Wednesday, February 10, 2010

One type of egalitarianism vs. another

Buried somewhere in this ancient post of mine is this statement: " . . . someone--I forget who--complained to the rabbi that I had the unmitigated gall to honor my father by adding his name to my mother's name when saying a misheberach for my sister (a fact that he hadn't noticed at all until it was brought to his attention)."

I'm too lazy to look for the post(s?) in which I discussed this issue further. Suffice it to say that the rabbi's argument was that, while the way I recited the names when I prayed silently was my own business, the recitation of names as part of a "mi-sheh-berach" ("May the One who blessed . . . " prayer for the ill) was the Ritual Committee's business because the mi-sheh-berach prayer, since it's recited in conjunction with a Torah reading (which can be done only if there's a minyan), is a communal prayer.

Recently, I've begun to wonder whether reciting the name of the ill person's father along with the name of the mother is a good idea--but I'm wondering for a totally different reason.

The problem is that reciting the father's name highlights the status of the person who's ill.

I feel uncomfortable enough giving my husband's name as "ben Mom and Dad ha-Levi" (and would feel equally weird omitting the "title" Levi/Levite as long as I'm including my late father-in-law's name).

But I feel at least as uncomfortable--if not more so, under the current distressing circumstances--giving the names of several people on my list as "ben/bat Sarah v'Avraham." My understanding is that it's against Jewish tradition to call attention to a Jew's conversion. And once one gets beyond the first couple of mentions of "ben/bat Sarah v'Avraham," it becomes pretty obvious that one is speaking of converts.*

So if I don't mention the fathers' names, I feel that I'm insulting the fathers, who are/were just as concerned about their children's health as the mothers are/were.

And if I do, I'm calling attention to differences in status, which seems inappropriate when praying for the ill.


Could anyone give me some help, here?

*The traditional "family name" for all converts is ben (son of) or bat (daughter of) Avraham Avinu v'Sarah Imeinu (Abraham Our Father and Sarah Our Mother).


Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

The prohibition is against shaming a convert by denigrating his past, slandering his parents, etc.
Saying things like 'You think you're so observant, but 3 years ago you were going to church" is what is forbidden.

You don't want to make being a convert a badge of shame, and making a big deal about not mentioning their status is as likely to cause that as anything else.

Wed Feb 10, 10:30:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see what the problem is. The tradtional standard formula for praying for the ill is calling them ben/bat mother's name. End of story. This is also the naming format used if you are praying for someone to get married.
There are plenty of people who are ben/bat Sarah, as long as you don't say imanu no one would know.
I am ben Avraham and I'm not a convert.

Wed Feb 10, 10:33:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

My understanding is that this used to be less of a problem, since the names were more commonly used and you could have a NON-covert who was, actually, ben/bat Sarah v/Avraham.

Personally, as a convert, I don't mind one way or another. But I can't wait til we get to start calling up my son as "so-and-so haChalila" ;)

Thu Feb 11, 07:52:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Larry, thanks for the clarification.

Anon., you missed the point: Does the traditional approach, by omitting fathers' names, insult fathers, or does it prevent a focus on status?

Chalila? Is that what a "disqualified" Cohen--one who broke the rule against marrying a divorcee or a convert--is called? I thought a "chalila" would just forfeit the title and be called for an aliyah to the Torah as "Yisrael."

Fri Feb 12, 08:43:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Orthodox rules first:
A cohen who marries a divorce or a zona (a category which includes converts) loses all his cohen privileges for as long as the relationship exists. He is not a yisrael - he may not be called for any aliyot except for maftir, and on shabbat for the optional 'acharon' aliyot.

The male children of such a union have the same status, except that in their case it lasts for life.

Conservative rules:
Rabbi Isaac Klein in his Guide allows the marriage of a cohen and convert. He suggests wedding festivities be somewhat reduced. A later teshuvah removes all restrictions on such marriages and ends the loss of cohen status, and this is the approach taken by most C shuls with which I am familiar (only about half a dozen).

Some web searching found this extremely detailed summary from Schechter,edu.

Fri Feb 12, 09:22:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think your explanation of the O rules is universal. From my experience, what you said is true of the initial Cohen who does something that makes him lose his Cohen privelages can not be called for any aliyah other than maftir or Acharon, but his offspring are considered Yisroel and are given the Yisroel aliyah. I know someone who has a family tradition that one of their ancestors married either a divorcee or convert and they are no longer Cohanim and they are considered Yisroel.
I believe that there is a minority opinion that a Cohen that marries a widow or divorcee can not duchen, but they can still receive the Cohen aliyah, but their children can not.
The fact that the Conservative movement allows Cohanim to marry into prohibited relationships was one of the reasons that I left the C movement. The Torah cleary says that you can not do it, but they allow it anyway.

Fri Feb 12, 11:43:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...


I wouldn't dream of speaking about universal Orthodox practice. Rabbi Maurice Lamm's The Jewish Way in Love & Marriage discusses the rules of a cohen who makes a prohibited but valid marriage. In the Amazon search, type in kohen married convert in the search box and read pages 86-89. But I can easily believe that other people have ruled differently.

These sorts of rulings are difficult for modern people (including me) to accept. The best I can do is to say that if you believe Hashem has a purpose for every person, and that there are no 'accidents of birth' that even if we can't understand why a certain person needed to have a particular halachic disability we can be sure that Hashem has a reason. My emunah is still working to reach that level.

Fri Feb 12, 01:49:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Speaking of "halachic disabilities," being the child of a "chalah" Cohen is bad enough, but being the child of a woman who found out, long after her children were born, that the get (Jewish religious divorce) from her first marriage was considered invalid and there, therefore, all her children from her second marriage were mamzerim . . .

I've never been comfortable with laws that punish the innocent children of "sinners," and can't imagine that I ever will be.

Fri Feb 12, 03:12:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Let me try that link again:

Fri Feb 12, 03:14:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Holy spelling error, Batman--make that a "chalal" Cohen. Maybe this is what happens when I post too close to Shabbas. :)

Fri Feb 12, 03:19:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

Anon - most likely one of those ancestors was a woman, and when she married a non-Cohen (since female halalas cannot marry Cohens), their branch became Yisroel.

That's not the case for boys - the original chalala's son's son's son's son, etc., will always carry that status.

Tue Feb 16, 02:45:00 PM 2010  

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