יום שלישי, פברואר 26, 2008

Regarding Prayer III

For a whole host of reasons many people feel uncomfortable with parts of traditional Jewish prayer. Some people are offended by negative references to non-Jews or women. Some people are bothered by phrases that seem to them archaic or incorrect.
A good friend is running a survey asking: Do the following prayers bother you? If so, why?
  • אב הרחמים

  • קרבנות

  • שלא עשני אשה

  • יקום פורקן

To answer these and other questions please take this survey. Also, spread the word among your friends.
Take the survey.
I'll pass along the results and any comment in this post to my friend.
Results will be reported.

Update: The poll is working again!!!


יום שני, פברואר 25, 2008

Regarding Prayer II

Over the past week I asked a number of folks my new question. Most seemed unimpressed. People seem comfortable accepting the prayers as they are. A bit sad. I've become more free-form in my prayers of late and these questions have been on my mind even before Prof Yehudah Gelman crystallized them for me. Here are a number of possible solutions Prof. Gelman presented along with the question.
  1. An easy response to using these in prayer: These are all poetic phrasing (metaphors) and refer to the perceived reality and not the physical reality. R' Hirsh and R' Kook take this approach. I feel this is less than honest, as the writers of these prayer were not seeking poetic descriptions despite knowledge otherwise but were describing a reality they believed true. For tefilot this is ok. For Yekum Purkan we are still left looking for what could be the metaphor in old political realities. Some siddurim "mistranslate" Bavel as Diasopra and the Reish Galuta becomes the archetype of a Diaspora leader. Also in this approach I feel a lack of honesty in that we are taking what was written to be literal and "re-writing" it as allegorical.

  2. Another type of solution is to view prayer as quotational. I am saying what other people said. This is what allows me to speak in prayer. R' Soloveitchk (drawing on the gemara talking about what praises can be used in reference to God "V'Tu Lo?!") strongly opposed any new prayers on these grounds. I need a "matir" to pray. I stand on the shoulders of the chutzpah of previous generation.The issue with this is that prayer is no longer mine. One, this attitude lends itself to my prayer moving quickly to auto-pilot mumbling. Two, and more importantly, it is harder for me to relate to the content. I find myself singing a prayer called Adon Olam, not stating for myself and for the world that HaShem is the Adon of the world. Three, this feeds a "magical" perspective towards tefilah. Tefilah is not me talking to God but rather a mystical formula I dutifully chant and God will grant my wish.

  3. Maybe we can change the prayers or write new ones to replace them? For tefilat haderech I might ask for driving skill, calm reaction, and clarity of vision rather than safety from wild animals. This would allow me to create a set of prayers that is purely me communicating with God - the purpose as we earlier noted. The drawback is that I loose the continuity that reaches generations back and between communities. I loose the ability to pray as a congregation and I am disconnected from my ancestors who prayed with the classical texts.

  4. If disconnect is the only problem then we can add prayers. Keep the continuity and the community AND have new prayers allowing for present circumstances that we live in. This gives me a place to connect to God in the reality I live in and connect to God in the fashion Jews always have. I feel that after not so long of doing this you would end up with a prayerbook the size of the Brittanica. Also, in creating out own prayers, suited to our particular worldview and cosmology, might we not end up with (and stick future generations with) our versions of "Windows in the sky"?
Do any other answers occur to you?


יום שישי, פברואר 22, 2008

Megilah I

When we step out of our day-school classroom Esther is odd relative to the other books in the Bible. There is no historical context, no timeline, no wars, lots of large parties. There are more descriptions of clothing and food then of the content of the parties. It's like listening to the tabloid reporters outside the Oscars. The exaggerations of the storyline: "A party for 180 days..." You mean to tell us that all the leaders of the world (Hodu to Kush) ignored their countries for half a year?!?

Consider the following idea: The megilah was written as a satire. A farce. A comedy.
Consider the following scene. After his accession to power in October 485 BC, in 483 BC Xerces goes to war with Greece taking 6 million people with him. The is the 3rd year of his reign. Sounds familiar? Prior to the war he holds council with his trusted advisers. 13 The king conferred with the sages, those knowledgeable of the times for this was the king's custom, to [bring such matters] before those who were versed in every law and statute. 14 Those closest to him were Carshina, Sheitar, Admata, Tarshish, Meress, Marsina and Memuchan. These were the seven ministers of Persia and Media, who had access to the king and ranked highest in the kingdom. And what was asked of the wise councilmen?
"What should I do about my wife?" Right. Surely you jest.

We see this again towards the end of the story. Xerces goes to war with Greece and looses. What is recorded? King Achashverosh levied a tax upon the mainland and the islands of the sea. 2 And the entire history of his power and strength, ... are recorded in the Book of Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia.
Right. Power and strength. He lost!! Nu. We won't say it outright.


תוויות: ,

יום שני, פברואר 18, 2008

Religion & Romance

Not being in the market myself I have npt given much thought the the dating world. I do clearly recall the piece of apologetic gobbledy-gook that was sagiously handed to me as to all good religoious boys and girls.

יום ראשון, פברואר 17, 2008

Regarding Prayer I

As best I understand it, the goal is to have a personal communication with God.
A general question for Judaism today is how should we relate to the aspects of Judaism formed under a particular circumstance, worldview, or physical reality? Specifically, how do I pray using words referring to an incorrect cosmology or to a no-longer-existent political reality?

Cosmology becomes an issue when we regard what was the common cosmology at the time our prayers were composed. The earth was a flat chunk of land resting on pilers that extended down in to a giant sea. This sea surrounded the land and thus limited it. There was a half-sphere of sky above us upon which God orchestrated the daily movement of the stars and clouds. There were windows in this sphere through which water from the upper waters could pour down as rain and there were windows through which the sun, moon, & stars made their daily entrance and exit. Above the half-sphere of heavens was the sea of upper water and the heavens of the heavens.
Given this description we have examples of prayers referring to this cosmology including:
  • Chalonay Rakiya (Birkat kriyat shmah)
  • M'sader kochavim b'mishmirotyhen
  • Ha'Mayim asher me'al haShamayim (Tehillim 14?)
  • Arbah Kanfot ha'Aretz
  • Afsei Aretz
  • Mosdie Aretz
  • Rokah HaAretz al haMayim
  • Redet Sheol, and others.
Regarding the issue of changed political realities we have fewer problems. Ykum Purkun stands out in that we bless and ask for protection for the Jews of Bavel and the Reish Galuta, a political position no longer in existence.

As always - Thoughts?


יום שלישי, פברואר 05, 2008

Stop living in sin!!!

There was a wedding 6 months ago but our respective documents still have us down as single.

We gathered up any documents that seemed relevant, a photo or three, and a fistful of shekalim. The waiting room has a wireless connection so I can share this experience with the world.

Misrad Ha'Pnim - Ministry of the Interior
Picture please a large, low-ceilinged, gray room. People around you sit and fidget. Glance up at the red flashing numbers that are nowhere near yours. Look at your watch and calculate how late you will be for your 12:30 allergist appointment on the other side of town.

Nice picture, no?

יום שני, פברואר 04, 2008

MS Visio - Grrrrr!!!!

Frustration comes in many different flavors. The most common one in our day and age is the "Computer-related" flavor. Currently I'm running afoul of MS Visio. It's a cute little program built to help us all create flow charts and the like. I would like to create a flow chart. I need certain symbols. they do not seem to be in the vast symbol store Microsoft supplies. There is a enterprising fellow by the name of Gane Sarson who realized this and created the (four!) shapes needed for the type of flowcharts I want to do. He charges $20 for it.

Damn. Makes me want to pirate something. Like a treasure ship. Or an oil rig. Or a piece of software that wants $20 for 4 shapes.