Yiddishkeit, Version 2.0

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rca-siddurBy S. Friedman

Keeping mesorah has always been a challenge for Yidden in golus.  The lure of secularism, conservatism, socialism, and a whole gamut of “isms” is an enticing one for those who are influenced by current society to perceive traditional Ultra-Orthodoxy as “old fashioned” and “outdated.”  Personally, though, I am simply bothered by “other” versions of Judaism. I am not offended by them.  If someone, for example, is Reform, then they have left the fold, and by giving their pseudo-observance a new moniker, they are distancing themselves from Torah-true Yiddishkeit in the process.

What is really troubling is when people hijack Orthodox Judaism as they tailor it to fit their own sense of what is right and wrong.  They threaten to alter Yiddishkeit from within and conveniently keep the term “Orthodox” to suffice their misplaced sense of staying “frum.”  We all have heard about the Avi Weiss-Rabbah fiasco, and how a perverted sense of equality for women required an update from the supposed tyrannical ways of what Torah, halacha and mesorah have prescribed as women’s roles for millennia.  He was condemned. She was condemned.

However, I believe that in order to be protective of our ever increasingly threatened Mesorah, the facilitators of these attacks should be just as equally condemned. The RCA openly expressed their disapproval of Avi Weiss’ actions. Yet, they did not go so far as to rescind the ordination given to a woman, nor did they have the wherewithal to distance themselves from Weiss unequivocally. To me, that speaks volumes of the RCA’s position of how Orthodox Judaism isn’t above being tinkered with. They just took issue with the particular type of change that Weiss initiated.

As advertised, the RCA is planning the release of a new siddur. Rather than letting their changes to the most basic form of our service to Hakadosh Boruch Hu be discreetly positioned, they proudly declare how the “Revised RCA Siddur” will be a new and more updated version than its predecessors. It will promote increased “sensitivity throughout to women’s prayer experience,” including incorporating prayers (such as “Zeved Habas“) that are specifically altered to be gender appropriate, presumably because the siddur that Klal Yisroel had been using is terribly insensitive to women. 

Additionally, it has “halachos related to contemporary history,” such as new days when to omit Tachanun or say Hallel, because since the Shulchan Oruch (and the Mishna Berurah, for that matter) did not live in the latter part of the 20th century, they were not privileged to be enlightened to extra holidays on the Jewish calendar that the RCA and others have added. Sarcasm aside, the RCA has also taken the liberty of changing many words in the text of tefillos to adhere to what they feel is more grammatically suitable.

The RCA is the perpetrator of this heinous attempt to modernize our mesorah, but as with the case with Avi Weiss, they are not alone, and they need facilitators. As of now, the siddur is billed as “Zichron Ploni” as they await a generous benefactor to enable its publishing. In addition, there is also a publisher, a distributor, local seforim stores, and news publications for advertising that are required for RCA’s new revised siddur to be “successful.” Unless the RCA is willing to make a turnaround and omit these distortions in its siddur, which we hope it will, I call on those in that industry to distance themselves from that project, and if they do not, then they are coconspirators of the sabotaging of our mesorah as well. To paraphrase political commentator Rush Limbaugh when referring to another “progressive” change movement: I hope they fail.

There is another thing that caught my eye in the RCA advertisement that I saw as ironic. It proclaims that the “Revised RCA Siddur will enhance the prayer experience for decades to come.” With history as our teacher, we know how all of the movements and “isms” have panned out, and in the “decades to come,” only the undiluted version of mesorah-guided Yiddishkeit will endure.

{S. Friedman-Matzav.com}


  1. I miss R’ Elya zt”l. This is exactly what he was upset about approximately 25 years ago…
    When you help those trying to modernize yiddishkeit, you end up getting further and further away from mesorah.

  2. Matzav hits in on the nose again.

    It seems that you guys are the only ones in our world with the guts to stand up for what we stand for. I have a newfound respoect for you guys!

  3. where does the ad mention that “the RCA has also taken the liberty of changing many words in the text of tefillos to adhere to what they feel is more grammatically suitable” that (fake) critiscm is the only one that would be valid.
    My kinnos has kinos written after the Shulchan Aruch and Mishna brerura was written are you against that too?
    what is wrong with making a sidur show ““sensitivity throughout to women’s prayer experience,”” i dont find it neccesary and neither does my wife, but there are some who do, why not accomodate them with “halachicaly sactioned observances” (that part of the ad wasnt mentioned). Are you anti English, russian or transliterated siddurm, those arent part of our mesora too?
    When you use rush Limbaugh as a moral guidance in your attempt to defend mesorah you are on very shaky ground

  4. I once visited a lady who told me she attended a wedding, where they did not want to offend women. Under the chuppah, they recited, “Asher yatzar es ha’adam ,(and then to include women, feminized the word) “V’es ha’adama”.
    That was very comical to me, but I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry when I heard it. And it wasn’t a joke.

  5. When Reb Elya Svei was niftar, a smart man said “America has just lost their last Gavra DeMistafina MiNei (a man who people are afraid of)”. I heard it but I didn’t feel it.
    It is clear to me that people said “Yikrivu Yemei Reb Elya LaMus and then we will work on revising the RCA siddur”
    I think I am now really ready to appreciate a hesped on Reb Elya…. How unfortunate is the ship who lost it’s captain!!……..

  6. I think Rabbi Friedman is taking the RCA’s siddur and blowing it a lot farther then the RCA themselves intends to exhibit their siddur.
    First, being that many more frum women with ehrliche husbands daven (some even three times a day), it is completely understandable that the RCA is putting out a siddur with tefilos for women. What’s wrong with having tefilos meyuched for women inside a siddur?
    Second, what’s with wrong with applying halachos? That’s exactly what the mishna berurah did. If this siddur is willing to take the mishna berurah’s halachos and apply it to an Ipod (which believe it or not, the Chofetz Chaim didn’t have), that’s fabulous. Rabbi Friedman doesn’t list a single one of the halachos that were “updated.”

    I’m not going to lump the siddur and Avi Weiss together. Regarding Avi Weiss, the RCA strongly condemned him. They don’t have the ability to retract his rabbinite title. I believe the general policy of the RCA is that it is a collective group of Orthodox rabbis (sort of like the National Council of Jewish Organizations under Malcolm Hoenlein). Unless a member makes a very strong move to show that he is not “Orthodox,” he will remain a member. As of yet, all Avi Weiss has done is placed a title, you cannot deem one “unOrthodox” because of a title.

    S. Friedman has somehow been misled to think that the RCA is acting improperly. Please correct him by commenting below.

  7. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.

    I will ask my rov what he feels and what our response should be to the changing of our siddur text

  8. How Accurate!
    We must implore everyone not to give a platform for this abomination.
    Nu! Are you willing to sacrifice all youe morals and ethical values for a couple of dollars?

  9. some of the new Brochos in the RCA prayerbook
    1.what Brocho does a reform Rabbi make on his little Shawl Tallit?
    A Brocho Levatalah
    2.What Brocho on Cyanide/
    A Brocho Achrona
    Many more changes to come

  10. It starts off slowly, subtly, quietly. Just a small ‘progression’ – too small to make a fuss.???? ?? ??? ???? ?? ??? ???, no noise – then let’s go to the next level. Women reading a kesubah under the chuppa, women saying hespedim, bat mitzvah ceremonies, etc. Now the rca is only putting to print thier previous revisions. They’re plain and simple – enlightened.

  11. What does “ethical conduct” have to do with tefillah? And also, the alien newfangled “holidays” of Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom HaZikaron are included and given religious sanction, thus eroding at the integrity of the Jewish calendar and empowering the liberal establishment and its movements, reform and conservative.

  12. While I fully respect the author’s opinion regarding the parameters and strictures of the mesora, surely he knows that their are prominent talmidei chochamim who have a more liberal approach. Many of the gedolim in the dati tzioni community are more open to innovation within the framework of halacha.

    I would think it obvious that the RCA is targeting the chareidi world with it’s new siddur. The siddur obviously has the haskama of it’s rabbanim. Seeing as there are gedolei torah on their side, too, why can’t we just say ailu v’ailu?

  13. So it seems that your major issue with the RCA siddur (which I would bet that you haven’t actually read)is the word “revised” or rather that the word is displayed prominently on the cover. I will reserve my criticism until I actually have the siddur in hand and can read it. I hope that the translation is better than other egregious translations.

  14. On the drawing board for years already this project may never had had a supporter but now that s. friedman decided to attack it it may yet get a benefactor……

  15. To all of the comments saying that they don’t know what the author is citing:
    The RCA website just has a one page flyer. The Tradition Magazine published a four page advertisement (like a brochure) that goes into the exact details that S. Friedman is talking about.
    Changing “occupy” and “posses” in regards to Israel for one.
    Also, the author talks about “Zeved Habas”- how much worse can you get?!?
    For those that don’t know, it’s a made up ceremony for a baby girl (with a kois and all) in place of a bris.
    This not merely “gramatically suitable” and it’s a lot more (i.e. worse) than just being sensative to woman’s prayers.

  16. Dear Rabbi Friedman,

    Thank G-d we live in the USA and we have freedom of speach. This is not the former Soviet Union and you are entitled to your erronious opinions.
    You can even state them and you may have many ignorant people believe that what you say is true.
    That being said, let’s talk facts.
    Yiddishkeit, has always responded to changes brought about by history.
    *The birth and development of chasidus
    *Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirschs’ responce to reform through the development of Modern Orthodoxy
    *The Rambam’s responce to Arisotelian philosophy
    *The development of Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Eidot Hamizrach traditions

    *The writing of the Gemorah and the Mishna
    * pruzbul
    * Rav Akivas alliance with Bar Cochba

    To paraphrase Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveichik,
    G-d talks to us through history. We do not live isolated from reality. We can not live as if the Shoah, the State of Israel, modernity, the entrance of women into the work force and higher education, and modern science do not exist. The beauty of the Halachik process is that it’s nitzchiyut allows us to engage the world and not chas visholom to retreat from it.
    You sir Rabbi Friedman are living a dead Judaism. The mesorah-guided Yiddishkeit that you talk about will only produce generations of closed minded, non thinking, illiterate and
    disenchanted people who do not believe that G-d created the whole world in it’s totality.
    You forget sir how much disfunctional behavior exists in your community. Much of this behavior comes from your inability and unwillingness to deal with reality. We in the Modern Orthodox Zionist community,are willing to live with challenge. We may falter, but at least we do not observe a religion that is based upon fear. To us, Torah and Halachah empower us to be a part of the world that G-d has given us TODAY.

  17. Gevaldig!

    What a beautiful display of the writer’s hashkofoh. Torah true ?????, as Chazal say (brought by Rashi in Devorim) that ?? ????? ???? (with one exception).

    I wonder what siddur the writer davens from? Seder Rav Amram Gaon?

  18. Not everybody looks at the world through the same lens. Personally some of my most meaningful prayers are uttered without moving my lips.

  19. First off, the RCA has a number of prominent rabbanim and talmidei chachamim involved in their organization. The other concerns with the governance of this organization do not have much to do with this siddur project. If we were going to write off an entire organization based on a single decision or member, there wouldn’t be very many “accepted” Jewish organizations today. AND the RCA doesn’t give out smicha, so suggesting that they would revoke an unauthorized smicha is a bit off.

    As for the sidder: Artscroll put out a Women’s Siddur. I don’t see what’s wrong with the RCA putting out a siddur that combines the two – a single siddur for the entire shul. Additionally, there are already a number of siddurim out there that offer different version of tfillos or additional piyutim. Publishing a siddur that includes some of the tfillos widely accepted in many frum communities, particularly those in EY, isn’t a variation on the mesorah or a drift towards “isms”.

    Finally, with all due respect, if we haven’t seen the siddur and don’t know what the changes are, I don’t believe we can publicly condemn it. A little bit of research can go a long way.

  20. What narrishkeit. For example Chazal never had Sheaasini Kirtozono (See below). And aveilim never said Kaddish on a daily basis until the middle ages. Things change all the time IF the olima is mekabel it. You don’t like it, fine. But don’t denigrate it because it is change.

    ” Indeed, the ???, who appears to be the earliest source to mention this ????, says that it is a ???? for women to say this ????, apparently something which they began themselves, whoever initiated it (although by the time of the ???? ???? it already had the status of ???? – ?????? ??????). It is not mentioned in the ????, nor is it in the ???? ??”?. ??? ??? (??: ??? ?) says to leave it out and the ???? ??? (?’ ?????? ????) and the ?? ????? (?? ?”? ??) both pasken (for ???? ????) that this ???? should not be said with ?? ??????. (Note: ????? women are ???? to say it, for ???? ????? with ?? ?????? and for ???? ???? with or without.)

  21. Halacha has mechanisms to deal with a changing world. We should use them. I have no desire for Judaism to try and stop time. Sorry to all those who want to keep things as they were…this is a sentimental attitude that is not in keeping with Hashem’s plan (which should be obvious because change is built into the fabric of the world).

  22. Which Siddur to you use? Isn’t it better than the one before it. Every siddur is updated to fix mistakes and make it more practical for a it’s target audience.

    Are you also against the Korban Mincha, the Siddur Vilna, the Vizhnitzer and Satmar siddurim?

    If you’re problem is Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut, you are sixty years behind your time. Siddurim have featured it for years and the Mechaos have already been made.

  23. i don’t get it, doesn’t the artscroll have a “women’s siddur” complete with extra sensitivity to women’s spiritual and halachic needs? is the big shanda here that a husband and wife could actually use the same siddur?

  24. Artscroll Complete Siddur: RCA
    Rabbinical Council Edition
    Part of the “ArtScroll Classic Siddurim Ashkenaz” series.
    Publisher: ArtScroll, 1989

    “Modern translation seeks to balance the beauty and intensity of the Hebrew text with an easily understood English. Commentaries from a wide range of sources explain difficult passages in the siddur and involve the reader in the emotional, spiritual and inspirational experience of prayer. The editors explain the reasons for many of the additions and changes that distinguish nusach Sefard from nusach Ashkenaz. Clear instructions for following the synagogue service as well as for ritual observances in the home are provided throughout. More complex or lengthy halachot (laws) are discussed in the ‘Laws” section at the end of the siddur. This siddur has become the standard against which others are judged.(1043 Pages”

  25. 1. There is no mechanism by which the RCA can revoke anyone’s heter horaah. For that matter, I’ve yet to hear of a Charedi yeshiva doing so, either. And the RCA certainly HAS voiced its organizational opposition to some of Rav Weiss’s moves, and the ordination of the rabbah.

    2. You certainly haven’t seen the siddur, nor spoken to the people working on it. How does someone ‘paskin a shaila’ without knowing the metzius? I have spoken at times with a few of the people actually working on the siddur. It isn’t at all how you portray it. They certainly aren’t changing any tefillos; though they are working to improve translation.

  26. Thank you for your edifying articles. It is so wonderful to receive such badly needed chizuk. Boruch Hashem we will have what to talk about during the gefilte fish. It’s so zeees to be a Yid!

  27. Your article is full of lies. A sampling:

    – “the RCA has also taken the liberty of changing many words in the text of tefillos to adhere to what they feel is more grammatically suitable”

    This is not true, and doesn’t appear in the ad.

    -“that are specifically altered to be gender appropriate”
    This is not true and doesn’t appear in the ad.
    Also, when the RCA says they;re going to make the siddur more sensitive for women, they mean that it will include a female nusach for prayers that they are supposed to say like birchas hagomel, kapores, and hateres nedarim. Most siddurim only have the male versions, which are grammatically inappropriate for a women to say. Your objection to zeved habas is absurd as its an old minhag, known all over ashkenax, that was discarded over the last hundred years or so. How can it be wrong to bring it back?

  28. I have a siddur from 1763 that has the zeved Habas in it, so you’ve waited way too long to complain!

    Really, Gedolim have written kinos on the Holocaust, so making a fuss over “new things” trying to make the alienated feel more comfortable is just silly.

  29. I am always a little concerned when there is an attack on a group or project that is heavy on the opinion / judgment angle but light on the facts or proof – The issues raised are important – there needs to always be a balance between preserving our Mesorah and making sure the way we preserve it is current and in a form that will enable it to continue being passed on – that has and will continue to be a challenge and no doubt there have been many over the years that have gone too far to the side of current and forgotten about the preservation part of it. As in all good balancing acts there is usually a good counter force from groups that are totally committed to the preservation part of the challenge and bringing the mesorah in-line with current trends, ideologies and cultural sensitivities is about the last thing on their mind and Verboten!

    It is kind of like the Ba’al Tshuva movement which has exploded B”H in the last 2 decades – it is inspiring and celebrated thought the torah world and at the same time quietly there is the fear of how much of a price we pay for assimilating these BTs into our communities with their secular experiences and their black hats creating a new communal algorithm – to some they are very rich and vibrant personalities – injecting much needed energy and passion into our communities while to others they water own the “mesorah” – lets be careful of how quick we are to attack even when we feel ourselves to be on a “holy” crusade and try and appreciate where people may be coming from even when they clearly step over the line and propose things that are not acceptable – more often than not the issue is not worth getting all worked about and turning and audience off to exactly the people they need to be listening to.

    Those that are the protectors of the “mesorah” in its most traditional form need to pay to attention to those perhaps on the left fringe – because often even when they are wrong their reasons and objectives have merit – there was a day when educating women was though to be a greater threat than or right along there with the Haskala movement – today who does not send their daughters to a Bais Yaakov?

    All I am saying is we should really be careful before we start slinging arrows – if there are real red lines crossed you can always bring the heavy artillery later – but insulting people now is hard to take back later.

    Oh – and I wonder why so many post as anonymous – why r we afraid of putting our name behind what we say

  30. The addition of Kinnos comes from a heter mentioned by Rashi in Divrei Hayamim on the possuk “Vayekonen Yirmiyahu al Yoshiyahu”. I don’t have a sefer in front of me so I can’t give chapter and verse. He talks about adding kinnos into the nussach of Tisha Bav for tzaros throughout the generations. He says something like “Dugmas Hatzaros sheb’yameinu” referencing the beginig if the churban caused by the crusades. In addition, there are others added in for other events, such as “Shaali Srufa Ba’eish” written by the Maharam MeRuttenberg about sreifas hatalmud in Paris in the year 1240 (5000 lp”k).

    Those additions are clearly limited to tisha bav, as authorized by Rashi. (Incidentally, that is why the chareidim are not generally supportive of other days of memorial, such as Holocaust Rememberance Day, and Yom Hazikaron in Israel. Rashi says that all tzaros are connected to Tisha B’av, and that is when they should be commeorated.)

    Other tampering with the siddur and nusach hatefila has always been considered to be a first step down a very slippery slope, and not to be tolerated among those who stay true to the mesorah.

    One of the very first attacks by the gedolim of the day against the original reformers was when they published their first siddur with the minor change of the deletion on one Yekum Purkan. They said Why do we need to daven for Maranan Verabanan Di Bar’ah d”Yisroel vdi B’bavel? That shinui alone was enough for the gedolim of the day to say that they have breeched the wall around our Machane, and they need to be removed.

  31. If you call your Rabbah and she isn’t home, do you refer to her husband as the Rebbitzin?

    Maybe the new Siddur will have a Usage Guide…

  32. All the progressive people out there who think that people like S Friedman are “too closed minded” you’re making an age old mistake.
    By becoming more and more modern, what do u think your kids will do- become more Modern. It’s this type of behavior that leads to total lack of observance and to chas v’sholom intermarraige. (The same way you justify things for the sake of being current, they’ll justify it too)

  33. Many of the comments here are not from Matzav readers as they were linked here from Torahmusings.com a center/center-left website.

  34. Regarding Avi Weiss,there are numerous examples that span the gamut of the frum world,whereby an individual that morphed into something totally different,was asked to return their S’micha or redisavowed fro a movement.
    Chabad publioly distanced themselves from Shmuly Boteach ,after he veered off the standard shlichus, and published material dealing with sensitive subjects,not to their standards.(Shmuly,if sales go through the roof due to this sentence,I expect a commission).
    So to say “what can we do? How can we force him? etc.”,really doesn’t play well.
    In response to Sheldon,comment # 28, adding and tampering with the Siddur is a dangerous endeaver.Yes,Piyutim and Tefillos were added over the centuries,but they were done by great people with alot of awe and trepidation.They didn’t do it because of social mores that changed in their host countries.
    You list a number of great changes in Jewish history as evidence of the importance of embracing change,and called those who don’t as practicing”dead judasim”.
    While I commend your passion for this subject, it bears taking in mind that all the examples you cited were not just embraced by the Jewish world without having to face trial by fire by the other leaders of their time.This was in order to make sure that the change was from a pure source,and good intentions withstanding,would not have side costs down the road that would negate any benefit.
    You mention the birth of Chasidus,the new ideas of the Rambam,Reb Samson Raphael Hirch and his unique derech as proof of change that was for the good and embraced.
    All of these movements were intensely scrutinized and some were condemned by their contemporeries,before accepting the “new ideas” being put forth.
    The Vilna Gaon was not a proponent of a dead Judaism when he led the charge against Chassidus,nor wsa Rabeinu Yonah when he publicly burned the writngs of the Rambam,nor were the early skeptics of Rabb S.R. Hirch.It was actually the awarenes that their every move was suspect,and was being scrutinized by their great contemporeries,that kept these new movements on the straight and narrow.
    The Torah Temima relates in his biography Mekor Baruch,that his father the Aruch Hashulchan was told by the Zemach Tzedek of Lubavitch,that if not for the Vilna Gaon,and his fierce challenge to Chassidus,the movement could have eventually strayed and morphed into a new kind of Judaism(think new age Kabala etc.).The same holds true with the Rambam,with all the scrutiny he was under by the Baalei Tosphas and their talmidim,it kept the phlosophical style of the movement in check.So to with Hirch.
    You ignore however a number of other movements of change ,that were fiercly opposed in their time,and did not have such a happy ending.The movement of Shabsi Tzvi,the enlighenment and more recently the secular state of Israel.Where would we be today if these movements had not been scrutinized fiercly opposed?Even those that have a different view on the state, agree that those leaders that they follow never had in mind what the movement eventually became.The opposition from the opposing camp was important,so that one would tread carefully,and be aware of the pitfalls,and plan on avoiding them.
    It could very well be that the forum for this debate should not be on a blog.Rather between leaders of different groups of Judaism.while this may be very well be the case,since the comments were posted,they need to be addressed.

  35. Dear Yisroel Lev,

    I wish to publicly commend you. In the last 6 months that I have been blogging on Matzav, you are the first person to rationally present a cogent position without animus.

    You are correct that there always needs to be checks and balances to keep everyone within a broad golden path.

    The Sfas Emes,al HaTorah on Parshas VaYeshev, says over a maamar in the name of Rav Bunim of Pshischa. The maamar describes a person who remaining with his Yiras Shomayim taking a bold step even if it puts him in a position of “Danger”. where he may fail and yet continues to struggle with that issue till he comes to his conclusions, lives a life of HITCHADSHUT.
    Those people who live life without struggle of issues live lives of HisYashnut”.
    For Clal Yisroel to survive, we will always need innovators and pioneers. We will always need the naysayers who want to maintain the status quo. Public debate is healthy. However when it is done in a tone and a cacoon of unity, it is welcoming. When however, it is done in a manner of “YOU CAN”T PLAY WITH ME OR THE REST OF US”, then it becomes ugly, and childish.
    I look forward to your comments.

  36. Dear Moderator: I’m pretty surprised you published a whole article about the RCA siddur and yet when i posted a comment regarding the article which was pure apikorsus saying the flood did not happen and was taken from goyish legend (published in Tradition Magazein, the magazine of the RCA) you chose to remove that comment. really intelligent


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