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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Reform Judaism (10/12)
Section - Question 18.5.2: Traditional Judaism Differences: What other changes to liturgy reflect Reform ideals?

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   The Reform Movement has repeatedly revised the traditional liturgy, in
   order to shorten the service by dispensing with some of the
   repetitions (for example, there is only one reader's Kaddish), and to
   bring the doctrinal content of the liturgy into accord with Reform
   thought by omitting or recasting passages expressive of beliefs that
   are not part of Reform (e.g., a personal Messiah as distinct from a
   messianic age, ressurection of the dead, restoration of the
   sacrificial cult, and the existance of angels).
   As an example of this, consider the Shema and Tefillah. Traditionally,
   the Shema consists of three Scriptural passages: Deut. 6.4-9, Deut.
   11.13-21, and Num. 15:37-41. In Reform siddurs, the second paragraph
   is often omitted because of the doctrine of retribution, and the third
   because of the commandment regarding fringes. Reform does include Num.
   15.40f. With respect to the Tefillah, there are more significant
   changes. The Tefillah traditionally consists of 18 benedictions, to
   which, perhaps in the 2nd or 3rd century CE, a 19th was added. It can
   be broken into three parts: the first three benedictions, an
   intermediate thirteen benedictions, and a final three benedictions.
   These are traditionally said three times daily, and appear (in a
   modified form) in the weekday service in the Reform siddur (although
   most Reform congregations do not hold weekday services, there are
   congregations and study groups that do, and hence, a service is
   provided for them). On Shabbat and on festivals, only the first three
   and the last three are said; the intermediate benedictions are
   replaced by ones peculiar to the appropriate day.
    First Grouping:
          The first benediction, Ancestors/Avot, is retained mostly
          unchanged, except for referring to our fathers and our mothers.
          Most Reform siddurs change the text to read "redemption"
          instead of "a redeemer.". A recent trend has been to include
          Sarah, Leah, Rachel, and Rebecca in addition to Abraham, Isaac,
          and Jacob. This goes with the egalitarian nature of Reform.
          The second benediction, Powers/Gevurot, is amended to affirm
          that God is the source of all life, and that God has implanted
          within us eternal life. Traditionally, the main theme of this
          benediction was resurrection of the dead, a doctrine not
          accepted by Reform Judaism. These words were expressed in the
          traditional siddur as "...and revivest the dead with great
          mercy..". In the Reform prayerbook, this is changed to "...with
          great compassion give life to all."
          The third benediction, Holiness of God/Kedushat Hashem, has
          also been changed slightly. The Hebrew that might more
          literally be rendered as "holy beings" (angels) has been
          changed to "those who strive to be holy".
    Intermediate Benedictions:
          The first (Understanding/Binah), second (Repentence/Teshuvah),
          third (Forgiveness/Selichah), and fourth (Redemption/Ge-u-lah)
          of the thirteen intermediate benedictions are retained,
          although they are rendered in a gender-neutral language (that
          is, God is referred to as a Soverign or a Ruler, as contrasted
          to a Father or a King).
          The fifth intermediate benediction, Healing/Refuah, is changed
          slightly. The traditional "who heals the sick of His people
          Israel" is changed to "Healer of the sick", a potentially older
          version found in J. Ber. 2.4 and Sifrei to Deut. 33.2. The
          change was made because the older version is more
          The sixth intermediate benediction, Blessing of the Years
          (Abundance)/Birkat Hashanim, is also changed slightly: one
          phrase ("Bless our year like other years") is omitted.
          The seventh intermediate benediction, Ingathering of the
          Exiles/Kibbuts Galuyot, is rewritten. The Reform version begins
          the same way as the traditional text, but in place of the
          petition for the ingathering of the exiles goes on to emphasize
          the hope for universal freedom. Thus, "...bring our exiles
          together and assemble us from the four courners of the
          earth..." becomes "...inspire us to strive for the liberation
          of the oppressed, and let the song of liberty be heard in the
          four corners of the earth..."
          The eight intermediate benediction, Justice/Birkat Mishpat, is
          also rewritten. The first half, which traditionally voices the
          hope for the restoration of Israel's judges, is reworded to
          express the hope for universal justice (based on passages such
          as Isa 40.23; Ps. 148.11; Joel 3.1; Zech 12.10, and so on). The
          second half is almost identical with the traditional.
          The ninth intermediate benediction, a malediction against
          slanderers or informers (originally heretics), is omitted.
          The tenth (traditional, ninth in Reform) intermediate
          benediction, Blessing for the Righteous/Birkat Hatsadikim, is
          abridged (i.e., "...upon the righteous and faithful of all
          peoples, and upon all of us.")
          The eleventh (traditional, tenth in Reform) intermediate
          benediction, Builder of Jerusalem/Bonei Yerushalayim, is
          rewritten. Traditionally, this benediction beseeches God to
          rebuild Jerusalem and to reestablish the Davidic monarchy.
          Partly for doctrinal reasons, and partly because the
          traditional theme is repeated by the subsequent benediction,
          the Reform version is altered to be a prayer for the present
          and continuing welfare of the land and people of Israel. The
          Reform version also contains an allusion to the connection
          between Zion and the messianic hope, expressed by a reference
          to Zion and Jerusalem as the source of enlightenment to all
          The twelfth (traditional, eleventh in Reform) intermediate
          benediction, Blessing concerning David, Birkat David, is also
          rewritten. In the Reform version, the hope for restoration of
          the Davidic commonwealth is broadened into a concept of a
          Messianic Age.
          The thirteenth (traditional, twelfth in Reform) intermediate
          benediction, Who Harkens to Prayer/Shomei-a Tefillah, is
    Final three benedictions:
          The first of the last three benedictions, Worship/Avodah, is
          modified. The traditional references to sacrificial worship are
          omitted; instead, a throught on the theme of God's nearness to
          all who seek God with sincerity is used.
          The second of the last three benedictions,
          Thanksgiving/Hoda-ah, uses the complete text, but is rendered
          in a gender-neutral fashion.
          The last of the three benedictions, the Priestly
          Benediction/Birkat Kohanim, is retained relatively unchanged
          from the traditional version, although some of the translations
          are more freely done.

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