On Changes in Jewish Liturgy

Options and Limitations

By Daniel Sperber

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 221

ISBN: 13: 978-965-524-040-5


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by Daniel Sperber

Hardcover, 221 pages (including index)
ISBN 13: 978-965-524-040-5
publication: 2010

Although Jewish liturgy has its roots in antiquity, it evolved and developed throughout the ages to emerge in its present, largely standardized form. However, in some aspects, it is archaic, containing passages and statements that apply more to past eras than to the present day. In some cases, these passages may even be offensive to certain segments of our society. It is for this reason that this book attempts to delineate the parameters of halachically permissible changes in Jewish liturgy -- changes that have precedents in traditional sources and that may correct anachronisms and defuse possible conflict, thus enhancing the experience of prayer for an ever-widening spectrum of Orthodox Jewry.

About the author:

Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber taught in the Talmud Department of Bar-Ilan University, was the dean of the Faculty of Jewish Studies and serves as the president of the Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies. The descendant of a line of distinguished Orthodox rabbis, Professor Sperber was born in 1940 in a castle in Ruthin, Wales and studied in the Yeshivot of Kol Torah and Hevron in Jerusalem. He earned a BA in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art and received a PhD in classics, ancient history and Hebrew studies from University College, London. He also serves as rabbi of the Menachem Zion Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. The incumbent of the Milan Roven Chair of Talmudic Research, he received the Israel Prize in 1992 for his research in Talmud and the history of Jewish customs, and served as the chairman of the Council for Religious Education at the Israel Ministry of Education for a decade.

Professor Sperber has published thirty books and more than four hundred articles on the subjects of Talmudic and Jewish socio-economic history, law and customs, classical philology and Jewish art. Among his major works is a well-known eight-volume series,''Minhagei Yisrael,'' on the history of Jewish customs. Most recently, he has written two books on halachic methodology and rabbinic decision making in confrontation with modernity, and the present work continues these avenues of inquiry.

Praise for On Changes in Jewish Liturgy:

Most of the book is devoted to demonstrating that liturgy is far from static. Sperber does not find it difficult to prove his point, and the discussion is fascinating. The author concludes with some examples of changes to the liturgy that have been introduced for women. His intention is not to recommend changes, but to demonstrate that the liturgy can be changed and to emphasize what is consonant with halakhah and what is not. A very stimulating book!
-Chaim Seymour, AJL Newsletter

The tension between the need to breathe new life into Jewish prayer and the danger of recklessly undermining traditional forms lies at the heart of a new book, On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations.
-Aryeh Tepper, Jewish Ideas Daily

The English-born Bar Ilan University scholar looks at how far one can change the text of the Orthodox siddur – including to the morning blessing "who has not made me a woman".
-The Jewish Chronicle