Blogger’s note 12/3/2009: This post is ancient. Not sure why Tablet felt the need to link to it today. If you’re here at The Reform Shuckle for the first time, welcome, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog. This post doesn’t quite reflect my opinions anymore and the project has long since fallen by the wayside. As for the name “Lone Star Sidur Project,” the title of this blog used to have the term Lone Star in it. OK. Enjoy.
I felt really good after writing this post about Nisim B’chol Yom. As a result, I decided while davening this morning that I would engage in a systematic series of posts similar to the post about Nisim B’chol Yom, each one commenting a part the service or a particular prayer and how various progressive liturgies have changed or grappled with that part. Most importantly, I am using this as a way to solidify and place in writing thoughts buzzing around in my head about prayer. As such, each post that is part of this project will focus on my own assessment of the prayer at issue and conclude with the version of the prayer as I would ideally say it. I’m calling this the Lone Star Sidur Project.
I recognize a need to codify my methodology in examining, creating and altering liturgy. I have developed three intertwined policies that work together to that end. [EDITED ON 12/19/07: I have added the third policy today.]
I. The Policy of Positive Replacement or Alteration
This policy addresses the way in which progressive liturgies have often simply thrown out that which made the editors uncomfortable. If I am uncomfortable with something or don’t believe something from the traditional form of a prayer, I would rather create a new statement about something I do believe. The classic Reform approach has been what one might call the Policy of Negative Removal. I replace that with the Policy of Positive Replacement of Alteration.
II. The Policy of Content
This policy is designed to work closely with the Policy of Positive Replacement or Alteration. If I am going to be altering and replacing existing lines, as the first policy suggests, I need guidelines to tell me what I will allow myself to mess with. To assist me in that, I have created a list of what I refuse to say and is thus in need of replacing.
A. I refuse to place myself, as a male, above women. Any reference to the Avot, the Patriarchs, will be accompanied by a reference to the Imahot, the Matriarchs. Any prayer stated in the first person will be written with alternative female verb forms so that women may accurately recite them.
B. I refuse to pray for the coming of a personal Mashiach. I do not believe the coming of such a person is going to happen soon nor do I believe he is coming in the near future. The entire idea is absurd. I shall continue planting trees if such a person arrives. I do believe in the coming is an Eidan Meshichi, a Messianic Age, an abstract time of peace and prosperity, which, though not the most infinitely likely thing in the world, is nonetheless our Jewish obligation to strive for. All references to Mashiach ben David or ben Ishai or anything of the kind will be replaced with specific references to Eidan Meshichi.
C. I refuse to pray for the restoration of sacrificial services in a rebuilt third temple. I believe that the Amidah, once a temporary replacement for sacrifice, has become a permanent replacement. It serves a higher purpose which makes more theological sense than sacrifice ever did or ever will. What does God want with daily barbeques? To that end, specific references to a return to that form of worship will be replaced with lines which pray that God make our prayers honest and passionate, which parallels the traditional yearning for sacrifice in that sacrifice was seen as the most legitimate form of worship, while I see the most legitimate form as passionate and honest worship.
D. Despite all of this business about never removing and only replacing, there are two things that I will remove wherever I see them: Angels, unnecessary repentence, and grossly detailed descriptions of sacrificial procedures.
1. I hate angels. There is no such thing as an angel. They flourish throughout the liturgy at the misguided hands of ecstatic purveyors of claptrap. Unnecessarily angel-ridden passages will be removed and not replaced!
2. I don’t have that much to apologize for, frankly. Certainly not enough to go through a daily mini-Yom Kipur. I won’t tolerate this nonsense in my liturgy! No Tachanun! Some might say that I feel this way because of American optimism, the idea being that something of genuine Judaism gets lost when it is influenced by the surrounding goy culture. I would argue that this is unavoidable. Judaism has been influenced by the traditions of other cultures around since time immemorial.
3. I said earlier that references to the restoration of the temple can be altered into something I like. Detailed descriptions such as Korbanot can’t.
III. The Policy of Length
Okay. So I was initially wrong about something. I have added this third policy to the first two for a few reasons. I now recognize, the further I delve into this project the more I realize how unnecessarily lengthy many of our prayer are. In particular, this is in response to my actual realization of how damn long the entire Sh’ma, Akeidah, and K’dushat Hayom are.
In accordance with the first two policies, I will not simply discard something because of length. However, when I find that a prayer is exceedingly long, and some of it is totally or partially irrelevant or does not in some way help the davener with what I take to be the theme of the prayer, I have no problem truncating those irrelevant or unhelpful portions.
Let the Lone Star Sidur Project begin!