Archive | April, 2011

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D. is now a blogger!

Biblical/liturgical Hebrew translator Joel M. Hoffman just announced at his blog that his father, the greatest liturgical mind of our time, Lawrence Hoffman, has started a blog:

I’m thrilled to announce that my father, Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D., has just started a blog: Life and a Little Liturgy. The author of three dozen books, Rabbi Hoffman — “Dad,” to me — is a preeminent Jewish liturgist (it’s a niche market, I know, but he’s got it cornered) and leading modern Jewish philosopher.

And what does Lawrence have to say for himself in his first blog post at Life and a Little Liturgy? It goes a little something like this:

I do not usually admit this right off the bat – it is definitely a conversation stopper – but here it is: I am a liturgist. “Liturgy” is a common enough word among Christians, but it does not flow trippingly off Jewish tongues, and I am not only Jewish but a rabbi to boot. The word comes from the Greek, leitourgia, “public service,” which is how Greek civilization thought of service to the gods. The Jewish equivalent is the Temple cult of antiquity – in Hebrew, avodah, which meant the same thing, the work of serving God. That eventually morphed into what people do in church and synagogue. Christians call it liturgy; Jews call it “services.”

And then it keeps going. It’s a long post. But it’s worth it.

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Help the Open Siddur Project attribute this kavanah

OSPOne of the organizers of the wonderful open-source Open Siddur Project and a regular reader of this blog Aharon Varady, sent out an inquiry to the OSP email list today that caught my eye:

I’m looking to the list for more information on the source for saying a Kavanah (self-focused intentional meditation), to take upon oneself the obligatory mitzvah of loving your fellow as yourself. …I only began to hear this in Renewal circles. There, I was told that the origin of the kavvanah was the Ari z”l. It also appears just before Psukei D’zimra in Reb Zalman’s Siddur Tehillat Hashem Yedaber Pi:

I accept upon myself
the command
to love my neighbor as myself.

In Hebrew sources, it appears as such:

הריני מקבל עלי מצוות עשה של ואהבת לרעך כמוך

Aharon goes on to explain that he has heard a variant of it that goes like this:

הריני מקבל עלי את מצוות הבורא ואהבת לרעך כמוך | Hareini mekabel alai et mitzvat haborei, veahavta lereiacha kamocha

After a few emails back and forth, Aharon said:

Does anyone know the source for calling this mitzvah the “mitzvah haboreh.” (Aren’t all the mitzvot, “mitzvot haboreh”?)

If we could find the original source, we could attribute this custom and determine which was the original and which the variation.

I’m familiar with the “haborei” version of the kavanah from Kirtan Rabbi’s “Love Thy Neighbor ואהבת לרעך כמוך” track on his “Kirtan Rabbi Live!” CD.

Another person (attribution on request) on the list said:

This kavanah is also in sim shalom prior to early morning torah study.

(P. 63 of the Shabbat slim shalom.)

In Kol Haneshamah, (p. 151) we use alternative language: leshem yichud kudshabrich hu…)

However, I’m doubting that this “kudshabrich hu” phrasing is Reconstructionist in origin because it appears in the “L’shem Yichud” track on the album “Shuva” by Raz Hartman, who I believe is Orthodox.

Efraim Feinstein, another OSP leader, added:

 It appears (with the variant מצות עשה) in a Chabad siddur (as something that is “proper to say” before מה טובו) as early as 1896. Probably earlier, I just haven’t searched through all of them. :-)

If you do want to find the history of the phrase, tracing back Chassidic siddurim is probably the way to go.

So. Anyone know anything about the origins of any of these?

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My haggadah review for JTA is online! (Plus something I didn’t include in the review!)

YES! For additional liturgical hilarity, keep reading below the image.

You can read the whole thing here. And then you can all pat yourselves on your backs because you’ve been reading this stuff all along.

Also, the Cokie Roberts Haggadah, as I’ve taken to calling it, has something pretty hilarious in it. Most–though not all–sections of this haggadah begin with a little black and white water color of something related to the section. For instance, the section where you explain the meanings of all the foods on the seder plate has a little picture of a seder plate.

And then there’s this:

This is clearly a section that doesn’t need an image. Some have one and some don’t, such as Washing the Hands and the Four Questions, so why this one?

I have no answer for you. But if you were thinking that the siddur in the image above looked familiar, let me just show this:

Gah. When I turned to this page, I leapt from my chair, ran to my room and grabbed the Wasserman Edition of the ArtScroll Siddur. Lo and behold, friends.

Not that I’m implying this is some kind of conspiracy. I’m guessing some illustrator just googled siddur and went with a nice looking one.

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A gritty scan of my JTA piece from the Austin Jewish Outlook

OK. My Dad e-mailed me this scan of my JTA article as it appeared in the Austin Jewish Outlook. Click on the image below (I don’t know why the image isn’t working!) or here for the full-size image.

And, as my Dad pointed out, let’s all just take a moment to appreciate that there is an ad for a business called “Dogadillo: Stylish Essentials” at the bottom of the page. God, I love Austin.

Also, not to pick nits, but who puts a drop cap on a dateline?

Shabbat Shalom, y’all

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In other news, I’m a legitimate journalist

It’s official: I am the best college editorial writer in New Jersey. Also, the JTA pays me the big bucks!

First, the New Jersey Collegiate Press Association awards:

The NJCPA announced winners of its annual newspaper competition this week. Work created between from Feb. 2010 through Feb. 2011 was eligible for submission, so our submissions from The Acorn here at Drew University included selections from spring of 2010, which was part of my term as editor in chief. The rest of that time period, I have been a weekly columnist and the features editor.

The Acorn won first place for General Excellence. I won first place for editorial writing for these two columns: “Muslims: Give them some space” and “This column is not a professional one.”

It is an absolute crime that Melissa Hoffman only took home second place for editorial cartooning for these two gems:

From "Hipsters invade, not enough PBR"

From "Incomplete diversity"

Two of our photographers also took home awards:

By Sarah Schanz-Bortman from "Crunch! Ouch!" When the judges see these, they're looking at PDFs of the print edition that we submit. I laid out the page this was on, wrote that genius headline and picked this photo out.

By Arvolyn Hill from "In CLA, still playing catch-up," the last part in a four-week Black History Month series of features on diversity at Drew that Arvy--also the photographer here--and I came up with. I edited the whole series, which turned out better than either of us anticipated. A lot of folks in the office didn't want to use this photo, but we pushed for it and we ended up using it on the front page to awesome effect.

It’s interesting that we placed in one writing category, editorial writing, but we still won general excellence. I’m still piecing that together.

And in other news, my dad–who y’all may know as Harold, a regular commenter on this blog–informs me that the Austin Jewish Outlook, my hometown federation paper, has printed my review for the Jewish Telegraph Agency of a new interfaith haggadah by Cokie and Steve Roberts, though I can’t find it on the Outlook‘s site or on the JTA site.

If you see it pop up in your fed paper, lemme know! I wanna know how many of them decided to print it.

Shabbat Shalom, y’all

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