Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Just Saying

Dear Temple GLBT,

I like that you guys wrote your own prayerbook. I'm not crazy about the fact that it's about half the size of a phonebook, but that's ok. I think it's cool you have tons of songs in there I've never heard of (even if you never seem to sing most of them). And I like that you include alternate versions of some prayers (even though ten different forms of the Amidah seems a little much to me).

But there's one thing that you did last week that kind of bugged me. Well, aside from the rabbi's drash which seemed to go on forever- I don't know what they told you, but when you talk about something quasi-mystical or intangible you are not required offer four or five synonyms for your first word- you are a rabbi, not a thesaurus. Also, please stop cribbing from Heschel's Cathedral in Time shtick from The Sabbath. Just because you both want us to be mindful of "Holy Time" and of experiencing the "pure, perfect nowness of Shabbos" doesn't mean I want my Time Cathedral being bulldozed by drawn-out and painful abuses of the English language.

Anyway, I understand that being gender inclusive is your "shtick," and I'm not trying to step on anyone's toes...

But switching around the pronouns in Veshamru seems weird to me.

It's not just that "b'nei Yisrael" (V'nei in this link) means "children of Israel" and is classically understood as gender-neutral.

It's also because the rest of the prayer goes on to say, "keep the Sabbath as my covenant for all time."

Don't get me wrong. I like Reform. If I had to identify as something, it would probably be somewhere between Reconstructionist and Reform.

But God dammit, why the hell are you bothering to change the pronoun on a prayer that goes on to talk about freaking Sabbath observance? When it comes to Shabbat (which, I'm sorry, Reformies by and large do NOT observe in the same way as it has traditionally been understood), you seem to be just fine with keeping the traditional text in and letting people interpret/ignore/struggle with it however the heck they want. But at the sight of any gender stuff, it seems like the first instinct is to switch it out.

It just seems silly, that's all.

(Now for Hinei Ma Tov, you might actually have a point...)


Sam said...

Everything you said, plus the V'shamru is a quotation from the Bible…not sure how I feel about monkeying with those, no matter your theological proclivities. If you want to write your own prayers with whatever pronouns or wording of any sort you like, that's great, more power to you, gey gezunteheit. But out-and-out Biblical quotes…why not just read the text the way Charlie wrote it, if you purport to value its sanctity in some way?

Tzipporah said...

oh dear. You have a point (as does Sam).

For hinei matov, our congregation generally does the first refrain as "shevet achim," and the repeat as "shevet achot" gamyachad, which, unless you're in an all-male shul (or the women are forced to stand? ;0) makes lots of sense to me.