Halachic and Philosophical Support for Saying “God made me an Israelite” instead of “God didn’t make me a woman.”, Rabbi Asher Lopatin

This is an encore presentation, but I though it was important to back up Rav Yosef’s passionate and truthful blog.

Why I say Say “She’asani Yisrael” – “God … Who has Made Me and Israelite!”- every morning, instead of the three traditional “Shelo Asani”s, by Rabbi Asher Lopatin

 

First a Halachic Discourse:

 

In our versions of Masechet Menachot, 43b (Bavli), Rabbi Meir says that a person, “Adam”, has to say three blessings every day: She’asani Yisrael, Shelo Asani  Isha and Shelo Asani Bur.  On the next line Rav Acha Bar Ya’akov replaces “Shelo Asani Bur” (God didn’t make me an ignoramus) with “Shelo Asani Aved” (God didn’t make me a slave).

The G’marra questions why we need to say both Shelo Asani Aved and Shelo Asani Isha, and  Rashi, in his second explanation of that answer, says that we need to say both in order to come up with the required daily allowance of 100 b’rachot.  The Bach (O.C 46) argues that the main reason for saying all three is to increase the number of b’rachot we say to 100, and that is the main reason for saying three b’rachot in the negative (shelo asani): if you would say  the positive “She’asani Yisrael” then you could not say “Shelo asani aved, isha”.  The Aruch HaShulchan (46, yud) like the Bach that if you say She’asani Yisrael, you cannot say the other two negative b’rachot – you would be “stuck” having said just one, positive, B’racha.

The Rosh  (Rabeinu Asher) in the back of Masechet B’rachot,  upholds the version that we have in Menachot – “She’asani Yisrael”.  While some question this version of the Rosh himself, the Gaon MiVilna affirms it is the girsa of the Rosh  in his Biur HaGra on the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 46:4.

Even though the three negatives have prevailed in our traditions and siddurim, and She’asani Yisrael has not ,the Magen Avraham of three centuries ago and the Mishna B’rura of one century ago mention that in their respective periods there were siddurim – perhaps many of them – that had the b’racha of she’asani  Yehudi  or Yisrael, but that that is a mistake of the printers.

In fact, many of the classic halachik commentators  feel that the negativity of the traditional b’rachot is strange – and they work to come up with answers.  Moreover, even according to the Shulchan Aruch, the positive b’racha of She’asani Yisraeli may have its place – with a convert – and  even those who reject the positive version of  “She’asani Yisrael/Yehudi/Ger” for a convert, do not reject it because it is not a legitimate formulation (matbe’a), but, rather, because it does not work for a convert who has made himself a Jew, rather than being made so by God.

Therefore, I suggest that we follow the b’racha according to the G’ra and the Rosh and our Talmud, and say, “She’asani Yisrael” instead of the negative, and that a woman says“She’asani Yisraelit” instead of the negative.  Once the first b’racha is said in this way, the way it appears in the G’marra Menachot, then we have no choice,  based on the p’sak of the Aruch HaShulchan (from the Bach) , to avoid saying the final two, negative b’rachot of “Shelo Asani Aved” (God did not make me a slave) and “Shelo Asani Isha”(God did not make me a woman), since they become unnecessary after such an all encompassing, powerful, and positive statement of Jewish identity of “She’asani Yisrael/Yisraelit”.

Now for some “hashkafa” – philosophical context:

 

She’asani Yisrael/Yisraelit” is a beautiful b’racha, thanking God for making me Jewish – proud to be Jewish, excited to begin the day as a Yisrael.

Rather than beginning the day with negative b’rachot, which accentuate the G’marra of “noach lo la’adam shelo nivra” – it would be truly better for a human being not to have been created at all –  maybe it is now time to begin the day with a positive b’racha “k’mo sha’ar b’rachot shemevarchim al hatova” (Magen Avraham, 46, 9) – like all other b’rachot that we say blessing God for good things.  How do you want to wake up in the morning: happy to be alive, or frustrated that you are still stuck in this world?  Perhaps it depends on the day!

But  “She’asani Yisrael” matches very well with the story of the angel’s fighting with Jacob in Genesis 32, 26: “Vayomer, Shalcheini ki alah hashacher”, as Rashi interprets: Send me away, Oh Ya’akov, for I have to say the morning blessings of the angels.  These angels, presumably, are happy to have been created!  Then two verses later, the angel gives Jacob his morning blessing:  “Lo Ya’akov ye’ameir shimcha, ki im Yisrael”!  Your name will not be the negative Ya’akov any more, but, rather, the positive, glorious Yisrael!  Can’t you imagine Jacob there and then saying: Blessed are you God who has made me Israel!

There is no better way to bring Jacob’s early morning transformation to life than by us, too, saying every morning, with pride and optimism, the way our G’marra has it: “She’asani Yisrael” – proud to be a  “Yisrael – and through that sweeping away – halachically – centuries of the three negative birchot Hashachar that perhaps were desperately waiting for the day when proud, committed Israelites, would feel blessed enough to push them aside for a brand new morning, just as Jacob’s name was changed so many years ago. Yet, as always, remaining loyal to our tradition and its Talmudic foundation.

Asher Lopatin

9 Responses to Halachic and Philosophical Support for Saying “God made me an Israelite” instead of “God didn’t make me a woman.”, Rabbi Asher Lopatin

  1. Asher,
    But women have always (at least in every siddur I have seen) said their bracha in the positive (she’asani kirtzono). How does this 2 neg. / 1 pos. ratio accord with the Bach? Is it an issue of position (first vs. last)?
    Jeff
    PS – I have always been taken with the striking contrast between these 3 brachot and the assertion of Paul in Galatians 3 that davka these distinctions (man/ woman; Jew/Gentile; slave/free man) have been erased by Jesus. .

  2. Chuck says:

    Rav Lopatin – In a sense kills 2 birds with one stone as not only shelo asani isha but shelo asani goy is a source of acute discomfort to modern Jews. It supports a “master race” hashkafa. Shelo asani avad is hard to relate to at all.

  3. anon says:

    How does this support R’ Kanefsky’s post? You at least have some support for an alternate brachot list. He just dropped his altogether.

  4. Struggling Traditionalist says:

    What am I missing here? You are concerned with sexual inequality and the negative presentation, but a positive affirmation of being Jewish and how special that is, is appropriate?

    I would think that modern sensibilities would dictate that if you are going to universalize and equalize identities, that it is awfully self serving to limit that to gender.

    I would like to see you say “She Asani Adam” a human being, because no human is greater than another and no identity is unqiue and no distinctions should be made, because they undermine our collective sense of humanity.

  5. Yitzchak Zev Soloveichik says:

    Dear Rabbi Lopatin,
    I really like the way you broke up your prospective into two part, Halacha and Hashkafa
    As for the Halacha: For me to argue this point is as silly as unqualified local pulpit rabbis trying to argue with the great and dedicated Torah scholars of the generation who surpass them (or me) in every conceivable manner of Torah learning. Silly, and of course disingenuous.
    The most important lesson I think I have ever learned from my grandfather’s Halachik positions is that it was first and foremost what is the true Halacha and then how is it applied to the situation at hand. With your comments as to why you desire to change the Brachot that we say (Master race, modern times, insensitive, boys and girls at camp…..), it is clear that this is not your (collective) start off point. Once you have paskened the Halacha before studying the text it is clear that the true Halacha is secondary to the underlying motive.
    As for the Hashkafa: You State:
    1. There is no better way to bring Jacob’……transformation to life than by………the way our G’marra has it: “She’asani Yisrael” – proud to be a “Yisrael …………perhaps were desperately waiting for the day when proud, committed Israelites, would feel blessed enough to push them aside for a brand new morning, just as Jacob’s name was changed so many years ago.

    You channeled Yaakov for your position so I feel it right to respond utilizing the personality of Yosef. One of Yosef’s great milas was that he was able to overcome the nissuyin of asher (no pun intended). Has this generation learned nothing from Yossef? A generation of Jews who have sacrificed so little and lived in such comfort while at the same time failing this great nissuyin of asher to the extent that they have the chutzpah and arrogance to somehow suggest that the reason all those great and proud Jewish martyrs whose last words were the cries of Shema, lacked the pride or commitment in being a Jew. So much so, that they refused to declare it in birchas hashachar. Perhaps having never truly suffered in your life at the hands of others, whether under physical or legal bondage that you can’t appreciate the beauty of freedom and give thanks to G-d that you did notwake not, in fact, wake up a slave.

    2. “Lo Ya’akov ye’ameir shimcha, ki im Yisrael”! Your name will not be the negative Ya’akov any more, but, rather, the positive, glorious Yisrael!.

    Your Interpretation is as emphatically written as it is wrong. I have heard you repeat, as correct, my fathers drasha on Yakkove’s name change to Yisrael as being dramatically different then Avraham’s name change. Yisrael was an affirmation of Yakkove’s status, not a change from being a negative reflection on his status to a new glorious one.

    This is particularly important because it goes to what I believe is the true heart of the matter. There are those who truly love the Torah and see it as the Truth, and Chazal as the ultimate judge of its meaning. And then there are those who will reinterpret the very words of the Torah to suit the needs if what ever social position they happened to be supporting at that time. Also intentionally mistranslating a passuk would never do in academic circles I don’t see why it should be any less of a matter in Torah ones.
    Just to add, I am in no way suggesting that modern orthodoxy are the only ones guilty of doing such things, but just that is more completely obvious when they do.
    As alway, Your Friend and Admirer,
    Yitzchak Zev Soloveichik

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      Yitzchak Zev,

      You inspired me to right a whole column in response to your challenge.

      Kol tuv and hope to join you soon in the Holy Land,

      Asher Lopatin

      • Anonymous says:

        i would request that you affix a note to the article at the end that I wrote a reply to it. I feel that it is important that I be allowed to present my view of my view given the disagreement of my opinion between us.

  6. […] Asher Lopatin posted two essays supporting R. Kanefsky (I, II). In the first, he adduced minority texts and theological concepts supporting changing the […]

    • Kousar says:

      This is ridiculous. I dont uetnrsdand why some people cant keep their traditions and beliefs to themselves. Nobody is really going out of their way to bother the ultra-orthodox, except maybe Tanya Rosenblit. Just as other people accept and respect what the ultra-orthodox believe, the ultra-orthodox should accept and respect what everybody else believes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: