In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 19, 2008 / 12 Adar II 5768

Stop revising the prayerbook!

By Paul Greenberg

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

Whoever's constantly revising the Reform Jewish prayer book keeps moving the spiritual furniture around, redecorating the hallowed old rooms, and generally refurbishing the sacred. And then they wonder why people don't feel at home

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Confession is good for the soul: It'd been a while since I'd been to services. More than a little while. In fact, I was surprised the rabbi remembered my name. The other day, the computer tech who's been overhauling my laptop told me it would take some time because the software had been corrupted. Just like my soul, I thought.

It'd been so long since I'd been to temple that they'd changed the prayer book on me. Again. Whoever's constantly revising the Reform Jewish prayer book keeps moving the spiritual furniture around, redecorating the hallowed old rooms, and generally refurbishing the sacred. And then they wonder why people don't feel at home.

The English of the old Union Prayer Book, dating back to about 1922, wasn't the most inspiring to begin with, but repetition and age gave it a certain dignity. Because the Reform denomination held to it for so long, the businesslike words accumulated emotional power over the years. They became custom, tradition, home.

To this day I'll run into an old Sunday School pupil of mine who can recite favorite phrases from the old prayer book like a protective charm, or at least with a certain nostalgia for childhood. Time hallows.

But these regular revisions of the prayer book don't give time a chance to work. Each new version seems to come out just when you've finally got used to the last one. About the time you've learned your way around the new prayer book, it's the old prayer book. It's been replaced by a New Improved product, as if it were a dishwasher detergent.

Somebody really ought to get the word to the Central Conference of American Rabbis: Stop! Or as my father, who used the same old Hebrew siddur all his praying life, in the old country and new, might say: Enough new prayer books already!

How strange. Jews, of all people, with our long immersion in time, should be immune to the call of fleeting verbal fashion, yet we fall for each one in fast turn. Each of these shiny new prayer books has the look and feel of the latest word, but not necessarily The Word. They offer a faith for our time, but maybe only for our time, which, like every other, is fast-fleeting.

The newest prayer book has the glossy, untouched feel of the new. No pages are dog-eared, crumpled from frequent use, torn at the edges. There are no celebratory wine stains, no sign anyone ever wept over these never-used prayers. The English translation and asides are up-to-date, degendered, politically correct, smooth as glass, tractionless. I don't imagine much of it will stick.

The profound readings come across as profoundly shallow. At least the ones in English do; not even fast-changing Reform Judaism dares change a word of the Hebrew Scripture. Which is something else to thank G-d for on this beautiful Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the English doesn't get the same, preservationist care. As if English could not be a sacred tongue, too, every jot and tittle waiting to be fulfilled.

How sum up this new prayer book's prose style — sleek contemporary? Safely ecru? I'm reminded of what Robert Alter, the Biblical translator, once said: The problem with the King James Bible is that the translators' Hebrew was shaky; the problem with every translation since is that its English is shaky.

It's clear that this latest revision of the prayer book is supposed to be a step back towards tradition, yet it retains much the same Choose One from List A, Two from List B quality. It is full of optional readings and sweet little poems in no tradition but Hallmark's.

It's a testament to the archaic yet never dated Hebrew of the Sabbath service that not even this new edition can disguise its awesome power. The worshipper is not only led but confronted. The ancient words strike to the core — like a childhood rhyme that one realizes in old age means a lot more than a childhood rhyme.

The old prayers put together so long ago — whether in Babylon or over the course of many an exile and homecoming since — still admonish and forgive, cast down and raise up, fill one with sorrow and hope. Age cannot wither nor custom stale their infinite power; they only increase the appetite they satisfy.

In the end, as the rabbis say, the two most difficult things about studying Scripture are entering it and leaving it. It's taken me a while to get to services, I realize, but now that I'm here, I'm going to hate to leave. No wonder we all linger over the bread and wine afterward.

I realize now that I've brought the world in with me, that I'm still in it, that I've not come here as a desperate petitioner throwing himself on the mercy of the court, a patient who needs to be healed, a sinner who wants to be made clean and whole again. Instead, I've dropped in like some tourist in a museum, passing superficial judgments on the exhibits right and left rather than entering into the art. Which is one more sin to be confessed.

Avinu Malkeynu, Our Father, our King, forgive us for the sin of judging, always judging. (How would you translate that ancient cry — Our Father! Our King! Forgive Us! — into the latest gender-neutral prayerbook prose? Our Parent, Our Ruler, don't be judgmental?)

JewishWorldReview.com regularly publishes uplifting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

Paul Greenberg Archives

© 2008, Tribune Media Services, Inc.