Monday, August 01, 2016

Quick dikduk/Hebrew grammar question by baalat tefillah

[Or is this a question regarding Aramaic grammar?]

First, an explanation:  The Orthodox siddur/prayer book says one thing, the Conservative another in the Birkot HaShachar/Morning Blessings.

The Orthodox phrase three of the blessings this way:
Praised are You
~ who did not make me a non-Jew
~ who did not make a slave
~ who did not make me a woman/who made me according to His will

The Conservative siddur (and some other non-Orthodox siddurim) phrase those three blessings this way:
Praised are You
~ who made me in His image
~ who made me a free person
~ who made me a Jew

My problem, when I'm a shlichah tzibbur (representative of the congregation)/baalat tefillah (prayer leader) is with the Hebrew (Aramaic?) in the non-Orthodox version of the second b'rachah/blessing:  What am I supposed to do with "ben chorin?"  Theoretically, it means a free person.  But the literal meaning of "ben" is "son."  I'm no one's son.  But if I change the b'rachah to "bat chorin," ("bat" meaning "daughter"), I exclude the males of my congregation.

What's with this "ben chorin" business, anyway?  It also shows up in the Haggadah, and I have the same problem with it there, too.  Can't one say simply "chorin?"


Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

May I repost this question on Facebook? I'm likely to get an answer there.

Mon Aug 01, 01:45:00 PM 2016  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Wow, thanks! Please do!

Mon Aug 01, 01:48:00 PM 2016  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

First answer (I'm sure there will be others):
In my C synagogue some baalei tefillah say "she-asnu bnai horim -- who made us free." "Horin" doesn't exist in Hebrew as a free-standing word.

Tue Aug 02, 04:05:00 PM 2016  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

And another comment:

f Most times when a woman is davvening from the amud, I've heard "bat chorin", and it's far less exclusionary then hearing "she lo-asani ishah" is for women in an Orthodox shul. But "ben" does not mean "son" here, any more than it does if I ask a boy, "Ben kama atah?" - I'm not asking "Of how many are you the son" and to say that in that sentence the word literally means "son" is simply incoherent. Ben/bat also means to have or be subject to a certain quality or condition, so when Saul speaks of David "Ben mavet hu" that doesn't mean "he is the son of death", it means, "He's a dead man" or "He's doomed" (and thus, Bar/Bat mitzvah doesn't mean "son or daughter of the commandments" but "subject to the commandments").

Tue Aug 02, 04:09:00 PM 2016  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

And two more:

In every Conservative siddur, I've seen Ben horin for men and bat horin for women; it's not meant to be exclusionary, it's just a function of the fact the Hebrew grammar is inherently gendered.

Hebrew grammar has no neuter gender. No word for 'children', no word for CHILD - only 'sons' and 'daughters'. Like other Semitic languages, the feminine is SPECIFIC for females, while the male analog is for any group containing at least one male.So 'ben chorin' is appropriately 'child of freedom' while 'bat chorin' is specifically and ONLY 'daughter'.

Tue Aug 02, 04:20:00 PM 2016  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Followups to the comment that begins "Most time when a woman ..."

But in normal Hebrew speech we do ask girls "bat kamah at?"

Yes, the word does have gender (as do virtually all words in Hebrew), but the fact that a word has gender as a grammatical gender does not mean that it refers to something that itself has gender or sex.

Tue Aug 02, 05:20:00 PM 2016  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Some discussion of various editions of Israeli Masorti prayerbooks that I don't think we need to worry about. Upshot is that an attempt was made to replace all three brachot with sheasani yisrael and that this didn't last.

Tue Aug 02, 05:23:00 PM 2016  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

3 more:

It seems to me the answer depends on whether these blessings are recited "for one's self" or "for the congregation". I lean towards the former, because members of the congregation recite the same blessings on their own.

In the Reconstructionist siddurim it's Ben/Bat

Ben chorin may be a standard phrase regardless of gender, as ben adam means human being but I've never heard people use bat adam.

Tue Aug 02, 05:24:00 PM 2016  
Anonymous Naomi Chana said...

As sha"tz in my Conservative shul, I go with "bat chorin" because Siddur Sim Shalom/Lev Shalem gives both options, so I choose the one that fits me grammatically. I confess I don't think about it much more than that on a day-to-day basis. (There is at least one delightful older gent who just reads the line straight through -- "she'asani ben-bat chorin." I don't think he's telling us anything about his gender identity, though.)

Now that I *am* thinking about it: although I like "she'asanu b'nei chorin" for its inclusiveness (and I enjoy the echo in my head from the Haggadah), the birchot ha-shahar are in the singular, not the plural. And I don't quite think I can stretch "ben chorin" to include my female self (I can do that with "yisrael" vs. "yisraelit"). So I'm sticking with "bat chorin."

Tue Aug 02, 07:40:00 PM 2016  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter. Bircat ha'shachar aren't communal brachot. They're individual brachot and should be made in the singular. The sha"tz isn't doing something communally, Ashkenazi custom in many shuls is just to start at that point of the siddur. Some start a little later with Rebbi Yishma'el Omer in order to get in the kaddish. Everyone is supposed to be saying them to themselves any way and answering Amen simply because of the idea of "b'rov am hadrach melech". But realistically, the only time you are fulfilling someone else's obligation for the bracha is the morning after an all night learning session where some haven't slept. But that's a separate issue.

Wed Aug 03, 02:54:00 PM 2016  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, ben chorin is mishnaic Hebrew. Not Aramaic. Aramaic would use "bar" not "ben."

Fri Aug 05, 11:19:00 AM 2016  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks to all for that helpful information. Much as I like "she'asanu b'nei chorin (who made us children of the free)," I must concede that that b'rachah/blessing is written in the singular. As long as I'm not fulfilling someone else's obligation, I guess I'll stick to "bat chorin."

Also, thanks for the language information. To be honest, I can't tell the difference between Mishaic Hebrew and Aramaic--I've always assumed, apparently incorrectly, that most "final" Nuns, as opposed to "final" Mems, indicate an Aramaic word. Oops.

Chodesh Tov (if one says that on Rosh Chodesh Av).

Fri Aug 05, 02:59:00 PM 2016  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Hey, wait a minute--is the Facebook commenter Naomi Chana whom you quoted above the same one who formerly blogged at That was a good blog--I have her old URL because I posted it on my blog in the days before I figured out how to post links. Sigh--doesn't anyone blog anymore?

Sun Aug 07, 07:29:00 PM 2016  
Blogger Sarah Yentl said...

In one reform siddur, there is nice substitution: she lo-asani´s another way around :-)

Wed Aug 24, 05:59:00 AM 2016  

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