These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

In the Words Part I

Posted on January 10, 2012 by Shibley

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T’fillah is obviously made up of seemingly countless words. Words that we can learn to say repeatedly, by memory, mumble through, or strike from our t’fillot. Lately, I have wondered about what small changes to the words would do to our experience of prayer. To that end, I have been experimenting with Nusach Sfard instead of my usual Nusach Ashkenaz. My experiment forced me to pay more attention to the words, because there are slight differences that have a profound effect on the meaning of the t’fillot.

For this particular post I want to focus on one small change from the recently completed festival of Hannukah. Most Nusach Ashkenaz siddurim print the words “b’zman hazeh” (in this time), when referring to the miracle of Hannukah, whether you conceive of the military victory or the oil as a bigger miracle is your own choice. A commentator named the L’vush changes the words to read “u’bizman hazeh” (and in this time), he feels as if miracles are still occurring even in contemporary times. Again, it’s less important whether or not you believe in the statement, what’s more important is to show one kind of variety in t’fillah.

This example highlights my point that small changes and small words have a profound effect on both how we experience prayer, and what prayer means to us. Through some experimentation, the words can be transformed from rote into something that speaks a personal language. Stay tuned for an update on my Nusach Sfard experiment.