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?

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2 Comments:

At 2:38 לפנה״צ, Blogger Shraga said...

with regards to answer 4:
ending up with our own "windows in the sky" is unavoidable and irrelevant. That statement is reminisent of the people who ignore science and torah contradictions because science has been wrong before and could be wrong again
Secondly, adding prayers is one step before removing prayers on the slippery slope

 
At 11:30 אחה״צ, Blogger YS said...

True. Adding prayers is on the slippery slope but might the benefit of relating to what we are saying not outweigh that?
In the same vein, I'd rather pray in English and be speaking than to pray in Hebrew and be reciting.

 

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