Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Parah Adumah paradox & Pesach cleaning

Yes, Virginia, I take it for granted that, as with the Cohen/Priest who administered the purifying water mixed with the ashes of the Red Heifer and became ritually impure himself in the process, the sponges that are used to scrub the kitchen to make it kosher for Pesach become chametz in the process.

Hot-tray scrubbed, covered with foil, placed on foil on usual spot on kitchen table. Countertops covered. Chametz cabinets sealed with masking tape marked "Chametz." Ten plastic bags of bread and stale cookies sealed in plastic bags, waiting for Bedikat Chametz. But I'm not waiting--I'm flopping on the bed 'til my hubby comes home from Israeli folk dancing and wakes me up so we can do Bedikat Chametz together (by flashlight--we're too chicken to use a candle). Shacharit (Morning Service) is in about 6 1/2 hours. Oy.

Pesach prep blogging break

After torturing my poor husband last night, I continued the tough treatment by getting him to masking-tape plastic garbage bags over all the chametz pots on the wall racks. (What, you thought we had somewhere else to put the pots?) I get dizzy too easily to stand for long on a chair--I tell my husband he married a dizzy dame. :) And I can't afford to fall off and risk breaking another bone--been there, done that.

Then I persuaded him to do the rest of the sink-and-counter kashering: He got the dubious privilege of pouring boiling water all over all of the aforementioned.

After that, we went out to the nearest kosher-shopping area, with the intention of buying just a few remaining necessities, and spend a ridiculous amount of money. It never ceases to amaze me how much we spend for just the two of us for Pesach.

Meanwhile, back at the ranchhouse, my husband has responded to all that tough treatment by deserting me--to go Israeli folk dancing--leaving me to finish preparing for Bedikat Chametz when he gets home after midnight. Back to work, galley slave--you'll get your freedom at sundown tomorrow! (It's a good thing we've been invited to two Sedarim--if I had to make my own Seder or two, as I used to, I'd have a lot more work to look forward to than just taping shut the chametz cabinets and foiling the countertops.)

Pre-Pesach prep:Holy miscommunication,Moshe!

Siyum B'chorim
Our rabbi's been saying for years that he won't lead a Siyum B'chorim, not only because "it's not in my contract," but also because "you don't get a minyan anyway." So we've been faking it for years by putting together a non-traditional study session (one that does not involve the completion of a tractate of the Talmud) led by a layperson (namely, the chair of the Ritual Committee, also known as my husband, who's a first-born). Yesterday, at S'udah Shlishit after Mincha (Afternoon Service), we were discussing the siyum when the rabbi casually mentioned that you can't have a siyum without a minyan. And here we'd been under the impression, for roughly the last five years, that he simply couldn't be bothered studying a masachet of Talmud just so that he could celebrate its completion with 3-7 people, the usual weekday Shacharit (Morning Service) crowd. Funny that he never mentioned this before. To make a long story short, we've decided to take whoever shows up tomorrow morning to my "kaddish-minyan" synagogogue by taxi for the service and siyum.

When we came home last night around midnight from dinner at our semi-local kosher Chinese restaurant, I asked my husband to stay up an extra hour and "burn out the oven and stove," since he could pray at the local synagogue in the morning, while I still have to travel to my "kaddish synagogue" to get a minyan so that I can say kaddish. He misunderstood completely, and stayed up until 4 AM scrubbing the oven and broiler with Easy Off, and scrubbing the stovetop, too, despite the fact that I'd paid a cleaning person to do that on Thursday! Oh my heavens! And here I thought he'd just turn the oven on broil and turn the burners up to max. and go work on his tax returns for an hour! I feel so bad that he stayed up an extra three hours for nothing. This is certainly the cleanest our oven, broiler and stove have ever been.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Khaki pants and kashrut

That's what I get for going off on a tangent in the comments to my Women in Judaism: Taxation without representation post--now, I'll have to explain myself.

Shira Salamone said...

. . . All the nonsense about the slightest deviation from current minhag/custom, including the all-mighty "levush" ("uniform," dress code) are a real turn-off for some of us from the non-Orthodox community who might have considered making the switch. . . .I'm fed up to here with all the complaints about Rabba Hurwitz not covering enough of her hair. Yes, I know that many in the Orthodox community believe that a married woman must cover her hair in public, but there is, and should be, various opinions on what constitutes a proper hair-covering. Why do so many people expect the obviously-Modern-Orthodox Rabba Hurwitz to dress like a Satmar Chassid?

Wed Mar 24, 01:38:00 PM 2010

Miami Al said...

I think that Rabbah Hurwitz should fully cover her hair. Hands down. There are liberal opinions and conservative opinions on this.

However, she is a trailblazer, and should show an EXTRA degree of sensitivity to the community that she is trailblazing.

. . . while I am certain that Rabbah Hurwitz knows the laws governing her hair, and is no doubt following them, this is an area where our leader must be held to a higher standard, less our people who don't know the details attempt to emulate her and screw up.

Think about it, she's the defacto Chief Rabbah of the World... :) There is NO OTHER Rabbah to turn to as an example.

Given that her professional capacity is on the Rabbinic Staff, there isn't a professional reason that she needs to hide that she is covering her hair, so I think that she should do so completely, fully, and WITHOUT a sheitel, completely consistent with both Ashkenazi and Sephardic restrictions, since she's the trailblazer.

You want to blaze trails, you have to accept some personal limitations.

Thu Mar 25, 03:20:00 PM 2010

This conversation reminds me of an old series of mine, Orthodoxy's right-ward turn affects all.

[ ¶ ]

Think about how the observance of kashrut has changed. I'm old enough to remember the "kashrut war" on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the 1970's, when a Modern (!) Orthodox rabbi organized a boycott of a "regular" kosher butcher shop and almost forced it out of business until the owners agreed to "go glatt." Seriously, who, other than right-wing-Orthodox Ashkenazim and those in the S'fardi and B'nei Eidot HaMizrach (roughly, Middle Eastern) communities who follow the Bet Yosef ruling on slaughtering red-meat animals, observed the stricture of eating only glatt kosher meat as recently as, well, the 1970's, when this 61-year-old was in her twenties? But now, as the linked article states, "Today, the OU (and most other kashrut organizations in the U.S.) will only certify meat that is glatt, albeit not necessarily glatt Beit Yosef."

A similar story can be told about definitions of women's modesty in the Orthodox community. Even now, it's common for older Modern Orthodox women to go bareheaded and/or wear pants when not in synagogue. But heaven help the woman under 40 who does the same (at least in the New York area), who risks having her Orthodox status (and/or her conversion) questioned.

Thanks to a fellow minyannaire from my "kaddish minyan," I'm now the happy owner of the Fall 2009 issue of JOFA Journal. In the article "Olive Skirts, Khaki Pants, & Rifles--The Dress of Religious Women in the Israeli Army," author Shayna Weiss discusses the protest of many of the women who study in Hesder seminaries and serve in the Israel Defense Force, who are upset that their seminaries want them to wear skirts, never pants, as part of their dress uniforms: Many of these committed Orthodox women wear pants except on Shabbat/Sabbath, and they object to the idea that they must wear skirts in order to be identified as religious.

Miami Al's comment falls in the same category, to my mind. Why must Rabba Hurwitz cover her hair completely in order to avoid having some in the Orthodox community question her commitment to Orthodoxy? Why does she have to dress as if she belongs to a segment of the Orthodox community that, frankly, won't accept her anyway, no matter what title she uses, in order to be accepted as a trailblazer?

Why must we always look over our right shoulders?

Update, Sat., March 27, 2010, after Shabbat:

I see that the JOFA Journal is available online. You can read the Fall 2009 issue here.

On the other hand, Nissan has its advantages :)

Start with this post and work your way back to the original via link.

As I said in the linked posts, I'm invariably still catching up on davvening/praying the Amidah prayer while everyone else is saying the Tachanun prayer. So, when I head home on the subway to drop off my tallit and tefillin and pick up my backpack, I end up starting from Tachanun and repeating whatever I've already recited of the psalms and prayers that come afterward. Sometimes, especially on Monday and Thursday, when Tachanun is longer, I don't finish, and have to do (the Aleinu prayer and) the Shir shel Yom/Psalm of the Day at home. But without Tachanun, I can just start at Ashrei and finish Shacharit (Morning Service) on the subway. :)

In case I'm a bit busy finished the kitchen kashering, I'll take this opportunity to wish all of you a Pesach kasher v'sameach, a Kosher and Happy Passover.

Monday, March 22, 2010

An archeological dig on my blog :)

In the comments to my Non-Orthos, Jewish observance, & feminism post, I said, "I began wearing a tallit at 24 and tefillin at about 28, but didn't make the commitment to use them every weekday until two or three years ago. (I posted about it somewhere, but I can't find that post.)" After writing that comment, I searched my blog quite carefully for the post to which I'd referred, to try to figure out when I took upon myself the obligation to pray three times daily, but my February 2008 The long and short of it seems to be as close as I can get. I could have sworn that I'd written a blog post about that decision, but I can't find it anywhere. All I can remember is that I made the decision on a Rosh Chodesh that took place on a Sunday. Until then, I'd resisted giving up my only day to sleep late, but somehow, Rosh Chodesh seemed like a good time to start.

[New paragraph ¶ ]

You readers are largely to "blame" :) for this decision: Though I'd often posted that there's no logical reason for a healthy woman without children or with children over the age of Bar (13) or Bat (12) Mitzvah not to pray three times daily, I hadn't quite "gotten there" yet, and I got tired enough of trying to justify my own hypocrisy that I finally decided it was high time I put my prayers where my mouth was. A little peer pressure goes a long way. :)

[ ¶ ]

I rarely miss Shacharit (Morning Service) anymore, and I remember to say Mincha (Afternoon Service) most days, even when sundown comes early and I almost miss the proper time. Maariv/Arvit (Evening Service) has turned out to be the biggest challenge, in the long run--I have so many things to do when I get home that, unless I'm coming home after sunset and can pray on the subway, I'm often just too tired.

[ ¶ ]

Ah, the Orthodox Union website's "Zmanim calendar" comes to the rescue: There was a Sunday Rosh Chodesh on February 18, 2007. That's probably the one.

[ ¶ ]

Saturday, April 10, 2010 update: Found it!

It's nice to see you again

I've yet to find the post that I'm looking for, but I did get reacquainted with Three hours' sleep, a poem of mine that I rather like.

The next post will probably have to substitute for that "missing" post.

. . . and no aliyot for me during Nissan, either

. . . because, during Nissan, I'm lucky if I finish the Amidah in time for the third aliyah, as you can see. I asked the gabbai of my "kaddish minyan" not to give me any aliyot during Nissan, as I don't wish to create a tircha d'tzibbur (hardship for the congregation) by making them wait for me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Non-Orthos, Jewish observance, & feminism

[Please pardon the usual formatting problems.]

From the comments to this post by Heshy, of Frum Satire:

Chana quotes Heshy, then responds:

Chana March 18, 2010 at 9:32 AM

“but something smells fishy when a woman who doesn’t keep kosher or taharas mishpacha wants to put on tefillin. Is it about equality or God?”

I think it’s because Reform and Conservative Jews mainly observe mitzvot that happen in the synagogue, which almost always apply to males only. Also, yes, for many of them it is about equality more than it’s about God–which makes sense considering lots of Jews don’t believe in God yet still have Jewish social lives.

Touche, Heshy. I first started wearing a tallit when I was just short of 24 years old, if memory serves me correctly, and I wasn't very observant then. I think I was still eating pork and shellfish at the time, and I certainly wasn't terribly concerned about lighting Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve) candles before sunset. My observance level has gone up and down over the years, and is currently relatively decent, due at least partly to the influence of my fellow and sister bloggers. (A little peer pressure goes a long way :) ). In my defense, though, I must say that there was more than "equality" involved in my decision to wear a tallit--I was a member of an egalitarian synagogue at the time, and became convinced that, since I had equal rights, I should also have equal responsibilites. By the time I was married and a mother and we moved out of the neighborhood, I'd already been wearing a tallit for over a decade, and kept wearing it because it just didn't seem right to stop, after all those years. It wasn't until at least a decade after our move that I heard that, once one begins to perform a mitzvah, one is obligated to continue for life. At the time, I thought it was ironic that I had come to my decision to continue to wear a tallit through intuition, in complete ignorance of halachah/Jewish religious law.

[ New paragraph ¶ ]

I think Chana is at least partially correct in saying that some of us non-Orthodox women choose to wear a tallit (and tefillin) because "Reform and Conservative Jews mainly observe mitzvot that happen in the synagogue, which almost always apply to males only." It stands to reason that some of us non-Orthodox women would wish to take on what we see as some of the primary symbols of Jewish identity and observance.

"Also, yes, for many of them it is about equality more than it’s about God–which makes sense considering lots of Jews don’t believe in God yet still have Jewish social lives." So I'm "Conservaprax"--so sue me. :)

The opposition to female Orthodox rabbis:Turf war?

In last Friday's New York Jewish Week, I read a snippet from this blog post by the Orthodox Union's Rabbi Pruzansky that had me steaming. Here's what made me mad: "The idea of "female clergy" . . . is a throwback to pagan ideologies and a perennial challenge to religious establishments."

At first, I took it as an infuriating personal insult directed against Orthodox women currently holding, or aspiring to hold, rabbi-like positions in the Orthodox community. Does he think that these scholars are performing rain dances--or worse--in the fields?

But once I calmed down, I realized that the second part of the sentence, "a perennial challenge to religious establishments," might actually be closer to the truth: Maybe at least part of the real problem is that some of the Orthodox male population resents the incursion of females into male-only territory.

That's exactly what I was talking about when I said, in my "Women in Judaism: Taxation without represention" post, "the fact is that almost the entire corpus of halachah/Jewish religious law has been determined by men [by which I mean that all the halachic authorities quoted in the Talmud, and down to our present day, are male]. (Hence the title of this post.) Some of those in power may simply not wish to share it."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tough times at (what's left of) the home shul :(

45 minutes
That's how long we had to wait to get enough men to do a Torah reading last Shabbat (Sabbath). It's just a matter of time before we have to skip a Torah reading completely. This should make for an interesting discussion at the next Board meeting. Will the Board finally bite the bullet and start allowing women to have aliyot? Stay tuned.

Ensuring the observance of a mitzvah (commandment)
Last Shabbat, we learned that the baal tefillah (prayer leader) for our weekday Shacharit (Morning Services) doesn't bother leading Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) after breakfast. Since we're not sure that all the attendees even know Birkat HaMazon, much less that they would say it, without a leader, we concluded that either my husband or I must lead, even if that means that, when my husband's not available, I have to stop by for breakfast after saying Shacharit at my "kaddish synagogue."

No catch-up time during Nissan

"Not that I would know, since I'm always in the middle of the Amidah at the time, but did we skip Tachanun today?"

"It's Nissan. There's no Tachanun during Nissan."

"Oh, yeah! I always forget. Thanks for reminding me!"

So for the entire month of Nissan, I won't have time during the Tachanun prayer to catch up and finish the Amidah prayer. Eek! By the time I finished the Amidah this morning, the rest of the minyan was halfway through the Aleinu prayer!

The irony is that Tachanun is not one of my favorite prayers, and, when davvening (praying) alone, I'm always happy to have an excuse to skip it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Koren Sacks Siddur: Lost in the transliterations

Here are samples of, for lack of a better description, "prayer-section markers" found at the tops of pages, as they appear in the following siddurim (prayer books). All siddurim are Nusach Ashkenaz unless otherwise specified.

Hertz Siddur, 1948
Hebrew page--Tefillat Shacharit l'Shabbat
English page--Sabbath Morning Service

DeSola Poole Siddur According to the Custom of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews (Minhag haS'faradim), 1941
Hebrew page--Shacharit shel Shabbat
English page--Sabbath Morning Prayers

Birnbaum Siddur, 1949
Hebrew page--Shacharit l'Shabbat v'Yom Tov
English page--Morning Service for Sabbath and Festivals

ArtScroll Siddur, 1984
Hebrew page--Shacharit l'Shabbat v'Yom Tov
English page--Shacharis for Sabbath and Festivals

Koren Sacks Siddur, 2009
Hebrew page--Shacharit l'Shabbat v'Yom Tov
English page--Shaharit for Shabbat and Yom Tov

Do you notice a trend here? I certainly do. The "prayer-section markers" in the siddurim that have a first-edition date in the 1940's are all fully translated, whereas those in the newer siddurim are half translated and half transliterated. Is the Orthodox community as a whole really that much better educated now than it was in the forties that they simply take it for granted that every Jew understands all Jewish references and terminology? Heaven help the person who doesn't (yet) know any Hebrew find his/her place in a siddur that's loaded, on the English page, with such so-called translations as Shabbat, Shacharit, and, noch besser (even better), tongue-twisters such as Yom HaAtzmaut.*

*Israeli Independence Day

Related: Koren Sacks Siddur: Lost in the translations


If you (re)build it, they will riot

Many thanks to Jameel for his live reporting on today's Palestinian "Day of Rage" protesting the dedication of the rebuilt Churva Synagogue in Jerusalem's Old City. For a more positive perspective, and a link to a photo of the rebuilt shul's interior, see WestBankMama's You Can Be A Victim, Or You Can Build.

Chodesh Tov, all, & Happy Birthday, Sonster

The Family Physicist, who's now studying for his PhD, turned 27 today. His proud parents hope that he can get out of the physics lab long enough to enjoy his birthday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

As promised,an entire post re Jewish education

Copied from the comments to this post of mine:

Shira Salamone said...
"Secular interests: they work with other professionals, and therefore expect to drive a car that is safe, be able to see a movie, go out to dinner, catch a ball game, and pay their taxes. That, combined with day school, limits family size. If they expected to live in poverty and send their kids to a RW Yeshiva, they'd be fine."

So you think that the Left-Wing Modern Orthodox are doomed because they insist on living like other contemporary human beings?

I hope you're right about charter schools being on solid constitutional grounds. But even if you're right, there simply won't be enough Hebrew-language charter schools to accommodate the thousands of Jewish children in need of at least a Hebrew-language education.
. . .
Miami Al said...

Correct, LWMO [Left-Wing Modern Orthodox] are doomed if they want to live like normal human being AND give everyone a private school education regardless of willingness to pay. I am sympathetic to someone that is poor because of a situation (health, injury, divorce, etc.) and wants a Jewish education. I'm not sympathetic to someone that chooses a low stress/low paying lifestyle and rents a small place in an upper middle class Jewish suburb and wants free/nearly free education for 5 kids. I've very UNSYMPATHETIC to someone that intentionally over-levers themselves, is house rich and cash poor, leases expensive automobiles, and therefore has no money for Day School... To let people adopt expensive lifestyles that prices out tuition is part of the fall of the system.

The Day Schools, for a variety of asinine reasons, cost approximately twice the Catholic schools. As a result, they are priced like prep schools, not parochial schools, with no interest in changing. The Catholic Church is unable to avoid school closings, Modern Orthodoxy needs to develop a plan that doesn't involve Prep School for all or it is doomed, up to the leadership and laity.

. . .
Shira Salamone said...
. . .
You did not address my point about the inadequate number of student placements available in Hebrew charter schools. I can't see how there could possibly be enough room to accommodate thousands of Jewish kids.

Re tuition, oy. I could write an entire post about Jewish day schools.

"The Day Schools, for a variety of asinine reasons, cost approximately twice the Catholic schools."

One of those "asinine reasons" is that no Jewish day school teachers are bound by oaths of poverty, and none of them save the community money by agreeing to live in dorms (convents, monasteries) all their lives. Jewish educators need their wages to help cover their living expenses.

"As a result, they are priced like prep schools, not parochial schools, with no interest in changing."

"As a result?" No, keep going--you're not there yet.

"Modern Orthodoxy needs to develop a plan that doesn't involve Prep School for all . . . "

Okay, *now* you're there. Jewish day schools are priced like prep schools not only because our community doesn't support "free" teachers (nuns, monks, priests), but also, and especially, because the prep-school aspirations of the day schools are one of their biggest selling points, in my opinion. This may be even more true among the parents of non-Orthodox day school students, who send their kids to day school in order to kill two--no, three--birds with one stone by (a) keeping them out of public (government-funded) schools, widely perceived as educationally-inadequate and (b) keeping them out of what after-school and/or Sunday-school Hebrew schools, also widely perceived as educationally-inadequate, and (c) provide them with a Jewish education in their secular-education location, thereby avoiding the necessity of having someone available to drive them from one school to another.

Did I miss anything? :)

In sum, day schools are currently designed to go far beyond the basics of either secular or Jewish education, providing, essentially, a prep-school education in secular studies and a yeshivah education in Jewish studies. What would you cut, and how, to bring the tuition down to a reasonable level without starving the teachers to death?
. . .
Miami Al said...
Catholic schools, including diocese ones, haven't relied heavily on Vow of Poverty clergy teachers in decades, mostly because there aren't spare priets/nuns in America. If you look at a contemporary Catholic school, the staff are real employees, yet the price differential is there.

Non Orthodox Day Schools are Jewish Prep Schools, there is ZERO market for a non-Orthodox Jewish parochial school in the Catholic model. They view religious school as a luxury, and therefore expect it to perform like the similar luxuries. Remember, an upper middle class non-Orthodox Jew's peer group is upper middle class America (Jew and Gentile), not middle class through upper class Jews like the Modern Orthodox Jew's peer group is.

In the Orthodox World, the insistence on religious instruction in the morning, secular in the afternoon, means that the teachers are all "part time," and therefore paid "less." But since most of them don't have two jobs, they aren't really paid less than they would for full time. As a result, the substandard pay only appeals to someone that wants the tuition break, so more and more people seek employment in the schools.

A family with 4 children and a mother teaching in the school for $40k/year, will get $25k in tuition reductions, and pay the balance of the $35k in tuition in pre-tax "deductions" so take home nothing. To pay $60k in tuition after taxes, that same family would need $100k in income. This is warping the entire Frum economy and forcing everyone into working within the school system... It's much easier to be qualified to be a $40k teacher than a $100k job, and you end up in the same place.

That's the structural economic problem in a nut-shell.

There are many people sending their children to Modern Orthodox Day Schools that if they weren't Orthodox would be utilizing the public school system. The tuition rates result in substantial scholarship, so the "Prep School" push is made for a small percentage of the families that "should" be using a Prep School, and the costs are falling on fewer and fewer.

Basically, outside of NYC, families that would be Ramaz families in NYC instead get on the board at the local Day School and push the school higher, despite being 10% - 15% of the school population. And if you are paying $8k after scholarship whether tuition is $10k, $15k, or $20k, why wouldn't you push for excellence in the school, someone else pays for it. Only a small group of parents are full paying and struggling, and that group shifts from year to year as some make more money and stop struggling and others fall into scholarship land.

Regarding Charters: if the Charter School is performing above metric (and no reason a 70% middle-class Jewish school shouldn't) and over-subscribed, why would there be a limit on the size of the Charters or the number of them? They should potentially be stellar performers pulling the school system up, what's the problem?
Shira Salamone said...
In all seriousness, Miami Al, we're both way off-topic. As I said, "I could write an entire post about Jewish day schools." I think I'll do just that, and copy some of the relevant comments from here to there. See you at the new post.
Here's the new post, as promised.

[New paragraph ¶ ]
Let me start the ball rolling.
[ ¶ ]

"Non Orthodox Day Schools are Jewish Prep Schools, there is ZERO market for a non-Orthodox Jewish parochial school in the Catholic model."

[ ¶ ]
True, but aren't some of the Modern Orthodox day schools, such as Ramaz, also Jewish prep schools?
[ ¶ ]
And Hebrew charter schools aren't going to spring up overnight, so what do we do in the meantime?

[ ¶ ]
Please join this discussion of how to reduce the cost of Jewish education.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Koren Sacks Siddur: Lost in the translations

As a native English speaker with a B.A. in French, I should know better than to expect logic from languages. Still, since I use the siddur (prayer book) as one of my tools for learning Hebrew vocabulary, I find that the multiple meaning of many milim makes milah mastery, er, challenging. (Sorry, I ran out of m's. :) )

Let me illustrate the problem I have with the siddur's milim (words).

Take the milah (word) "chiktah," for example.

In the early part of the P'sukei D'Zimrah (Verses of Song) section of Shacharit (Morning Service), there are a number of paragraphs/sections (depending on a siddur's layout) of miscellaneous biblical quotes. The paragraph beginning "Hoshiah et amecha (Save Your people)" contains the verse "Nafsheinu chiktah laShem . . .," from Psalm 33. At this place in the Koren Sacks Siddur, it's translated "Our soul longs for the Lord . . ." Yet, on Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (Festival), when we read the entire psalm at a later point in P'sukei D'Zimrah, the Koren Sacks Siddur translates the exact same words "Our soul waits for the Lord . . ." There are two different translations for the same verse in the same siddur?! It's a conspiracy to confuse me, I tell ya. :)

Then there's "misgav," found in the first brachah (blessing) before the Sh'ma in the Shacharit l'Chol (Weekday Morning Service).

Here's the way it's laid out in the Koren Sacks Siddur:

"Adon uzeinu, tzur misgabeinu
Magen yish'einu, misgav baadeinu."

And here's the translation:

"Lord of our strength, Rock of our refuge,
Shield of our salvation, You are our stronghold."

A short pronunciation and grammar lesson is necessary here. First, Ashkenazi Jews pronounce the letter "vet" like a V if it has no dagesh (dot) in the middle, but like a B if it has a dagesh. Second, almost all Hebrew words are built on a three-letter shoresh (root). One of my strengths, when I was in Ulpan Hebrew class a few years ago, was that I could spot a shoresh a mile away, and it's clear to me that "misgabeinu" is just a possessive form of "misgav." It means, "our X," whereas "misgav" means "X." But what's "X"? In one line, "misgav" (misgabeinu) is translated "(our) refuge," and in the very next line, it's translated "stronghold"!

It gets better, folks. In my opinion, the winning entry comes from Maariv l'Shabbat v'Yom Tov (Evening Service for Sabbath and Festival):

'Ki fadah HaShem et Yaakov, u-g'alo miyad chazak mimenu.'
Baruch . . . ga'al Yisrael."

Here's the Koren Sacks translation:

"And it is said,
'For the Lord has redeemed Jacob
and rescued him from a power stronger than his own.'
Blessed [is the One], who redeemed Israel."

Holy mismatched milim, Moshe!

1) Is "redeemed" the translation for "fadah" or for "ga'al?"

2) Since "g'alo" is obviously a form of the verb "ga'al," why is "g'alo/ga'al" translated "rescued (him)" in one sentence and "redeemed" in the very next sentence?

3) Does "podeh" (past tense "fadah") mean "redeem(ed)," as it's translated here, or "liberate," as it's translated in the Sabbath and Festival morning Nishmat Kol Chai prayer?

Related: Koren Sacks Siddur--tempest over a typo

People like me must be a translator's worst nightmare. :)


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Floral frustration

Nu, the leaves have been peeking up through the ground for over a month already--where are the crocuses?

Tuesday, I saw my first (and, thus far, only) crocus. Wednesday, much to my pleasant surprise, I saw my first miniature daffodils. The crocuses usually appear first. I wonder whether the poor crocuses were killed by the two recent snowstorms.

The good news is that, with all the leaves now well grown, we'll probably still have plenty of flowers to look forward to.

"My G-d, am I late!"

. . . said I under my breath, as I rushed into the minyan room yesterday morning--not only was the baalat tefillah (prayer leader) past the Baruch Sheh-amar prayer, she was past the Yishtabach prayer and well into the Matbeiah Shel Tefillah, the hard-core required section of Shacharit (Morning Service)! That was the latest I'd ever been to my "kaddish minyan." By the time I'd put on my tallit and tefillin, the congregation was just starting the Amidah prayer--and I realized that my consolation prize was that I'd be able to say Amen to both of the first two brachot (blessings) and join the congregation in the Kedushah section for only the third time since I've been going to this out-of-the-neighborhood synagogue to say kaddish for my mother. I'm such a slow davvener (pray-er) that I'm always in the middle of the brachah after the Sh'ma when the congregation begins the Amidah, and, therefore, can't join them in reciting the Kedushah, though I do get to say Kedushah when we say the Musaf (Additional) Amidah on Rosh Chodesh (New Month).

I sat down after Kedushah and began davvening the Matbeiah from the beginning, from Yotzer Or. But I realized, when I got to the end of the Sh'ma section, that I had a serious problem--either I could continue properly with the Amidah, or I could skip it and join the congregation to say the two Mourner's Kaddishes. There was not the remotest possibility that I'd be able to finish the Amidah on time to say kaddish with the minyan. So I apologized to HaShem with a quick "Baruch shem k'vod malchuto l'olam vaed" (Praised is the name of the glory of G-d's dominion forever and ever) and recited the two kaddishes. Otherwise, what was the point of shlepping by subway to the nearest minyan, even at that embarrassingly late time?

Then I went home, put my tallit and tefillin right back on, and recited the Matbeiah all over again from the beginning.

Ah, that's why I'd been setting my alarm clock to ring 10 minutes earlier.

Alarm clock hereby reset.

This morning, I got there just as the service was starting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

R. Elie Kaunfer's "Empowered Judaism," on 1 foot

Here are the notes that I wrote in my "List of Books Read" file:

3/2/10 Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities Rabbi Elie Kaunfer

· Insist on high standards—and figure out how to educate people to bring them up to those standards. (For example, make sure that leiners [those who chant the biblical readings from a Torah scroll] and baalei t’fillah [prayer leaders] get training and/or feedback.)
· To end on time, start on time, and limit divrei Torah ["words of Torah"/Torah teaching sessions] to 5 minutes.
· Kill two birds with one stone by giving volunteers personal encouragement and thanks (via e-mail, for example) rather than lengthening the service by having umpteen announcements at the end.
· Don’t bite off more than you can chew—if your minyan isn’t good at parties, send people elsewhere for Purim parties, and if you don’t have enough skilled people, and can’t train enough of them, to run a Shabbat [Sabbath] morning service, have services on Friday nights only.
· Find creative ways to maintain standards—one minyan that’s committed to environmentally-sound practices gives out leis announcing to all that the wearer has volunteered to wash dishes for 10 minutes, thereby avoiding having those women who were socialized to perform traditional roles become the default dish-washers.
· And don’t settle for “continuity” for the sake of continuity—Jews want their Judaism to mean far more than just peoplehood maintenance.
My favorite chapter was actually the "Appendix: An Empowered Judaism Approach to Prayer," in which Rabbi Kaunfer discusses the Biblical origin and context of the words of the first blessing of the Amidah [the "standing" prayer, recited while standing], the Avot (Ancestors) blessing. For example, “Kel elyon” [G-d on high/Supreme G-d] was actually swiped by Avraham Avinu [Abraham Our Father] from Malki-Tzedek, a pagan priest. Says Rabbi Kaunfer, “Although the simple reading of the Amidah seems to exclude everyone but the three patriachs, the blblical intertexts bring in missing characters, including Malki-Zedek, someone who is a clergy member of another religion! The biblical intertexts can open us up to any number of surprising conclusions, including one in which a non-Jew is quoted in the middle of classic Jewish prayer." (Page 174) "The experience of prayer is greatly enhanced if the siddur [prayer book] is treated like so many other texts in Jewish heritage, as a starting point for interpretation rather than a surface statement of dogma.” The siddur can by “seen as a book of poetry, with myriad allusions waiting to be unlocked . . . “ (Pages 175-176)

[New paragraph ¶ ]
Here are some more quotes from the book (pages 30-31) that I found particularly interesting:

[ ¶ ]

One of the clear dividing lines between egalitarian and non-egalitarian synagogues is the limits of liturgical flexibility. At Hadar, however, we broke the mold, deciding from our very first meetings to use a full traditional liturgy. . . . We wanted to decouple the de facto union in American Judaism between full women's participation and a scaled-down service.

[ ¶ ]
Adding Imahot--A Culture of Cooperation

There was one early exception to our insistance on tradtional liturgy: the option for the prayer leader to add the imahot (matriachs) to the first blessing of the Amidah. We developed a unique solution to this problem: instead of forbidding the addition, we decided to allow the prayer leader to choose whether or not add their names in the middle of the blessing--as long as he didn't alter the final line of the blessing. More important to me than the result was the process of reaching this decision. This might sound unremarkable, but it demonstrated one of the most important contrasts between Hadar and other communities I had participated in.

[ ¶ ]
For the past twenty years, adding imahot has been a particularly hot-button issue in egalitarian prayer communities. People noticed that only men were cited in the first blessing of the Amidah: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The fix this problem, some liturgists wrote an additional line that mentioned the corresponding four matriarchs and altered the final blessing to read: "shields Abraham and remembers Sarah (see the appendix.) When I was in college, this was an issue that tore apart our tiny, thirty-person Shabbat morning minyan. . . .

[ ¶ ]
Discussing this issue at the founding of the minyan, we had no angry fights, no vote, no walking out. Ethan [Tucker] and our friend (now colleague) Rabbi Shai Held had done much thinking about the issue and concluded it would be halakhically acceptable to add imahot in the body of the first paragraph, but not change the final line of the blessing. Ethan, Mara [Benjamin] and I decided to leave it up to the person leading the prayers to make the alteration in the body of the prayer (but not allow a change at the end). . . ."

[ ¶ ]
Now there's a compromise that I could live with.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A formatting trick discovered accidentally

Yesterday, I copied the new-paragraph symbol from a website--I can't remember which one, unfortunately--with the intention of using it to show paragraph breaks, since I've been having formatting problems.

Imagine my surprise when it turned out that the symbol was actually functional, and created paragraph breaks!

You can probably expect to see a lot more new-paragraph symbols.

Just so you don't get too excited :)

See here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Koren Sacks Siddur--tempest over a typo

[I realize that the formatting errors are getting quite annoying, but I have no clue how to edit html, so we're stuck with them. Sorry.]
[New paragraph ¶ ]

Yes, I know this is an old story, but I'm still upset about it.

[ ¶ ]
I said:

1) I find it annoying that the Rabbi Yishmael Omer quotation at the end of Birkot HaShachar continues the differentiation of "echad (one)" in verse 9 and "acher (other)" in verse 10, a difference, in Hebrew script, of exactly one letter. I assume that this error resulted from the similarity of appearance between the letters daled and resh, and probably originated with a typesetter of a previous siddur. The same error appears in the 1941 siddur of Sacks' predecessor as Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, Rabbi Hertz. If anything, the manner in which these two verses are laid out in the Koren Sacks Siddur makes it even more obvious that this is an error. As recently as the 1949 Birnbaum Siddur (Ashkenaz) and the 1977 DeSola Pool Siddur According to the Custom of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, the word was correctly spelled "acher" in both verses 9 and 10. When did this obvious typo become so sacrosanct that it can't be corrected?”

[ ¶ ]
He (the editor) said:

Raphael Freeman said...

. . .
With respect to Rabbi Yishmael omer, I’m curious as to why you think that this is a mistake. This would indeed be a grevious mistake and would change the way we learn Torah. Can you please give some evidence basing your theory?
Frankly, I don’t think either of us came up smelling like a rose on this question. My complaint was not phrased respectfully enough. “Annoying” was not the best choice of words. On the other hand, all I said was that there was a spelling error. I certainly didn’t say anything about changing the way we learn Torah! Why did the editor not address my point? It was perfectly obvious to even this am ha-aretz (Jewishly-illiterate person) that the only way to determine the correct spelling of that word was to check the original source and see how Rabbi Yishmael himself had spelled it. Why wasn’t it obvious to the editor?

[ ¶ ]
See the following comments:

Shira Salamone said...
Concerning the Rabbi Yishmael question, I e-mailed the following to my "G-d Squad" (rabbis and rabbinical students) list:

"Please hold the rotten tomatoes and forgive me for being an am ha-aretz--I really did believe that I was looking at a simple spelling error. But that begs the question: If the Birnbaum and DeSola Pool spell that word one way and the Hertz, ArtScroll, and Koren Sacks spell it another way, it seems to me that *someone* made a spelling error, unless there is more than one version of the Rabbi Yishmael Omer text. Could some kind soul with access to Sifra kindly check the beginning/introduction, where the various siddurim say that this text originates?"
Shira Salamone said...
Received by e-mail from Rabbi Gil Student, of the Hirhurim blog (see my blogroll):

Birnbaum made emendations based on conjecture and he was knowledgeable but not a major talmid chacham. However, De Sola Pool's Hebrew was put together by R. Chaim Chavel who was a major talmid chacham.

That notwithstanding, I checked Dr. Seligmann Baer's Siddur Avodas Yisrael -- Dr. Baer was a famous German grammarian from the mid-nineteenth century -- and he has it with the first as echad and the second as acher.

My suspicion is that the standard siddurim had the split but their source, the Sifra, did not (I checked and it doesn't, at least in the Weiss edition). It is possible that both Birnbaum and R. Chavel decided that to change the siddur text to fit the Sifra. Just a speculation on my part.

Gil Student
Have you seen my new book?
Elie said...
Gil's last comment was essentially what I was going to reply. Birnbaum explicitly addresses the echad/acher issue in the introduction to his siddur. He refers to it as an error in most siddur editions, which he corrected based on the original source of the beraysa, the first page of the Sifra.

Given the above, how could it be argued that the split version is anything but a copyist's error? Are there editions of the sifra which have it the other way?
As I said in the comments to this post, "Mr. Freeman never responded. I’m quite peeved. I take it for granted that he assumed that an am ha-aretz (Jewishly-illiterate person) couldn’t possibly be correct." Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, the final score is Shira Salamone, Am HaAretz--1; Raphael Freeman, Talmid Chacham--0. I may be ignorant, but I'm smart enough to ask an intelligent question--and I expect an intelligent answer.

[ ¶ ]
[ ¶ ]
See also Rabbi Student's more formal reply (and the comments thereto), One or the Other: Rabbi Yishmael Omer.


Targum:A precedent for translation, like it or not

Pardon the usual formatting problems. :(
A few years ago, a former colleague of mine (since retired) told me that her synagogue's new rabbi had insisted, much to her distress, that every single book of any kind that included an English translation be removed from the sanctuary. My response was to say that her shul might as well hang a huge banner over the entrance saying, "Baalei T'shuvah ("returnees" to Orthodox Judaism) and Gerim (converts) not welcome here." :(
Have you read my previous post? Isn't this rabbi aware that there are translations from the Hebrew on the Hebrew pages of a bilingual siddur (prayer book)?
Rabbinic Intern Braham Weinberg shared this information on "The Language of Tefilla":

"While only certain select non-Hebrew prayers were included in the formal liturgy (Kaddish, Kedusha D’Sidra, Brich Shmey, Yekum Purkan, and some sections of the Selichot), the rabbis of the Talmudic and post-Talmudic periods permitted us to recite any of the other prayers in the vernacular as well. The Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, rules that a person may recite any of the prayers including the shma and the amidah in any language that he or she understands (OC 101:4) provided that it is a direct translation of the text of the siddur and not a paraphrase or a personally composed prayer newly invented by the translator (Igrot Moshe OC 4:70). It would even be permissible for an entire congregation that didn’t understand Hebrew to pray together in a different language that they understood more clearly (Mishna Berura 55:1).
[New paragraph ]
The Chatam Sofer writes that the Shulchan Aruch only permitted a congregation to pray in a language other than Hebrew in order to understand what they are saying on a temporary basis. They would not be able to establish the official language of prayer in that synagogue to be any language other than Hebrew (Chatam Sofer, OC 84 & 86)."
[ ]
My guess is that the original precedent for praying in languages other than Hebrew came from the Targum. "To facilitate the study of Tanakh and make its public reading understood, authoritative translations were required. . . . Targum Onkelos was read alternately with the Torah, verse by verse, and Targum Jonathan was read alternately with the selection from Nevi'im (i.e. the Haftarah)."
[ ]
If the ancient sages authorized the translation of even the Torah (Five Books of Moses) and the N'vi'im (Prophets) to ensure that they would be understood, what's wrong with providing worshippers with a Hebrew-English siddur and Chumash?
[ ]
In addition, this rabbi seems never to have considered the possibility that translations might be an educational tool. He has no idea how much Hebrew I've learned by reading translations of the Tanach (Bible) and siddur.
[ ¶ ]
And he's obviously given no thought to the difficulties of newcomers to prayer, such as baalei t'shuvah and gerim/converts, and to those with learning disabilities. A couple of former fellow congregants (from our Manhattan days) and current Israeli-folk-dancing buddies of ours have a child who's sufficiently dyslexic that s/he can barely read English, much less any other language. Is s/he not allowed to pray?
[ ¶ ]
I don't even know this rabbi, and I dislike him already. :(


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