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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: version of Maariv that omits reference to converts   Mon Nov 25, 2013 1:44 am

Tonight I attended a shiva minyan for a friend whose mother died recently. She is a member of a Reform synagogue and there was a Maariv service. Her Reform congregation is more "traditional" than most Reform shuls and the service did have many parts of the traditional liturgy, including many parts of the regular 18 benedictions. But I was a little disappointed to find that the section of the Reform Maariv about the righteous ("ha-tzadikim") omitted the traditional mention of righteous converts ("gerei ha-tzedek"). The omission was not solely due to the general abbreviation of the liturgy, since some or all of the other groups of people such as the scholars were still mentioned. So I think I am right that the reason the mention of converts is omitted is the feeling that it is not nice to single them out because that's like not rubbing it in that they are "different" from Jews by birth. However, are the shul presidents and rabbis and scholars embarrassed about their groups being mentioned? And I personally like this small mention which feels like the liturgy is speaking directly to me, as one of those "gerei ha-tzedek". It is clearly such a positive reference and it's not like converts are supposed to point to themselves when they read that line.
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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Re: version of Maariv that omits reference to converts   Tue Nov 26, 2013 4:50 pm

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

*         *         *
About what you comment, Debbie, in one sense it would be easy to be critical, because often Reform Jewry's approach to Judaism seems to be 'wholesale jettisoning' of that which doesn't find favor in their eyes. But the greater and perhaps even greatest truth is that Jews as a whole just do not understand that 'God is only relationship', and neither do they understand that this relationship exists because of 'how precious we are to each other': God to man and man to God.

That this relationship exists at all is because Jews - beginning with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – brought it into the world. That this relationship is not exclusive to Jews is why there are Gerim, i.e. meaning that God desires us, but this relationship has to be learned through Jews. Just as Jews had to and continually have to build and sustain the relationship, so, too, do we Gerim have to build and continue building the relationship. The truth of Torah and of being a Jew is that the essence of life IS what we do; not what we proclaim.

Sadly, we discover that for the overwhelming majority of Jews this relationship is neglected, often terribly neglected, even to the point of having no visible existence. How do we know?....because 'whatever God is [to them]' never touches them in any real way. Instead of relationship, all there is estrangement: not attraction; only rejection. “Who's God that I have to pay attention to him?”

And along come we Gerim, Gerim who genuinely feel the vitality of Judaism, i.e. of the relationship with God, and in our doing so we both give affirmation and we give sustenance...to the relationship. All who are mentioned in the 13th blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei are those who commit their lives entirely to affirming and sustaining the relationship. Gerim aren't included to honor them; we're included because we're vital.

To exclude Gerim from this group is no different from [those] Gerim who say, “I'm a Jew; not a Ger.” Each one denies, and even rejects, how precious Gerim are...are to Jews and are to God.

Although it may not be visible to us, Chanukah is only about our relationship in it's most intimate sense – because in our lighting our Chanukah Light, we are telling ourselves and telling each other and telling the entirety of Creation, “It' about us, about we and God.” Ours is not an exclusive message; it's an inclusive one - as we see here in the posting, “Chanukah: Sharing Light”.

Chanukah Sameach - Happy Chanukah,

Daniel Eliezer

*         *         *
What I write doesn't invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.


Last edited by daniel eliezer on Wed Nov 27, 2013 6:38 am; edited 1 time in total
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: version of Maariv that omits reference to converts   Wed Nov 27, 2013 2:19 am

Thank you for your response, Daniel. I think it clarifies my feeling that the mention of "gerei ha-tzedek" should not be omitted because we gerim do exist, and perhaps as you say there is even an important reason that converts to Judaism exist. Why is Judaism not like some groups that don't have any sort of conversion? (I think people in majority Christian or Muslim countries often forget that conversion is not a necessary aspect of religion in general just because those religions actively seek out converts.) But conversion to Judaism does exist and converts and their descendants have played important roles in the history of the Jewish people.

At times during the long period when I wanted to be Jewish, but was not, I imagined that it would be wonderful after I converted (and I knew from very early on that I would eventually do so), because then I could be "just a Jew" like any of my Jewish friends or the other members of my congregation. I didn't like that feeling like the "odd-man-out" (even if it was an internal feeling, for the most part, not a feeling imposed upon me; I wanted to be "like everyone else". And then I converted and discovered that I would always be a convert, but that it was OK because it was not necessarily a negative, but more importantly it was simply a aspect of who I am. Just as I cannot change that I am ethnically Chinese, I cannot change that I am a convert.

My own religious journey was not always easy, but learning about it encourages some Jews who say to themselves "Well, if she can do that then why should I not be able to engage with what is, after all, my own heritage and birthright?" I used to be somewhat annoyed by Jews who would ask me "But do you actually feel Jewish?" To me it was self-evident: if I didn't feel that way I would never have converted! (Especially since I didn't do it "for marriage" having waited until long after that to formally convert.) I have come to see those Jews more sympathetically because I now believe that the reason that many of these Jews ask that kind of question is that they do not feel fully confident about their own Judaism (I suspect that may be true even of the rebbetzin who asked me that question), so they just can't imagine how someone who did not grow up knowing that they were Jewish could ever have that sense. I find that in contrast, many of the more religiously devoted and engaged Jews expect the opposite: they expect that they will have more in common with me than with some random Jew who is all too likely to be a disconnected Jew, because I consciously chose to become Jewish and to become Jewishly involved rather than simply going through the motions because I thought it was an obligation.

Thank you, Daniel, for pointing out how to see something similar to the inclusion of "gerei ha-tzedek" in the liturgy in the Chanukah lights. It will enable me to better appreciate the lights of the holiday.

Chanukah Sameach!
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