Monday, January 18, 2010

To R.Student:*All*humans are G-d's creatures,period

Thanks to Too Old to Jewschool Steve for alerting me to Rabbi Gil Student's Thursday, January 14, 2010 post, Tehillim for Haiti.

Rabbi Student and I are of vastly different hashkafot/religious perspectives, and this won't be the first time that I've disagreed with something that I've read on his blog.

But I find his "Tehillim [Psalms] for Haiti" post downright offensive, especially this part:

"After Ma'ariv tonight we recited Tehillim. Then, as we naturally segued into "Achenu kol beis Yisrael -- Our brothers, all the people of Israel" that is usually said after Tehillim, I was unsure whether it was appropriate or some other more universal phrasing should be substituted. Then someone told me that there are Jews in Haiti also, which resolves the wording question and pretty much renders all of the above academic."

The fact that there are Jews in Haiti makes the discussion of whether it's permissible to say psalms for the earthquake victims irrelevant???!!!

According to the Talmud, we Jews are supposed to be "rachmanim b'nei rachmanim, the compassionate children of the compassionate." So why should there even be a question about the permissibility of praying for any other human being who's in need? The prayer says, "Baruch m'rachem al ha-b'riot--Blessed is the One who has compassion upon His creatures." Since when does "creatures" refer to Jews only?

I have e-mailed a link to this post to Rabbi Student, and await his reply.


Blogger katrina said...

Shira, I think you misunderstand. I think Rabbi Student was just asking whether, AFTER saying Tehillim for the people of Haiti, one should say "acheinu kol beit Yisrael" (our brothers, the whole house of Israel). If there were no Jews in Haiti, it might have made more sense to say something more universal (here I might suggest "acheinu kol b'nei Adam" (our brothers, all human beings--this is not a liturgical formulation, as far as I know, but it seems logical). But all this is only AFTER the tehillim. Please let us know if R. Student tells you differently, but I am pretty sure that it what he meant.

Mon Jan 18, 03:46:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Gil Student said...

Thank you, katrina. That is precisely what I meant.

Mon Jan 18, 04:35:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I'm sorry that I misunderstood part of the final comment, and am certainly glad that Rabbi Student, and the minyan with which he was davvening/praying, said psalms for the victims of the Haitian earthquake.

But I am still disturbed by the original question, which was whether it was permissible to recite psalms for non-Jews.

Mon Jan 18, 09:31:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...


Why be disturbed that the question was asked, since all types of offensive questions are asked all the time, including in non-Orthodox contexts. Rather, rejoice that Gil concluded that it was permissible to do so, that they actually did so, and was simply questioning the formulation of a particular prayer.

Tue Jan 19, 09:22:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

JDub, you seem to be of the opinion that I'm making a big deal of nothing, and should be less concerned with the question than with the answer and the resultant action. I'll take that possibility into consideration.

Tue Jan 19, 11:51:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous jdub said...

my point, shira, is that people ask questions. Some of them are thoughtful, reasonable questions and others are fundamentally stupid. Almost all of them are legitimate questioning of what is appropriate. That someone asks "should we pray for the wellbeing of non-Jews" when the halacha is based on a scenario where the non-Jews were idolators is not completely unreasonable, even if you and I would automatically say "of course one can pray for their wellbeing."

Gil was answering the question in the affirmative, and, derekh agav, noted that his shul did say tehillim (as did my ortho shul).

Now, there are some questions that should be beyond the pale, such as "can I beat my spouse" or "do all Arabs have the status of a rodef (pursuer) such that we can kill them proactively." Thankfully, at least one rav (I believe Rav Aviner) has answered with regard to the first that even that question is illegitimate. Others have said the same about the latter, but I can't remember who or when.

But short of that, lots of questions, both thoughtful and inane, will be asked. It's in the answering that shows the mettle of the answerer.

Tue Jan 19, 01:18:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

JDub, the reason why I found Rabbi Student's post offensive is that, in my sincere opinion, the question of whether we can pray for the welfare of *any* human being--yes, even an idolator--is one of those questions that's "beyond the pale." "V'rachmav al kol maasav--His compassion is upon all his works." Who are we to be holier than G-d? But perhaps, as you said, the answer is more important. I'm glad that prayers for the Haitian earthquake victims are being said by Jews across the "observance spectrum."

Tue Jan 19, 04:25:00 PM 2010  

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