May 13, 2013
David G. Savage:
Church-state, literally? Supreme Court weighing public school graduation in a church
May 10, 2013
Rabbi Berel Wein: Be all that you should be
May 8, 2013
Peter Ford: Why China is welcoming both Israel's Netanyahu and Palestinians' Abbas
Obama administration quietly backs out of appeal over new contraceptive mandate
At Kerry-Putin meeting, US-Russia relations thaw --- a tad
The Kosher Gourmet by Leela Cyd Ross :
Almost too pretty to eat, this colorful salad with Sicilian inspiration will tickle the taste buds and delight your visual sensibility
May 6, 2013
May 3, 2013
Kids, kittens the Same?
With employee perks at struggling Internet pioneer Yahoo! it's hard to tell
Artificial kidney offers hope to patients tethered to a dialysis machine
April 29, 2013
Poland's new Jewish museum celebrates life, doesn't revisit Holocaust
Terrorism in America: Is US missing a chance to learn from failed plots?
Boston Bomber's 'Svengali' Revealed
Tiny satellites + cellphones = cheaper 'eyes in the sky' for NASA
April 26, 2013
Clifford D. May:
Defense in the Age of Jihadist Terrorism
Sharon Palmer, R.D.:
How to feel your best -- with plenty of energy, a healthy weight and optimal mental and physical function -- without driving yourself batty
April 24, 2013
Admit it: No one has any idea what's going on
April 22, 2013
US man departing country arrested on terror charges
An unorthodox but growing treatment in a 9-year-old's battle against cancer
April 19, 2013
Caroline B. Glick:
Why Obama's visit to Israel had no impact on public opinion or government policy
Gold collapse: The start of something big?
Livable super-Earths? Two candidates among Kepler's latest finds
April 17, 2013
Too much of a good thing? 'Palestinians' realize downside of foreign aid boom
BAD NEWS: EVERYONE IS RIGHT!
April 15, 2013
Egyptian Christians respond with harsh words to attack -- rocks, Molotov cocktails, and gunfire -- against main cathedral
Marcy Darnovsky and Karuna Jaggar:
High Court to decide if you should own your DNA
US bracing for more Russian blowback after taking action against 18 more human rights violators
April 12, 2013
New cybersecurity bill: Privacy threat or crucial band-aid?
Jewz in the Newz by Nate Bloom:
The Kosher Gourmet by Susan Russo:
Jackie Robinson's Friend, Hank Greenberg; CNN's Jake Tapper; Texas County in the News is named for 19thC. Jewish soldier and Congressman
FRUITY QUINOA STUFFED PEPPERS: A flavorful, colorful and edible vessel of delicately fluffy, mildly nutty filling combined with chewy apricots, tangy cherries, and crunchy pistachios
April 10, 2013
North Korean missiles: Could US shoot them down?
Warning: Don't waste your capital being fooled by profit prophets
Donald Hensrud, M.D.:
Mayo Clinic Medical Edge: Take vitamin supplements with caution --- even approved, they may actually do damage
74 DNA discoveries move cure closer for three cancers
April 8, 2013
Jonathan Tobin: What Part of No Preconditions Do American Jews Not Get?
Is Putin finally trading his own party for a new power base?
Jewish World Review
March 19, 2008
/ 12 Adar II 5768
Stop revising the prayerbook!
By Paul Greenberg
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
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.