A CONTEMPORARY PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE ASHKENAZIC SHEMONEH ESREI AND WHY IT IS OUT OF ORDER
Recently, it was reported that a Rabbi from Israel, on a visit to America, spoke at a (nusach Ashkenaz) Shul and urged the people there to add the word לארצנו at the end of the ברכה of תקע בשופר in the שמונה עשרה. This Rabbi is a lover of ארץ ישראל and presumably he wanted to strengthen the audience’s connection to our holy land in some way with such a gesture.
Such a proposal can seem nice and innocuous to the masses, and I can see people struggling to give a reason why it should be rejected. But doing so can open the door to other changes, and who knows where that could lead. And where does it end? That alone should suffice to reject the idea. Especially since the Shemoneh Esrei is such an ancient and central part of our תפלה.
Nowadays, however, when the hold of tradition has been weakened, for many people that would not suffice as a reponse, so for them, and להגדיל תורה ולהאדירה, I will write down some additional thoughts that came to me while contemplating the matter, and from reading a piece on the nusach of תקע בשופר in the annual Yerushoseinu, published by Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz.
GENERAL THOUGHTS FOR SIDDUR EDITOR WANNABEES
A) While not all the texts and tefillos are of the same age, or on the same level, nevertheless, central tefillos, such as shemoneh esrei, are ancient and have been used and examined by many generations of גדולי ישראל and עם ישראל. To lightly assume that they were omitting a vital word without realizing it, does not seem to be the most responsible assumption to make.
B) Another issue is that, as taught by various traditional sources, there are a specific amount of words in certain prayers or brachos, which have significance, be it symbolically, kabbalistically, or otherwise. Tampering with the traditional text clashes with those traditions. In this case, the טור states that the ברכה has twenty words. Adding le’artzeinu makes it twenty one, and hence puts the structure passed down for generations into disarray.
WHY TO REJECT THIS PROPOSED EMENDATION SPECIFICALLY
C) At first I thought that it was not necessary to specify that the gathering should be to Eretz Yisroel, because it is simple and understood. Where else would it be to? Bhutan? Nepal? Uganda? Peru?
D) Another approach was taken by R. Yitzchok Isaac Wallach, a doctor who lived in Dessau. He wrote about this over three hundred years ago. His תשובה on the subject was recently publicized in the ירושתנו issue of 5770, ,עמודים סג-פד, in a piece prepared by R. Yaakov Shmuel Spiegel.
He points out that there is a method and order to the set up and sequence of the שמונה עשרה, as the gemara in מסכת מגילה tells us. E.g. from the brocho of תקע בשופר to את צמח דוד, we daven for the following six stages of envisioned גאולה, in the following order –
1) Gathering together of exiles, 2) Judgement meted out to evil doers, 3) Destruction of those who rebel against Hashem, 4) Elevation of the righteous. 5) Building of Jerusalem, 6) Return of מלכות בית דוד (Davidic kingdom).
He goes on to show, from various teachings of חז”ל, that it was envisioned that in the stages of גאולה, there would first be a gathering of exiles in the diaspora, even before a return to ארץ ישראל, and that is what this brocho (stage one above) refers to. As he explains it, the ingathering to ארץ ישראל is connected to the later stage, of restoration of the Davidic kingdom, which is part of stage six. Therefore, the idea to add לארצנו to the brocho of תקע בשופר is out of place.
Interestingly, he also brings an aggadic teaching to support his point, citing what is brought in the שבלי הלקט, that when יעקב אבינו went to down to מצרים and saw יוסף and שמעון, and he and his sons gathered all together, the מלאכי השרת exclaimed בא”י מקבץ נדחי עמו ישראל. And that was in חוץ לארץ.
I am not going to go into everything he wrote, that would be much more work, but just want to let people know about the existence of this piece of Torah. Interested parties are directed to ירושתנו for the complete version. Hopefully, they will extrapolate from this case to other cases and not jump to conclude that long-standing traditions are lacking.
Finally, as an aside, it is interesting that some נוסח ספרד siddurim also omit לארצנו.