Recent comments

  • Reply to: A Woman’s Plight, A Community’s Shame   5 hours 18 min ago

    In his editorial this week, Gary Rosenblatt added his voice to those men who are uncomfortable with reciting the blessing: Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has not made me a woman. He correctly noted that the blessing is recited to remind men that they are commanded to fulfill time bound Mitzvos for which women are exempt. To say the least, Rosenblatt found that explanation lacking. Perhaps Rosenblatt needs a better explanation than the one that Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks apparently provides in the Koren Siddur.

    This is my explanation of the practice. Our Sages recognized from the moment that they created a fixed text for the Jewish prayers that legislating the recital of the same text several times a day would lead to the recital of those prayers by rote and with little thought. Our Sages therefore suggested that we freely add our own prayers to the fixed text and they provided rules for doing so. They further encouraged the composition of liturgical poetry to supplement the fixed prayers. Thanks to the discovery of the Cairo Geniza, we now know that for a substantial period of time, the prayer leader would compose new liturgical poems for the Shabbos prayers each week and for the Holidays.

    Our Sages were particularly concerned that we recite the first verse of Kriyas Shema with proper concentration. To assist us in doing so, they made the following suggestions: that we recite the verse out loud; that we cover our eyes while reciting the verse; that we prolong the recital of the last word in that verse (Echad, One) and that we prolong the recital of the last letter of the last word in that verse (Daled).

    In my opinion, the blessing concerning women was instituted for a similar reason. The blessing is generally recited either just after a man dons his Talis and Tefilin or just before. It is not a coincidence that both of those Mitzvos are time bound Mitzvos meaning that women are exempt from performing them. How many men when they don their Talis and Tefilin actually think about the fact that they are undertaking a Mitzvah for which women are exempt? Those Mitzvos are examples of Mitzvos that we take for granted and which we perform by rote without thinking about how lucky we are to be able to perform them. The blessing giving gratitude to G-d for not making me a woman is a not so subtle reminder to not take those two Mitzvos for granted.

    May I suggest that Rosenblatt consider a much greater problem in the Orthodox community; the movement to discourage attendance by women in synagogue services by building synagogues that provide little seating for women and whatever seating is available is so far from where the prayer leader stands that they cannot hear him. That is a much greater insult to women than men reciting the blessing of Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has not made me a woman. You might have expected that we have reached the moment when we build synagogues in which the mechitza goes down the middle of the synagogue with men and women equally distant from the rabbi, the prayer leader and the Torah reader. Unfortunately, instead of bringing women closer to the synagogue service, women are being sent a subtle message that they are simply not welcome to attend synagogue services.

  • Reply to: ‘Safe Spaces’ For Orthodox LGBTQ Students Spreads On Campus   5 hours 29 min ago

    And if the world were full of people like Rachael Fried, there would be no more people in the world.

  • Reply to: ‘Safe Spaces’ For Orthodox LGBTQ Students Spreads On Campus   5 hours 31 min ago

    Doesn't it seem odd that at a time when UJA-funded programs like FEGS, Met Council on Jewish Poverty are being either dismantled or greatly downsized, the UJA has sufficient resources to provide sensitivity training so that straight people learn to respond in an accepting way when a gay friend comes out of the closet.

    And here is another great use of the UJA's grant money (you can't make this up):

    "Another exercise challenged students to describe a date, without using heteronormative pronouns"

  • Reply to: Why Birthright Is The Real Game Changer for Israel   10 hours 27 min ago

    Taglit is one of Michael Steinhardt's most innovative investments.

  • Reply to: The War That Made The Jews Americans   10 hours 57 min ago

    I am a retired deaf professor from Rochester Institute of Technology completing a book about deaf people during the Civil War. The article above mentions "Two photographic portraits of unidentified Union and Confederate soldiers are by Benedict “Ben” Oppenheimer, a deaf man who served in the Confederate infantry and cavalry. His job was to fire his company’s cannon, as his hearing wouldn’t be damaged." I have studied Ben Oppenheimer thoroughly and have yet to find documented evidence other than secondary sources that provide evidence that he actually served in the army. I have also studied him as a photographer and he was indeed a distinguished one, but of the photographs I have identified that were taken by him, they were all Confederates. Is there any possibility of Mr. Yellis, the curator, sending me a copy of the two photographs so that I may look at them? If one was a Union soldier or officer, I would be surprised. Thank you. Harry G. Lang, Ed.D.