On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations

by Gil Student

Rabbi Daniel Sperber, professor of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University, rose to fame with the publication of his widely acclaimed and award-winning eight-volume study of Jewish customs, Minhagei Yisrael. One would expect a researcher of customs to defend and preserve them. This makes his recent book, On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations, all the more surprising. With a complete command of prayerbook manuscripts and liturgical history, and somewhat less impressive analysis of halachic sources, Rabbi Sperber permits, coming close to advocating, changing blessings and prayers to wordings that are more inclusive of females. Specifically, he allows for the recitation of “Who has made me an Israelite” in the Morning Blessings rather than the standard “Who has not made me a woman” and the incorporation of the names of the Matriarchs alongside the Patriarchs at the beginning of the Amidah prayer. Permission for these deviations is quite extraordinary within the Orthodox community. I leave to rabbis greater than I the evaluation of whether the changes permitted in this book belong in the Orthodox community.

The original review appeared in the Jewish Action and can be viewed here.

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