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October 13, 2015 | 30th Tishrei 5776
(For the Amidah, L'chah Dodi)

  1. The Amidah read silently gives one the opportunity to personalize his/her prayer, to transcend the moment as one communicates with Adonai one-to-one. The traditional form was to pray silently and then to repeat the t'filah with the chazan. I love having it both ways. Old time Reform practice took the personal time and made it totally communal, leaving us only that short moment called the "silent prayer." Currently you can find reform Jews "doing it" many ways; but "doing it" is what is important. Try the t'filah in many ways to discover that which is most meaningful to you and your congregation. This is much like the discussion of covering one's eyes during the Sh?ma, you can't do it wrong and you can only find your own path(s) to connect. That's what it is all about.


  2. In our Friday evening service we do the full Amidah aloud, as has become the Reform minhag. In our informal Saturday morning minyan, we start aloud - doing the Avot V'Imahot, G'vurot, and the k?dusha together, then allow for silent prayer, either through continuation of the words on the page or the meditations of one's heart. We ask that all sit down when they are finished and do not continue the service until all are ready.

    750 Households

  3. In studying the Avot, I draw a connection between the opening list: Elohei Abraham, Elohei Yitzak, Elohei Yaakov and the aspects of the divinity listed close to the end of prayer: Ozeir, Moshia, Magen (Help, Savior, Shield).

    In this parallel structure, the closing Magen Avraham (Shield of Abraham) suggests the other two reverse pairings of Ozeir Yaakov (Help of Jacob) and Moshia Yitzak (Savior of Isaac) which seems to make sense against the aspect of the divine which was most prominent in their lives:

    • Abraham shielded in war
    • Isaac saved from being sacrificed
    • Jacob helped in wrestling with the angel

    In the original, this pairing seems to make a theological statement about how different aspects of the divine play out in the history of our people and in the lives of individuals.

    Unfortunately, adding the Imahot in the manner of the Gender Neutral Gates of Prayer breaks this pattern, inserting four additional names without any extension of the list of aspects of the divine. Instead, there is a tagging of Ezrat Sarah (Sara's Help) which seems problematic.

    Two Questions:

    1. Is there a source that discusses this linkage in the original prayer and its meaning?
    2. Has there ever been an attempt at a gender inclusive version that retains this symmetry? If so, how can I get a copy of the text?
    Jon approx 200 families

  4. In the version our congregation uses, the patriarchs/matriarchs are paired in their generations. We conclude with ufokeid Sarah, based on the Genesis text: vayipakad HaShem et Sarah. We selected this text because the Holy One takes note of Sarah, remembers Sarah--i.e., took note of and remembers the mothers of Israel too. Yafah

  5. If you have not read Lawrence Hoffman's My Peoples Prayer Book Vol. 2-The Amidah, I highly recommend it.

    I am not certain there is any basis for adding the matriarchs to the Avot Imahot except for the purpose of gender neutrality. This being the case, the formula that was used for the Avot may not be applicable although I am certain our rabbis could find a new formulation.

    This is part of the problem with gender neutrality. Simply changing a word here or there and/or simply changing the English translation leads to quite a bit of confusion. Jim 230+

  6. I am a feminist and I am a Reform Jew. I am also a cantor who graduated in the mid-1990s from HUC?JIR SSM. I have always been bothered by the inclusion of the matriarchs in the Avot prayer. I felt that it was a misguided, well-meaning attempt to be inclusive to women and girls in prayer, but it missed the mark. The matriarchs' relationship to God is so completely different and unique from the patriarchs' relationship. By trying to be P.C., our movement's shapers detracted from the power and meaning of the original prayer and also, in my opinion, set forth a solution to the problem of trying to be inclusive of women in our religious (particularly liturgical) experience by merely inappropriately referencing four women who do not represent role models or archetypes the way that the patriarchs do. As a child, Abraham was my hero, my role model. Sarah was peripheral to me as a character. This is the way they are portrayed and to try to reinvent their characters through inclusion in the Avot fails to appease my true needs as a Jewish woman: My need to be taken seriously, to be allowed to pursue a job in any congregation I wish, to be free of sexual harassment from Jewish men, my need to be educated equally, my need to have my voice included in the discourse of Jewish scholarship. Not to mention my need to be paid the same as a male Jewish professional in the same position.

    Thanks for throwing me the bone of including the matriarch's names in the T?filah prayer, but that only sends the message that boys, your role models are Abraham Isaac and Jacob, and for the ladies we have Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel. And don't get me started on the whole cult of Miriam that has arisen over the past two decades. I don't need the mythos of Judaism rewritten to emphasize characters just because they are women. I need access and power to study and teach the texts and lessons of Judaism as they are, fully. I can study Miriam, but I am more interested in Moses. By encouraging the deliberate, self-conscious inclusion of female bible figures, however peripheral, in our liturgy and rites, I fear we put forth the wrong message to Jewish girls. Just let me have a place at the table (equal to the mens') and I will eagerly devour the stories and teachings in their entirety.

    I mean no offense to those who are inspired by the matriarchs and other females in our tradition. But the issues of feminism and Judaism are of far greater scope than just hearing female names in our prayers. And as [another subscriber] points out in his posting, the original prayer is cogent, meaningful and eloquent in its language. It is a shame to sacrifice this for political correctness.


  7. Perhaps for women to locate themselves in our tradition, it is not necessary to have women role models, or at least women forebearers with whom to identify. I personally tend to connect most to Jacob.

    However, think about how these prayers came to be written. They are not misinai. If we believe that the Torah text is God inspired but written by human beings, then we can see that there is a possibility that while many important stories are conveyed, there are also those that are left out. And if these texts were taught, sung, transmitted by men, who were concerned about the behavior and stories of men, then we may just be leaving out some very important aspects of our communal life, namely, the experiences of the women.

    Furthermore, from the text we do indeed have, it is possible to see Rebecca as the link between Abraham and Jacob... not Isaac. She is the one who makes things happen, she is the one to whom God communicates while the twins are struggling in her womb. So maybe the Avot should read, Abraham, Rebecca and Jacob, if this prayer is to be the record of our ancestors relationship with God. It isn't so clear that Isaac had such a relationship.

    We have a tough task in this world with regards to feminism. Is feminism "women can do anything men can do only better?" Or is it, "women and men are truly equal, even if they may have different strengths and weaknesses, different sensitivities, etc." I do believe that men and women have different core needs and reactions, albeit with blurry lines between them. God created us male and female, because it was not good for Adam (the initial neutral human being) to be alone. Therefore there must be some reason for both males and females to exist, to be different from one another. Otherwise, God could have formed us all as males, or all as females. Teaching women that they can do anything men can do only better, and that they don't need other women role-models or heroes to identify with, only sets them unequal to men and makes them have to prove a status they should already have. Women can celebrate being women, with their femininity, with their strength, without having to make ourselves the same as men.

    We just celebrated Shavuot, zman matan torateinu, the time of the giving of Torah. Why is it not called the time of receiving Torah? Heschel explains that Torah was given only once, but that it continues to be received every moment. Are we to assume that there is no more to our ancestors' stories to be learned? Are we to assume that the text is all encompassing and complete? I do not think so, and that is why Midrash is so appealing. It helps us to fill in the gaps, and it enlarges our understanding of the possibilities Torah so generously presents to us.

    One last point: As sweet singers of Israel, we are engaged in the pursuit of teaching Torah, and the most important thing we can do is to help people find their way in, to find their own story in the midst of this ancient text. If seeing Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and yes, Miriam, in our prayers helps women to see that there is a place for them in our tradition, then I am all for it. Alison

  8. As a female congregant, I find the inclusion of women comforting and important. Though women are present in the Torah, I find the text very male centered and difficult to read so any reference to the female influence in the Torah and in prayers makes me feel closer to Judaism. I also appreciate when a rabbi or cantor includes women's influence in their teaching...I know there are many books on the subject but such teachings are more meaningful to me in the context of the service. The feminine to me is not intellectual, but a felt sense of being a woman and what that means [spiritually]. Laura

  9. I am glad to hear that I am not the only one that has misgivings about how prayers have changed just to be politically correct. I understand the reasoning to be so inclusive, but I have always felt that the inclusion of the wives in the Avot, especially, was like adding women as an afterthought. I'm almost afraid to sing Aishet Chayil because it too is politically incorrect, but it is such a beautiful poem and has beautiful melodies to go with it. As long as we, as modern men and women, understand and are reminded of where these prayers are coming from and what they mean, and what the history is, then I can't understand why we need to change them either. Rather the composers of today can write new songs to complicate those prayers rather than just change them. I feel as if I have been forced to become politically correct when it never bothered me in the first place that I looked at the supreme being as a father figure. It was more of a language translation that I felt the gender was irrelevant to the meaning behind the masculine words. That did not mean to me ever that woman were any less inferior. Such is change. Ellen

  10. Calling the inclusion of the Imahot 'politically correct' makes it seem insubstantial and faddish. Including women in our prayers is important to us, but more especially to the coming generations who will take it for granted that women are important in our heritage. People did not particularly want women to have important jobs outside the home either. Now our kids take it for granted that their doctors, lawyers, and, yes, rabbis and cantors are women. This is not political correctness; this is justice. Kitty

  11. It is so difficult, sometimes, to be sensitive to the effects our words have when we are using them to express heartfelt, sincere, and very legitimate feelings and thoughts. The term "politically correct," though not meant, I am sure, as a pejorative, has itself become so freighted with associations that it is really a debate-killer. Like the term "antisemitism," there is no response when one is accused of political correctness. It implies that the thoughts and feelings of the other party are less than sincere, that they are calculated for effect. This is a very large club to wield in polite conversation, and should only be used if one is quite sure of the intent of the other party. Just as there is real antisemitism in the world, there is real political correctness. Adding the Imahot (mothers) to the Avot (fathers) in the first section of the Amidah is not a good example of insincere pandering to trendy political causes.

    There are people, women mostly but not exclusively, who feel real exclusion in the gendered language in our tradition. There are real, caring, intelligent people who have worked hard to try to balance tradition with innovation in addressing this and many other challenges our liturgy offers us. The liturgy is an open book, one that offers us many opportunities for flexibility.

    Perhaps I would do it differently. Perhaps I would have included Devorah, and perhaps not Leah. And maybe I will, the next time I have the opportunity to lead prayers. If I do, some will like it, some will not, but the conversation will be an opportunity to teach, and to learn, and to open the liturgy up to people and invite their ownership of it, and perhaps that will bring someone closer to Judaism.

    That is my sincere intention. It is not political, but I think it is correct.


  12. It has nothing to do with being "politically correct," either to acknowledge that our foremothers, as well as forefathers, had a relationship with God, and to look at God as something other than a father.

    I, personally, cannot connect to a father God. My father was a cruel man who subjected his children to emotional abuse, and any time I have to address God as "Father" I want out. It's fine with me if someone else feels good about God as father, but I need other options, or I can't participate.

    Inclusive language is also tremendously important to me. I am old enough to have grown up without it, and only now do I feel like I can be a participant in my religion, instead of someone required to observe from behind a curtain. To me, and many others, this is not trivial, it's the heart of the matter.


  13. Yes, perhaps our foremothers had a relationship to God, but perhaps they didn't. Torah is largely silent on the issue, and to pretend that their society was like ours is to rewrite history. If we can acknowledge that the heroes of our faith are not all perfect, why are we denying the fact that they were also patriarchal and misogynist for the most part? I think it shows a lack of respect for our tradition when we feel we need to whitewash and sanitize what no longer appeals to our current sensitivities.

    I think we can live with the contradiction: We can acknowledge that our tradition is largely that of male-oriented societies, and we can ensure that today we emphasize the equality of the sexes in our practice.

    Besides, if we are going to talk about our female ancestors, would we not in all honesty have to emphasize that their relationship to God is frequently idolatrous (remember the household Gods Rachel steals) and that if we were to take them as models we'd all be spending most of our time in the kitchen cooking for and serving the men?

    Yes, God is often "male," but just as often embodies what we think of as female, nurturing qualities. The Shechinah ... male or female? We need not take imagery literally ... it's just what it is: a way of searching to describe the indescribable. Since both the feminine and the masculine are equally "wrong," we have two options, it seems to me: we can make God an "IT," or we can go with the ebb and flow of language and accept the anthromorphisms for what they are.

    I am with Martin Buber on this: "personalization" is necessary for relationships. And whether our own fathers were nice, or not so nice--surely we should be able to envision a loving father, just as we should be able to envision a caring mother.


  14. I really do not feel the inclusion or exclusion of feminine names in the Avot makes any difference in my spiritual life. I am one by nature who likes to preserve certain traditions. To me, comparing the progress of women in society to the liturgical prayers we chant are like comparing apples and oranges, both fruit but both having different qualities. In fact, on another personal note, even my own kids think I am lame and outdated because for most of my life I have chosen to stay at home. In fact I have a daughter who feels pressured in today's society to find a way to make something of herself outside the home because she interprets being domestic as demeaning, and it has caused her much stress because the career ladder is not for everyone and she has yet to find true self.

    Don't get me wrong; I think achievement for women and justice for women are correct and needed. I just don't equate the necessity of adding them to ancient prayers. After all I sing in a temple and am female, so I can't possibly feel that female participation is unjustified. It just does not offend me if the Imahot are not added, although I do add them when I sing services because that is what the trend is. I do not feel that woman are taken advantage of if the Imahot are not included in the Avot. I realize the prayers were written by men in a time long ago, and I don't agree with all the prayers written or how some of the liturgy was written in the Torah; but I know inherently that women were always an important entity in society just as they are now.


  15. Amidst the discussion of gender sensitivity in the prayers, we overlook the fact that most Reform Jews probably interpret a good deal of the liturgy in accordance with their own concept of the Divine One and their relationship thereto. The Judaism which we begin our children with is not the Judaism which we carry into our adult life. While we do a literal Jonah story as part of our Yom Kippur children's service, we do not give it the same literal interpretation in our adult service.

    Most probably you cannot find twenty Jews at a Reform service who agree on a d?var Torah or who relate to the service in the same manner. Therefore, if a person does not like the gender sensitivity, then just do not include the words as the person says the prayer. There is, I believe, a Chassidic story, (or it could be a Midrash) about the illiterate young man who knows only the alef-bet, but not how to read. He goes to services and recites the alef-bet, letter by letter. When other congregants complain, the rabbi explains, "God will take the letters and put them together, and know what the boy is saying." The same goes for prayer. How you say a prayer, what you leave out what you include--the Divine One will know.

    If your services are that much interrupted and you are that upset by gender sensitivity, then perhaps Reform Judaism is not for you. For the Classic Reform Jew, the use of Adonai instead of Lord, and God instead of Him, and the Sephardic pronunciation is a bit much to adjust to. But the statistics do not reveal that Classic Reform Jews are deserting synagogues which are returning to the more ritual aspects of Judaism, while at the same time being gender sensitive in prayer and other aspects of temple life. Reform Jews recognize the need for individual understanding of Judaism, and seem to consider the continuation of a synagogue in their neighborhood to supersede their occasional discomfit with change.


  16. So much of the response to my original comments has been absolutist and defensive. Surely there is room under our tent for divergent opinions. Why wouldn't Reform Judaism be the place for all of us? There's no rule that says to be a Reform Jew one must accept the liturgy as it currently stands. In fact, that's how we got here in the first place!

    I would like to redirect this discussion: In my original posting, I was not complaining that services were interrupted for me or that gender sensitivity upset me, it was that the inclusion of the matriarchs in the Avot felt like, at the time and even now, a weightless gesture of inclusiveness, but not true inclusiveness. True inclusiveness is a concept that many don't even consider because of the veil that has been draped over misogyny and chauvinism. Now please--don't misinterpret and claim that what I just said implies that all of you are chauvinistic or misogynistic. I mean that these exist in our institutions and in many individuals, some of whom are very powerful in designing or influencing our movement and its direction.

    To confront this problem would take a great deal of honesty and pain. My problem with the Avot is that I felt that the inclusion of the matriarchs was a substitute for the more difficult effort of reforming our attitudes toward women in a substantial and meaningful way. I feel we've been appeased. I have not heard responses that pick up this issue one way or the other. This is the discussion I would like to spark.

    And by the way, I am not angry. I am impassioned.


  17. A very interesting point, [Judith?s] and one which speaks to the prioritization of Jewish prayer vs. Jewish art-of-living. Do you see this as a consequence of relegating Judaism solely to the synagogue; i.e., focusing on its ritual/litugical aspects rather than as an all-encompassing (and hence more challenging) way of life? Neal

  18. I agree...that the misogyny-exclusion of women that lies beneath needs much more rooting out than just a change of a prayer. But I am a believer in the great power of words to shape thinking and culture, not just to reflect thinking and culture. That is why I believe that using the matriarchs' names is of benefit.

    There is always a danger that cosmetic change will satisfy people and prevent them from digging for root causes, but I trust our feminist scholars to persist, and in the meantime hearing those female names is, to me, significant and worthwhile.


  19. I agree that there have been a lot of hard positions taken on the words and their impact on us.

    I have become accustomed to the inclusion of the Imahot and find it jarring when they are omitted, as at a Conservative service. Just as what was new yesterday has become "traditional" today, this reading has become traditional--for me.

    I have questioned the drive for gender sensitivity in translating from a language that has no neuter and assigns gender to everything without regard to sex. I have accepted it because it is important to many people. It does not jar unless we are davening from Gates of Blue or the Repentance which have not been rewritten (at least in our versions).

    That aside, women play a very major role in our congregation and movement. I cannot say that there are no male chauvinists left. Certainly many of us, and I include myself, were raised with biases that are difficult to overcome. It may take forty years in the desert to put those behind us. My sons were raised in a far different environment than I. Where my attitudes have had to be relearned, theirs were formed as they have grown. They present a far different understanding of women's role in worship and synagogue life than what I was raised with. Unlearning is not easy.

    The inclusion of the Imahot is a regular reminder to me that I am still learning and that today is different from yesterday. As such the effort to include gender-sensitive language serves not as the change that is sought but the reminder that change is still necessary.

    I write this as I prepare to leave for Israel in two days for ten days.


  20. I believe that much of worship is rhythm and that changes in prayers "interrupt" rhythms made a part of us by our worship history. The interruptions may provoke thought, anxiety (did something important happen I missed), aggravation, or any number of other emotions to which I feel completely entitled and, overall, I'm grateful for the challenge--I believe it makes me a more tolerant person and a better Jew. I enjoy the process of learning and internalizing the change--but I must confess, the change always seems to throw me a bit out of step--but in a positive way when I realize the importance of and rationale behind the change. I think G-d not only hears our prayers in any form, but admires the passion of our worship and lives. Worship is jazz with a lot of improv by the individual players (each of us) and the output of the whole band challenges G-d's infinite ear.

    Tom 130 Families

  21. In this discussion of gender issues within the liturgy or the Torah, let us not get lost in the questioning of what is politically correct and forget that this is prayer from us to G-d as an individual and as a community. If the gender issue is disrupting, leave out the names and there is not problem. Females are represented and are a major part of Judaism. Men and women have had different roles and purposes within our religion. Try to understand the roles that each plays and the importance of both.


  22. Sometimes, I feel intimidated by the poetry of Hebrew liturgy, but it seems important to note that the traditional liturgy has had thousands of years to evolve. I still have trouble with the Imahot--not in a philosophical sense but rather in the flow. Sometimes prayer can be a struggle, and gender-sensitive language is still evolving just like Judaism. At my synagogue we not only add the Imahot but add Shechinah to the preceeding verse which is in the feminine form (there's probably a liturgical name for this verse). It is nice to see gender-sensitive Hebrew that flows prosaically and adds sensitivity to a service. I'm curious to hear what other synagogues are doing.


  23. I find Judith?s eloquent remarks quite refreshing. This issue has been raised before. When I made comments in the past, I was called a male chauvinist.

    The gender-sensitive issue is one thing; the tacking on of the matriarchs to the T?filah/Amidah is another thing. There are many ways we can create modern prayers that include the great women of our tradition, but the method of tacking them on as we have done comes across, to me anyway, as an afterthought and as being disingenuous. I would think the Reform Movement could move beyond simply editing traditional prayers and add new ones to their new prayer book Mishkan T?filah

    . Do we really need to add Sarah's name to a prayer because Abraham is mentioned? If Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah were more than just wives, let us treat them as such. Simply appending them to our prayers makes them just that. Simple appendages to their husbands which is clearly not the intent of adding them to the prayer in the first place.

    Jim 230+

  24. I, too, find [the remark "If your services are that much interrupted and you are that upset by gender-sensitivity, then perhaps Reform Judaism is not for you."] disturbing. Reminds me of the 60's "love it or leave it" slogan. If you disagree with me, then I am supposed to leave instead of voicing my opinion? This remark is a poor retort, putting down the other person, rather than addressing the content of the issue.

    Judy 120 families

  25. We had a discussion last night at services about the inclusion of the Imahot. One of our members asked why, when the liturgy was changed, we did not pair the couples--Abraham and Sarah, etc. This is a good point. She felt that in this way, it did not seem as much of an add-on as the present format.


  26. If they were to be paired--it would give two very different concepts as to whether it would be--

    "....God of Abraham and Sarah,...." or "........God of Abraham, God of Sarah, ..........." , etc.

    For me, one of the powerful things in this prayer is the idea that each of the patriarchs had their own individual relationship with God--and listing the matriarchs as we do, also reinforces that they would have had their individual relationship with God--just as we have our own individual relationship with God.


  27. [Our congregation] pairs Abraham with Sarah, Isaac with Rebekah, etc. When I think about it, it makes good sense, as that's how they're presented in Torah. Makes the tune for Avot harder to teach, though, as a lot of the kids go to Reform summer camp and learn it fathers-then-mothers.


  28. In our congregation we pair the matriarchs and patriarchs. It makes sense chronologically and by the fact that they formed a kind of "team" whom worked together to move us along our path.


  29. I thought that we say, "The G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac and the G-d of Jacob" to teach that God manifested G-d'self differently to each of them. If that was also true of the Imahot, don't we do them a disservice by changing Abraham, in effect, to "Mr and Mrs Abraham", rather than giving them their own "add-on", the G-d of Sarah, the G-d of Rebecca, etc?

    Harvey 176 households

  30. In response to the "pairing" of the patriarchs and matriarchs: It seems to me that the Avot prayer is about generations and continuity. While saying, "Mr. and Mrs. Abraham" maintains that, it does take away from the notion that Sarah was able to have her own, unique relationship with God. On the other hand, separating the men and women into different sentences creates what looks like a verbal mechitza. The best solution I have seen occurs in the Reconstructionist prayer book. In that text, the patriarchs are listed in a column and the matriarchs in a parallel column--each preceded by the word elohei. This enables the worship leader to use his/her discretion based on their own understanding of the nature of the prayer and the needs of the congregation (there might actually be congregants who so oppose amending the Hebrew that they leave out the matriarchs--for whatever reason).

    ...[T]his would seem to be a good way to satisfy the variety of practices in our congregation.

    Janice (1240 families)

  31. I am still trying to find out why our Movement changed the morning k'dushah. Though the response lines are the same as the traditional, the text in between is not the text of the morning k'dushah you find in other prayer books.


  32. The issue with the K?dushah has always been the angelogy. That's why certain phrases have been omitted since the 19th c. The present Shabbat AM text goes back to the UPB. It is a mixture of the traditional Shacharit and Musaf texts with one phrase (Adir adirenu) taken from the traditional Festival Mussaf K?dushah. Adir adirenu takes the place of transitions in both Shabbat K?dushot that deal with the angels and introduce the Ezekiel verse (Barukh k'vod Adonai). Ehad hu eloheinu is from the Shabbat Mussaf K?dushah, where it transitions between the Sh?ma verse (whose last word is ehad) and the Psalms verse (Yimlokh), citing along the way the last verse (from Numbers) of the Keriat Sh?ma recitation, Ani Adonai eloheikhem (thus encompassing both the beginning and the end of the three traditional Sh?ma paragraphs). The traditional text talks about God revealing Himself (sorry!) a second time (shenit) to Israel (after the Red Sea and Sinai) in the sight of all humanity, to redeem us. "Shenit" is cut out in the Reform version to move away from the specifics of the traditional picture of messianic redemption.


  33. There are differences with the way the Matriarchs are treated if you look at the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist siddurim. Perhaps someone in the group can explain why the Reform movement decided the way it did (i.e., the order of the names of the matriarchs and the use of "ezrat"--used once in Mishkan T'filah--vs. "foked"--used twice in Siddur Sim Shalom--and the decision to use "imoteinu" and "imahot"). I'm not registering a complaint--I'm just curious.

    Mishkan T'filah (Reform) revised draft: pp. 56 and 166: "Elo-hei, Sarah, Elo-hei Rivka, Elo-hei Rachel v'Eilo-hei Leah" and "Melech ozer umoshi-a umagein. Baruch Atah Adonai, magen Avraham v'ezrat Sarah."

    Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals (Conservative): p. 35b and elsewhere (translits are mine since this siddur doesn't have them): "Elohei Sarah, Elohei Rivkah, Elohei Rachel, Velohei Leah"; and "Melech ozer u'foked u'moshia u'magein. Baruch atah Adonai, magein Avraham u'foked Sarah." Also note the Conservative siddur does not include the words "imoteinu" and "imahot", allowing "avoteinu" and "avot" to cover both genders.

    Kol Haneshamah: Shabbat Vehagim (Reconstructionist): pp. 294-295 and elsewhere: "elohey avraham, elohey sarah, elohey yitzhak, elohey rivkah, elohey ya'akov, elohey rahel, veylohey le'ah" (but these are in parallel columns to allow the ba'al t'filah to integrate the patriarchs and matriarchs or list them separately); and "Meleh ozer umoshi'a umagen. Baruh atah adonay magen avraham ve'ezrat Sarah." Note that "imoteinu" and "imot" (not "imahot") are given here, similar to Reform.


  34. [Re:] the diversity in the wording of the "Imahot" additions to the "Avot" benediction: Welcome to the world of liturgical creativity and responses (and local variations)!

    There are many ways of (you'll forgive the expression) skinning the same cat. The variations tell us more about the existence of different groups, decision-makers, and prayer book publications than they do about theology (just like the differences in wording among the various regional rites historically, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Italian, Romanian, Yemeni, etc., etc.)--people formulating liturgies in their separate corners do the same thing in different ways. This is, mostly, the case of a distinction without a difference. But, for what it?s worth, here are remarks on a few of the "differences":

    1. The order of the names: GOP grey gives them chronologically (Leah before Rachel); others follow the format of traditional Mi Shebeirach benedictions that mention Rachel before Leah (the favored wife first). Take your choice; both answers are "right." Mishkan T?filah is influenced by Sim Shalom and some of the other egalitarian but traditional liturgies to follow the order in the Mi Shebeirach benedictions.
    2. The hatimah (that is, the concluding "seal"/summary of the benediction, preceded once more by the benedictory formula): "magen Avraham" is based on a biblical phrase, Gen. 15:1, where God promises to be a shield to Abraham. The issue then is how to characterize what God is to Sarah? "ezrat Sarah"--Sarah's helper--has no specific biblical resonance. But "poqed Sarah" does--Gen, 21:1, "God remembered/took providential notice of Sarah" and gave her a son (the traditional Torah reading for the first day of Rosh HaShanah, touching on the "Zikhronot" theme of God's providential attention to Israel, which is invoked at the beginning of the year). (Parenthetically, some people hear "poqed" negatively--"poqed avon avot al banim" in Ex. 20, the third commandment, where God visits the iniquity of the fathers on the sons--Jules Harlow in the Hadassah study guide on prayer, "Pray Tell," for one.) My own preference, in terms of the poetic aesthetics of the liturgy is for "poqed"--and, indeed, before GOP grey, this was the formulation we used at the HUC synagogue in Cincinnati. Sim Shalom decided to be less "disruptive" to the customary language by not included the word "imoteinu" in the first phrase. But they are "disruptive" in adding "poqed" to the phrase before the hatimah, except that this phrase is supposed to signal verbally what's coming up in the hatimah (it's intended to be a transition clause)--so that's the rationale for including the word, to give Sarah equal weight.

    If you look at the variety of reformist prayer books from the nineteenth century onward, you will see multiple verbal variations of this sort that bear no substantive weight (i.e., that are all equivalent in the theological nature of their changes). It is worth remembering that there has never been absolute verbal uniformity in the history of Jewish liturgy--there are always at least slight verbal variations, if not more weighty ones.



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