Thinking Of Editing Shemoneh Esrei? Not So Fast. להבין נ”א בברכת תקע בשופר בשמו”ע בלי להוסיף המלה לארצנו

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.

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7 Responses to “Thinking Of Editing Shemoneh Esrei? Not So Fast. להבין נ”א בברכת תקע בשופר בשמו”ע בלי להוסיף המלה לארצנו”

  1. Arie Folger Says:

    An additional factor is the poetic beauty of the terse text, and its meter. For example, in the third blessing of the Shema’, at night, we read העושה גדולות עד אין חקר (ניסים) ונפלאות עד אין מספר. The parenthetical addition is from nussach Sefard. By including that word, the parallellism of גדולות opposite נפלאות, which, by the way, have the same meter, is lost. So by adding a word, the poetic structure, its beauty, and its significance is lessened.

    Likewise here:
    תקע בשופר גדול – לחרותינו
    ושא נס לקבץ – גליותינו
    וקבצינו יחד – מארבע כנפות הארץ

    The meter is not perfect (that was only developed in the later piyutim), but nonetheless, one hears how the phrases naturally break up into two, as I indicated above, with a hyphen. By adding לארצנו, the third phrase no longer breaks up into two, but into three, making מארבע כנפות הארץ musically dangling. IOW, musically, said innovator would have been a lot smarter had he suggested what no one would accept, namely, to substitute לארצנו for מארבע כנפות הארץ.

    Of course, such a change would be a lot more violent to the text, and as I said, no one would accept that.

    This is thus an additional reason to love the terser wording of נוסח אשכנז.

    In light of the above, it really pays to look at נוסח ספרד ופורטוגל, because they are to Sefardim what Yeckes are to Ashkenazim: they preserved the older nussach. It would be most interesting to discover the principles behind the exact wording in that nussach.

  2. adcwonk Says:

    Two quick comments:

    1. R Folger’s point that adding לארצנו will hurt the meter is correct, but on the other hand, creates a nice flow of three phrases that rhyme.

    2. I presume you are aware (I didn’t notice it mentioned, but I may have missed it), but לארצנו is part of Nusach Ari.

    • Arie Folger Says:

      @adwonk, of course לארצנו is in the Nussach of the Ari, he davened from a Sefardi siddur, which has different principles of composition. The nussach is often quite different in the details.

      However, that doesn’t relate to Ashkenaz.

      • adcwonk Says:

        Understood. But the article seemed to — almost — give a tone of “where did this come from?” or “how could anyone do that” — when it _is_ an accepted part of the traditional of an awful lot of our brethren.

        It just seemed like an omission worth mentioning.

      • Arie Folger Says:

        True, except that that is exactly the major point of contention between Ashkenaz and Sefarad: whether or not we change the nussach simply because one of the greatest and brightest mekubalim happened to have lived among Sefardim and thus prayed from a Sefardi siddur.

        IOW, all recognize the Ari’s greatness, but Ashkenazim who remained with the Ashkenazi siddur largely saw no reason to change their tradition because of the Ari, and as the Yaavetz and the Shaloh held, there was no reason to see any necessary relationship between the essential kabbalistic teachings of the Ari and the particular nussach he used.

        And thus, when you relate to Nussach Ashkenaz (not the Sefard offshoot), you are dealing with a tradition that largely refused to change on account of the Ari’s or anyone else’s usage of other nuschaos.

        Asking to borrow לארצנו from the Sefardi nussach is to simply misunderstand how strongly Ashkenaz feels about the weight and place of every word in the prayer, and it is also a misunderstanding of the esthetic principles of that tradition. Sefarad sacrifices meter for emphasis, while Ashkenaz prefers brevity and meter.

      • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

        Thanks, wow, great response, you are hired!😉

      • adcwonk Says:

        Shapir ka’amart! Thanks for clarifying the bigger picture. We don’t disagree. It just seemed to me (perhaps in my naivete) that what you wrote is an unstated premise in the blog post.

        Good shabbos!

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