liturgical changes is
mostly backed up by *kabbalistic* sources (see #1).  It is also no
accident that the reformists themselves were easily able to refute the
Orthodox based on halakhic sources!!  This is because the true debate
was really not a halakhic one, but about the validity of halakha itself.
The ultra-strict Orthodox position here ought better to be taken as "eit
la`asot lashem..."  But today, almost anyone who asks questions like
"Nahem" is not doing so as part of an anti-halakhic rebellion.

 Ben Katz mentioned that these questions have long been discussed in the
Conservative movement.  True enough.  But keep in mind that such
discussions jump from the technical halakhic issue of whether one may
say different words that still conform to the theme of a berakha, to
whether one may express opposition to the very theme of the blessing one
is reciting!  Despite polemics for and against Zionism, the "Nahem"
debate is still over which words can honestly describe the present
condition of Jerusalem.  But all sides agree that a (re-)built Jerusalem
is a supreme Jewish religious value, worthy of a blessing that invokes
God's name!  In short, all sides identify with the theme of the blessing
decreed by Hazal.  But in the Conservative discussions, the question
quickly moves to changes based on the rejection of the very value that
lies at the heart of a blessing (such as offering animal sacrifices in a
rebuilt Temple).  In my opinion, that sort of discussion (whatever its
merits) lies outside the bounds of halakhic discourse.  It is not just a
question of whether the movement has gone "too far" halakhically.

 Finally, what can be done practically regarding Nahem?  Even if the
words should be different today, what should one say?  Is the answer to
print a new version, as Rosenfeld did (initially)?  Or to make slight
technical changes?

 When I made this query on another list, Rabbi Nati Helfgot was kind
enough to reply with the following information along the "technical
changes" line: He reported that Rabbi Chayim David Halevi in one of the
early volumes of Aseh Lecha Rav advocated the version "shehayta".  In a
personal conversation with Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Rav Aharon told
him that he feels the statement "hachareivah, hashomeimah mibli baneha"
is simply not true and therefore maybe "dover shkarim lifnei hashem".
He leaves these words out, and perhaps certain other words.

 On the other hand, there is a teshuvah by Rav Ovadyah in Yechaveh Daat
where he argues vehemently against any changes in the Nusach as long as
the Temple is not rebuilt.  This was also the position of the Rav zt"l
who in general was very conservative when it came to liturgical changes.

 The above is the gist of what Rabbi Helfgot wrote to me, and I hope he
won't mind my repeating it here in the interests of Torah.  I would like
to make a further suggestion.  Besides someone composing a new text, or
making small technical modifications of the traditional one, perhaps it
should simply be left up to the individual pray-er on Tisha be-Av.  I
personally prefer to base myself upon a regular old unmodified siddur,
but then make personal variations on it by simply using my own words to
say what is appropriate to Hashem.

I hope people find this long-winded essay to be useful.
Seth (Avi) Kadish
Karmiel, Israel


From: Gilad J. Gevaryahu <Gevaryahu@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 15:08:56 EDT
Subject: Instructions in Sidurim-Birnbaum has it right

I. Harvey Poch (v32n53) says:

<<Yes, it is possible that siddur and machzor instructions are in error
(e.g. the Birnbaum for Yom Kippur has the Aron Kodesh closed during most
of Ne'iloh). The safest solution is for the Gabbo'im of the shul to know
the minhogim of the community and to be sure they are reported to the
ba'al tefilloh *before* the davening, and that they are enforced.>>

Birnbaum does not have it wrong, he is faithfully rendering what he
believed to be minhag Ashkenaz. Reviewing half a dozen Yom Kippur
Machazorim in my house I found a variety of minhagim for when to open
the Aron ha'Koddesh ('ark') and stand during Ne'ilah.

The German minhag was to open the Ark only for chazarat ha'Shatz till
the end of "misod chachamim unevonim" and again for "hayom te'amtzenu"
but not for "avinu malkeinu" (Roedelheim Machzor [1811] of Wolf
Heidenheim & Baruch Bacshewitz with the haskama of Rabbi Pinchas
Hurowitz, Chief Rabbi of Frankfurt am).

The Machzor leRosh haShanah veYom Kippur (Zitomer, 1854) suggests to
open the Ark at the beginning of Chazarat ha'Shatz but opens it again at
Avinu Malkeinu. So the Ark had to be closed somewhere in the
middle. Therefore the Ark was not opened for the entire ne'ilah.

Machzor Korban Aharon (Vilna, 1842) does not indicate the opening of the
Ark at the beginning of Chazart ha'Shatz, only at Avinu Malkeinu. The
same is true for Machzor Kol Bo, Hebrew Publishing Company, NY, no
date. The same is true for the machzor of the IDF, 1966.

S"Y Agnon in his book Yamim Noraim (Schocken, Jerusalem 1957, p. 367)
say that the Ark is open for the entire 'tefila' till the Kadish
Titkabel. I do not know if 'tefila' here means from 'ashrei' of from the
'amidah.' The Lubavitch minhag is to open the ark at the beginning of
'ashrei' to the very end (Sefer ha'Minhagim, date: 70th year of the
Rebbe, p. 59).

Machzor Avodat Ohel Mo'ed, London, 1922 (Minhag Polin=Poland) has the
Ark opened from the beginning of Chazrat ha'Shatz to the end of the
'tefilah.'  The same is true for Machzor Rava, Sefard, Jerusalem, no
date.  The same is true for the machzor of Dr. H. Adler, Ktav, NY, do

I found the Birnbaum siddurim and machazorim very accurate.

Gilad J. Gevaryahu

From: I. Harvey Poch <harvpoch@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 22:06:29 -0400
Subject: Re: Instructions in Sidurim-Birnbaum has it right

As I said, "The safest solution is for the Gabbo'im of the shul to know
the minhogim of the community and to be sure they are reported to the
ba'al tefilloh *before* the davening, and that they are enforced."

The Jewish communities in Germany had very strong minhogim, and adhered
to them (pardon the pun) religiously. Birnbaum borrowed freely from
their minhogim, but did not identify them as such. ... Not that I'm such
a world traveller, but most non-German, nusach Ashkenaz shuls in North
America and Israel do not close the Oron Kodesh during Ne'iloh, from the
beginning of the chazoroh until the beginning of Kaddish Sholem.

The Zhitomir machzor to which you refer (and any others which have the
same setup) has the extraneous p'sichoh because they reused the type for
Ovinu Malkeinu from another service, and it already had the p'sichoh set
in the type.  We find this in many places, and the printer's convenience
has given rise to interesting minhogim. For example, there should only
be one Kaddish Yosom (perhaps two) at the end of Shacharis. The first
occurs at the end of Oleynu; the second after Shir Shel Yom or LeDovid
H' Ori, or A'nim Z'miros, or ...  whichever comes last. In order to be
sure the Kaddish wasn't forgotten, printers put Q"Y at the end of *each*
of these prayers. Eventually, it became the 'minhog' to say a Kaddish
whenever the siddur said so.

I do not have access to many of the machzorim to which you refer, and I
do not doubt your findings. My point is that printers' errors *will*
become the minhog if the people are not aware of their own
traditions. (By the way, the Kol Bo is *full* of such errors, yet it is
my machzor of choice for its other qualities and features. I'm not
afraid of the misprints because I am well-aware of my own minhogim, and
have corrected my copy over the years.)

I do agree as well with your final statement: "I found the Birnbaum
siddurim and machzorim very accurate", as it applies to the nusach
hatefilloh. He has many grammatical corrections which others have been
afraid to touch, and is still the standard in many shuls for that

Thank you for all your great research.

P.S. I have a siddur, published in Israel in the 1960's, which has many
features, including pictures of the various items over which we say
specific berochos. In Hallel, however, it says "Shuvu (instead of shuvi)
nafshi lim'nuchoychi" and "chalomish lemanoi (instead of lem'ye'noi)
moyim". They're there in print, but that does not make them correct.


End of Volume 32 Issue 56