Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Differences between prayers in Israel and the States

A week ago, I wrote about differences between shuls in Israel and the States. http://mykaddishyear.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/davening-and-kaddish-in-israel.html Here, I will write about some differences in the prayer service. (I am only comparing differences using Nusach Ashkenaz. There are even more differences when comparing different nusachim.)

The major difference is that minyans in Israel say Birkat Cohanim every day. This means that the Cohanim (those who are Cohens, i.e., descendants of the priestly class) ascend to the front of the Ark, cover themselves in a tallit and recite the blessings according to the Torah in Numbers 6:24-26.  In the States, the Cohanim do this only on Festivals. On all other days, the prayer leader recites the blessings as an insert to the Shemona Esray. As I lead prayers in Israel, the sight of men going up to the Ark reminded me that my job was prompt them with the words of the blessing rather than to recite it for the community.

There are also slight differences in the wording of the Shemona Esray that kept me on my toes.  Here are a list of the differences:

Blessing Number        In Israel                                     In the States
           2                      מוריד הטל (dew) recited            omitted
           9                      ושבענו מטובושךָ                           ושבענו מטובה
           13                    וכל איבי עמךָ                                   וכל איביךָ

The version recited in Israel makes more sense to me. I don't understand why dew is not mentioned outside Israel, and I do so in my personal prayer though not when I am leading prayers in the States because I'm following the customs of the place where I'm praying. The mention of dew recognizes that precipitation continues even after the rainy season.

The changes in blessings 9 and 13 are similar in nature. In the former blessing in Israel, we say that God blesses the face of the earth and that we are satisfied from "its, i.e., the earth's goodness." Outside of Israel, we say we are satisfied from "your, i.e., God's goodness." But we are already talking about the earth, so the Israeli version makes more linguistic sense to me. It is also more concrete and emphasizes our relationship to actual land.

Blessing number 13 was added to the prayer, resulting in the Shemona Esray, which means 18, having 19 blessings. (The name of the prayer was apparently so well established that it remained even after the addition of a 19th blessing.)  It deals with the still relevant topic of the hope that God will bring about the destruction, or at least the humbling, of the Jewish People's enemies.   The Israeli version speaks of  the enemies of "your nation." The version recited outside of Israel refers to "your, i.e., God's enemies." Once again, the Israeli version is more satisfying because the main issue is not whether those who seek our destruction are God's enemies but whether they are our own enemies. Again, the Israeli version is more concrete as it brings the focus onto the people rather than to God.

I feel privileged to have merited to be in Israel during my kaddish year and to have led the prayer service in the manner of Jews who live in Israel.

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