Monday, February 16, 2015

Shira takes another look at Jewish liturgy

Naturally, I can't find the post, but a few weeks ago, I read a discussion among Orthodox women about prayer, and was struck by one woman's choice to say "Baruch . . . hamechin mitz'adei adam" (roughly translated, "Praised [is the One who] makes firm the steps of a human") rather than "Baruch . . . hamechin mitz'adei gaver" ("Praised [is the One who] makes firm the steps of a man").

Previously, I had posted:

"since the Hebrew language does not have a neuter, any word in the masculine can be assumed to include the feminine unless otherwise specified. The most common form of specification is "Avraham, Yitzchak, v'Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)," which clearly excludes women."

I am no longer of that opinion.  The words "gever" (or "gaver") and "ish" both mean "man" pretty unequivocally.  The word "adam" (pronounced "ahdahm" in modern Israeli Hebrew), though technically masculine, is the closest that the gendered Hebrew language comes to "person" or "human."  The proof is in Tanach/the Bible, in B'reshit/Genesis, Chapter 1:

כז  וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ, בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ:  זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם.27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.

Yes, in the original (or earlier portion, if you prefer) of the creation story, Adam is both male and female.  (Notice that the original Hebrew word is "ha-adam (the adam)"--in this instance, the word "adam" is not being used as a name.)  Consequently, I think it can be assumed that, even in modern Israeli Hebrew, the term "adam," when not used as a name, means "person" or "human."

So now, not only do I say "Baruch . . . hamechin mitz'adei adam," I also say "Ashrei adam sheh-yishma l'mitzvotecha (Happy is the person who listens to Your commandments)" instead of "Ashrei ish . . . Happy is the man . . ." in the prayer text after the three paragraphs of Sh'ma.  Why should I exclude myself from my own prayers?

On the other hand, I've adopted a practice that I first saw in the birkon/bentcher/Grace after Meals book Shaarei Simcha/Gates of Joy (edited by Adena K. Berkowitz and Rivka Haut) in order to comply technically with the tradition that one doesn't change the chatimah ("seal") of a b'rachah/blessing (the part that begins with Baruch)--I add words in my head, rather than aloud.  So I no longer say "u-foked Sarah,"* I think it.

Apparently, my choice of wording in prayer is still a work in progress.

See also these posts of mine:

~ Hem u'nsheihem (them and their wives)" . . . : A woman's place--if any--in the siddur (Sunday, January 08, 2006)

~ Sheh-asani (updated) (Saturday, April 12, 2014--click on the link in that post to read the original.

*Rough translation: "Who keeps His commitment to Sarah."


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