Thursday, June 25, 2009

Borrowing from someone else's nusach

Let’s start with the basics—here’s a definition of Nusach.

From my own post re the Koren Sacks Siddur:

“ . . . Some siddurim [prayer books] arrange the words [of B'fi yesharim] in such a way that the third letter of the third word of each phrase spells out the name of the matriach Rivkah (Rebecca), just as the first letter of the second word of each phrases spells out the name of her husband, the patriarch Yitzchak (Isaac). It would have been nice if that prayer had been arranged this way:

B'fi y'sharim titromam
U'vdivrei tzadikim titbarach*
U'vilshon chasidim titkadash
U'v'kerev k'doshim tithalal

*Note that, in Hebrew, the b and v sound are sometimes written with the same letter."

[ . . . snip . . . ]

[Commenter] Raphael Freeman said...
The B’fi Yesharim order that you suggest is nusach sefard, not ashkenaz."

From the comments to this post by Heshy at Frum Satire:

• “BiggestFish // Jun 24, 2009 at 4:30 am

[ . . . snip . . . ]

Interestingly, the Italian Jews say in their nusach, Nusach Italki, she-asani Yisrael [(bless the One ) who made me a Jew] instead of shelo asani goy [(bless the One) who did not make me a non-Jew], they also say she-asani ben-chorin (free man) instead of shelo asani eved [who did not make me a slave] and they said she-asani gaver [who made me a man] instead of shelo asani isha [who did not make me a woman].
So basically same thing but different way of saying or looking at it.”

I’ve encountered both the nusach s’fard version of the “B’fi y’sharim” prayer and the nusach Italki version of some of the Birkot HaShacher (Morning Blessings) in various non-Orthodox prayer books over the years. I’m happy to know that the innovators borrow from different sources, when they deem it appropriate, rather than creating from scratch.

Personally, I’m a great fan of the nusard s’fard “B’fi y’sharim” and the nusach Italki Birkot HaShachar. I use them no matter which siddur (prayer book) happens to be in my hands, and despite the fact that I, myself, happen to be Ashkenazit. Some would say that I’m betraying my Ashkenazi ancestors, and that everyone should stick to his/her own nusach. They may have a point, but, for me, other considerations—not “blaming” people for being what they are (sheh-lo asani goy, eved, ishah*) and recognizing the matriachs/Mothers/imahot (and not just the patriachs/Fathers/avot) in our prayers—are more important.

*For the record, I should add that I also say "Baruch . . . sheh-asani ishah, Blessed (is the One) who has made me a woman." Many non-Orthodox siddurim use "Baruch . . . sheh-asani b'tzalmo, Blessed ([is the One) who has made me in G-d's image." I prefer either version to the Orthodox "who has not made me a woman" or, for women, "who has made me according to His will." Not even all Orthodox Jews are comfortable with those particular b'rachot/blessings. One Orthodox former blogger once wrote that his wife finds the women's version so offensive that she just skips that b'rachah completely.


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