Praying for Rain and Eternal Life
1 א

(א) אַתָּה גִּבּור לְעולָם אדושם. מְחַיֵּה מֵתִים אַתָּה רַב לְהושִׁיעַ:

(ב) בקיץ: מורִיד הַטָּל:

(ג) בחורף: מַשִּׁיב הָרוּחַ וּמורִיד הַגָּשֶּׁם:

(ד) מְכַלְכֵּל חַיִּים בְּחֶסֶד. מְחַיֶּה מֵתִים בְּרַחֲמִים רַבִּים. סומֵךְ נופְלִים. וְרופֵא חולִים וּמַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים. וּמְקַיֵּם אֱמוּנָתו לִישֵׁנֵי עָפָר. מִי כָמוךָ בַּעַל גְּבוּרות וּמִי דומֶה לָּךְ. מֶלֶךְ מֵמִית וּמְחַיֶּה וּמַצְמִיחַ יְשׁוּעָה:

(ה) בעשי”ת: מִי כָמוךָ אַב הָרַחֲמִים. זוכֵר יְצוּרָיו לְחַיִּים בְּרַחֲמִים:

(ו) וְנֶאֱמָן אַתָּה לְהַחֲיות מֵתִים: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יקוק, מְחַיֵּה הַמֵּתִים:

(1) You are forever mighty, Adonai, You give life to all (revive the dead).

(2) (Summer: You bring down dew.)

(3) (Winter: You cause the wind to shift and the rain to fall.)

(4) You sustain life through love, giving life to all (reviving the dead) through great compassion, supporting the fallen, healing the sick, freeing the captive, keeping faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like You, Source of mighty acts? Who resembles You, a Sovereign who takes and gives life, causing deliverance to spring up and faithfully giving life to all (reviving that which is dead)?

(5) (Shabbat Teshuvah: Who is like You, Father of mercy, Who in mercifully remembers His creatures for life.)

(6) Blessed are You, Adonai who gives life to all (who revives the dead)

2 ב

(ב) אֵין שׁוֹאֲלִין אֶת הַגְּשָׁמִים אֶלָּא סָמוּךְ לַגְּשָׁמִים. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, הָעוֹבֵר לִפְנֵי הַתֵּבָה בְּיוֹם טוֹב הָאַחֲרוֹן שֶׁל חַג, הָאַחֲרוֹן מַזְכִּיר, הָרִאשׁוֹן אֵינוֹ מַזְכִּיר. בְּיוֹם טוֹב הָרִאשׁוֹן שֶׁל פֶּסַח, הָרִאשׁוֹן מַזְכִּיר, הָאַחֲרוֹן אֵינוֹ מַזְכִּיר. עַד אֵימָתַי שׁוֹאֲלִין אֶת הַגְּשָׁמִים, רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, עַד שֶׁיַּעֲבֹר הַפָּסַח. רַבִּי מֵאִיר אוֹמֵר, עַד שֶׁיֵּצֵא נִיסָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יואל ב) וַיּוֹרֶד לָכֶם גֶּשֶׁם, מוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ בָּרִאשׁוֹן:

(ג) בִּשְׁלשָׁה בְמַרְחֶשְׁוָן שׁוֹאֲלִין אֶת הַגְּשָׁמִים. רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר, בְּשִׁבְעָה בוֹ, חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר יוֹם אַחַר הֶחָג, כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּגִּיעַ אַחֲרוֹן שֶׁבְּיִשְׂרָאֵל לִנְהַר פְּרָת:

(2) We do not ask for rain, unless it is near the rains. Rabbi Yehudah says, "He who leads the last prayer [Muusaf] on the last day of the festival [Shmini Atzeret], mentions [that G-d brings rain], but the first one [the one who does the Shacharit service] does not. On the first day of Passover, the first [chazzan] still mentions it, but the last [mussaf] one does not." Until when is the rain to be prayed for? Rabbi Yehudah says till after the Passover; Rabbi Meir says till the month of Nissan has passed, because it is said [Joel 2:23], "And he will cause to come down for you the rain, the early rain and the late rains in the first month."

(3) On the third of Mar-Cheshvan prayers for the rain are to be said, but according to Rabbon Gamaliel, on the seventh of the same month, namely, fifteen days after the feast of tabernacles, in order that the last Israelites might have reached the river Euphrates.

3 ג

Torat Hayyim, III, no. 3

Question from Recife, Brazil, in 1640s to R. Hayyim Sabbatai of Salonica

Sent from a distant country, the Empire of Brazil, a place south of the Equator, where the south zone is up to about 20 degrees and the north zone is hidden under the horizon 20 degrees or more; where the seasons of the year are changed from Summer to Winter so that the rainy season is not between Tishri and Nisan but from Nisan to Tishri. Moreover, the Summer rain is a blessing to the growth of vegetables and fruit, while excessive rain in the Winter causes diseases and epidemics. For this reason they (a faction of Jews at Brazil) are inclined to think that the special benediction “Mashiv ha-Ruah” and “Tal-u-Matar” in the prayer during the Winter season should rather be said during the Summer season, to harmonize with the surrounding conditions.

Summary of Answer:

He brings out the fact that the Jewish community in Brazil, as it appears from the question, was small, and confined to a single town. He decides that if such town be even as big as Nineveh, indeed, even an entire island, it is not entitled to a special change in the liturgy. Only numerous congregations scattered in a largely populated country may claim the right to change the order of the Prayers. Nevertheless, no congregation need pray against its want and need, but in such single cases ,the regular benediction may be omitted, and when necessary, insert a prayer for rain at the end of the prayer after "Shome'a Tefillah."

Resurrection
4 ד
(כא) וַיְהִ֞י הֵ֣ם ׀ קֹבְרִ֣ים אִ֗ישׁ וְהִנֵּה֙ רָא֣וּ אֶֽת־הַגְּד֔וּד וַיַּשְׁלִ֥יכוּ אֶת־הָאִ֖ישׁ בְּקֶ֣בֶר אֱלִישָׁ֑ע וַיֵּ֜לֶךְ וַיִּגַּ֤ע הָאִישׁ֙ בְּעַצְמ֣וֹת אֱלִישָׁ֔ע וַיְחִ֖י וַיָּ֥קָם עַל־רַגְלָֽיו׃ (פ)

(21) And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.

5 ה
(יט) יִֽחְי֣וּ מֵתֶ֔יךָ נְבֵלָתִ֖י יְקוּמ֑וּן הָקִ֨יצוּ וְרַנְּנ֜וּ שֹׁכְנֵ֣י עָפָ֗ר כִּ֣י טַ֤ל אוֹרֹת֙ טַלֶּ֔ךָ וָאָ֖רֶץ רְפָאִ֥ים תַּפִּֽיל׃ (ס)

(19) Thy dead shall live, my dead bodies shall arise— Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust— For Thy dew is as the dew of light, And the earth shall bring to life the shades.

6 ו
(א) הָיְתָ֣ה עָלַי֮ יַד־יקוק וַיּוֹצִאֵ֤נִי בְר֙וּחַ֙ יקוק וַיְנִיחֵ֖נִי בְּת֣וֹךְ הַבִּקְעָ֑ה וְהִ֖יא מְלֵאָ֥ה עֲצָמֽוֹת׃ (ב) וְהֶעֱבִירַ֥נִי עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם סָבִ֣יב ׀ סָבִ֑יב וְהִנֵּ֨ה רַבּ֤וֹת מְאֹד֙ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י הַבִּקְעָ֔ה וְהִנֵּ֖ה יְבֵשׁ֥וֹת מְאֹֽד׃ (ג) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלַ֔י בֶּן־אָדָ֕ם הֲתִחְיֶ֖ינָה הָעֲצָמ֣וֹת הָאֵ֑לֶּה וָאֹמַ֕ר אדושם יקוק אַתָּ֥ה יָדָֽעְתָּ׃ (ד) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלַ֔י הִנָּבֵ֖א עַל־הָעֲצָמ֣וֹת הָאֵ֑לֶּה וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵיהֶ֔ם הָעֲצָמוֹת֙ הַיְבֵשׁ֔וֹת שִׁמְע֖וּ דְּבַר־יקוק (ה) כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ אדושם יקוק לָעֲצָמ֖וֹת הָאֵ֑לֶּה הִנֵּ֨ה אֲנִ֜י מֵבִ֥יא בָכֶ֛ם ר֖וּחַ וִחְיִיתֶֽם׃ (ו) וְנָתַתִּי֩ עֲלֵיכֶ֨ם גִּדִ֜ים וְֽהַעֲלֵתִ֧י עֲלֵיכֶ֣ם בָּשָׂ֗ר וְקָרַמְתִּ֤י עֲלֵיכֶם֙ ע֔וֹר וְנָתַתִּ֥י בָכֶ֛ם ר֖וּחַ וִחְיִיתֶ֑ם וִידַעְתֶּ֖ם כִּֽי־אֲנִ֥י יקוק
(1) The hand of the LORD came upon me. He took me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the valley. It was full of bones. (2) He led me all around them; there were very many of them spread over the valley, and they were very dry. (3) He said to me, “O mortal, can these bones live again?” I replied, “O Lord GOD, only You know.” (4) And He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! (5) Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live again. (6) I will lay sinews upon you, and cover you with flesh, and form skin over you. And I will put breath into you, and you shall live again. And you shall know that I am the LORD!”
7 ז
(ט) כָּלָה עָנָן וַיֵּלַךְ כֵּן יוֹרֵד שְׁאוֹל לֹא יַעֲלֶה.
(9) As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away, So he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.
8 ח
(א) וּבָעֵ֣ת הַהִיא֩ יַעֲמֹ֨ד מִֽיכָאֵ֜ל הַשַּׂ֣ר הַגָּד֗וֹל הָעֹמֵד֮ עַל־בְּנֵ֣י עַמֶּךָ֒ וְהָיְתָה֙ עֵ֣ת צָרָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־נִהְיְתָה֙ מִֽהְי֣וֹת גּ֔וֹי עַ֖ד הָעֵ֣ת הַהִ֑יא וּבָעֵ֤ת הַהִיא֙ יִמָּלֵ֣ט עַמְּךָ֔ כָּל־הַנִּמְצָ֖א כָּת֥וּב בַּסֵּֽפֶר׃ (ב) וְרַבִּ֕ים מִיְּשֵׁנֵ֥י אַדְמַת־עָפָ֖ר יָקִ֑יצוּ אֵ֚לֶּה לְחַיֵּ֣י עוֹלָ֔ם וְאֵ֥לֶּה לַחֲרָפ֖וֹת לְדִרְא֥וֹן עוֹלָֽם׃ (ס) (ג) וְהַ֨מַּשְׂכִּלִ֔ים יַזְהִ֖רוּ כְּזֹ֣הַר הָרָקִ֑יעַ וּמַצְדִּיקֵי֙ הָֽרַבִּ֔ים כַּכּוֹכָבִ֖ים לְעוֹלָ֥ם וָעֶֽד׃ (פ)

(1) “At that time, the great prince, Michael, who stands beside the sons of your people, will appear. It will be a time of trouble, the like of which has never been since the nation came into being. At that time, your people will be rescued, all who are found inscribed in the book. (2) Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, others to reproaches, to everlasting abhorrence. (3) And the knowledgeable will be radiant like the bright expanse of sky, and those who lead the many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever.

9 ט

(טז) רַבִּי יַעֲקֹב אוֹמֵר, הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה דּוֹמֶה לִפְרוֹזְדוֹר בִּפְנֵי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. הַתְקֵן עַצְמְךָ בַפְּרוֹזְדוֹר, כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּכָּנֵס לַטְּרַקְלִין:

(יז) הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, יָפָה שָׁעָה אַחַת בִּתְשׁוּבָה וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, מִכָּל חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. וְיָפָה שָׁעָה אַחַת שֶׁל קוֹרַת רוּחַ בָּעוֹלָם הַבָּא, מִכָּל חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה:

(16) Rabbi Yaakov says: This world is like a hallway before the world to come. Fix yourself in the hallway so you may enter the drawing room.

(17) He would say: One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all the time in the world to come. And one hour of pleasure in the world to come is better than all the time in this world.

10 י

(א) אין דורשין בעריות בשלשה. ולא במעשה בראשית בשנים. ולא במרכבה ביחיד. אלא אם כן היה חכם ומבין מדעתו. כל המסתכל בארבעה דברים. ראוי לו כאילו לא בא לעולם. מה למעלה מה למטה. מה לפנים. ומה לאחור. וכל שלא חס על כבוד קונו. ראוי לו שלא בא לעולם:

(1) One may not expound the laws of forbidden sexual relations before three people, nor the account of Creation before two, nor the Divine Chariot before one, unless he is wise and understanding from his own knowledge. Anyone who looks into four things would be better off if he had not come into this world: what is above, what is below, what is before, and what is after. And anyone who has no consideration for the honor of his Maker would be better off if he had not come into the world.

11 יא
כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה ס) וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים לְעוֹלָם יִירְשׁוּ אָרֶץ נֵצֶר מַטָּעַי מַעֲשֵׂה יָדַי לְהִתְפָּאֵר. וְאֵלּוּ שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, הָאוֹמֵר אֵין תְּחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים מִן הַתּוֹרָה, וְאֵין תּוֹרָה מִן הַשָּׁמָיִם, וְאֶפִּיקוֹרֶס. רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אוֹמֵר, אַף הַקּוֹרֵא בַסְּפָרִים הַחִיצוֹנִים, וְהַלּוֹחֵשׁ עַל הַמַּכָּה וְאוֹמֵר (שמות טו) כָּל הַמַּחֲלָה אֲשֶׁר שַׂמְתִּי בְמִצְרַיִם לֹא אָשִׂים עָלֶיךָ כִּי אֲנִי יקוק רֹפְאֶךָ. אַבָּא שָׁאוּל אוֹמֵר, אַף הַהוֹגֶה אֶת הַשֵּׁם בְּאוֹתִיּוֹתָיו:

All Jews have a share in the World to Come, as it says, (Isaiah 60:21), “Thy people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” These have no share in the World to Come: One who says that [the belief of] resurrection of the dead is not from the Torah, [one who says that] that the Torah is not from Heaven, and one who denigrates the Torah. Rabbi Akiva says: also one who reads outside books, and one who whispers [an incantation] over a wound, saying, (Exodus 15:26) “I will bring none of these diseases upon thee that I brought upon the Egyptians for I am the Lord that healeth thee.” Abba Shaul says, also one who utters the Divine Name as it is spelled.

12 יב

The Afterlife in Judaism: Modern Liturgical Reforms by Rabbi Neil Gillman

One way of tracing the progressive disenchantment from the doctrine of bodily resurrection is to study the changes that were progressively introduced into the closing words of the Gevurot benediction of the Amidah.

Reform Judaism: Stress the Soul’s Afterlife

The earliest Reformers were loath to tamper with the traditional liturgy, but at a conference of Reform rabbis in Brunswick [Germany] in 1844, Abraham Geiger, the acknowledged ideological father of Classical Reform, suggested that his movement must deal with some liturgical doctrines that were foreign to the new age. One of these was the hope for an afterlife, which, he proposed, should now stress not the resurrection of the body but rather the immortality of the soul.

In the 1854 prayer book Geiger edited for his congregation in Breslau, he kept the original Hebrew of the benediction, but translated its concluding passage, “der Leben spendet hier und dort” (freely translated: “who bestows life in this world and the other”).

The champion of the radical wing of Classical Reform was David Einhorn (1809-1879). Einhorn was singularly responsible for transplanting Reform ideology from Ger­many to America. In his 1856 prayer book, Olat Tamid: Book of Prayers for Jewish Congregations, published for his congrega­tion in Baltimore, Einhorn replaced the tra­ditional Hebrew closing formula with a new version that praises God, “Who has planted immortal life within us.”

That formula was later used in the 1895 Union Prayer Book, which became standard in all American Re­form congregations until 1975, when it was replaced by The New Union Prayer Book, more commonly known as Gates of Prayer.

This latter prayer book, in turn, typically substitutes for the closing words of the bene­diction, the formula mehaye hakol (variously translated: “Source of life,” or “Creator of life.”)

These liturgical changes were echoed in the various platforms issued by American Reform rabbis as a way of giving their movement a measure of ideological coherence. An 1869 conference of Reform rabbis, held in Philadelphia, affirmed that “(t)he belief in the bodily resurrection has no religious foundation, and the doctrine of immortality refers to the after‑existence of souls alone.” This Philadelphia statement served as the basis for an even more influential statement of the principles of Reform, the Pittsburgh Platform, adopted in 1885.

The sixth paragraph of that statement asserts that “…the soul of man is immortal.” It continues, “(w)e reject as ideas not rooted in Judaism the belief…in bodily resurrection…”

Finally, the 1937 Columbus Platform states, “Judaism affirms that man is created in the image of God. His spirit is immortal.”

Still a third expression of the shift in thinking among Reform rabbis can be seen in theological treatises such as Kaufman Kohler’s Jewish Theology: Systematically and Historically Considered (republished, New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1968). Einhorn’s son‑in‑law, Kohler (1843‑1969) succeeded him as the champion of the radical wing of American Reform. He was responsible for convening the Pittsburgh Conference and for drafting its platform.

Kohler’s book devotes three full chapters to a historical overview of Jewish thinking on the afterlife and concludes that “…he who recognizes the unchangeable will of an all‑wise, all‑ruling God in the immutable laws of nature must find it impossible to praise God…as the ‘reviver of the dead,’ but will avail himself instead of the expression…, ‘He who has implanted within us immortal life'” (pp. 296‑297). For Kohler, God’s power reveals itself not in the miraculous but rather in the “immutable laws of nature,” which decree that all material things must die, that death is final, and that only the spiritual can live eternally.

Reconstructing Beliefs About Resurrection

Apart from American Reform, the other modern Jewish religious movement that dismissed bodily resurrection outright was Mordecai Kaplan’s Reconstructionism.

Kaplan (1881‑1983) was arguably American Judaism’s most innovative thinker. A thoroughgoing religious and theological naturalist [i.e. he rejected the “supernatural”], he propounded the view that Judaism was the “civilization” of the Jewish people. The Jewish people can then reformulate its beliefs and practices to make it possible for new generations of Jews to identify with their civilization.

In 1945, Kaplan published his Sabbath Prayer Book, which carried his ideological commitments into the liturgy. His introduction to the prayer book lists the “Modification of Traditional Doctrines” reflected in his work, and one of these is the doctrine of resurrection (pp. xvii‑xviii). Kaplan rejects resurrection, accepts spiritual immortality, but refuses to impose it on the traditional liturgical text of the Amidah. In place of the traditional formula, he uses a phrase from the High Holiday liturgy that praises God “…Who in love rememberest Thy creatures unto life.”

This was but one of the many changes in the traditional liturgy that led to Kaplan’s excommunication by a group of Orthodox rabbis. A more recent Reconstructionist prayer book, Kol Haneshamah (1994), replaces Kaplan’s phrase with a version of the Reform formula, “Who gives and restores life.” A literal translation of the Hebrew mehaye kol hai, by contrast, would read simply “who gives life to all living things.”

Conserve the Hebrew, Shade the English

The Conservative Movement in contemporary American Judaism was born in 1886. As its name implies, it was a conservative reac­tion to what it viewed as the excesses of American Reform and its Pittsburgh Plat­form. In contrast to Reform, this movement generally avoided ideological self‑definition, largely because it perceived itself to be a broad coalition of the more traditionalist elements in American Judaism.

The various prayer books published by the Conservative movement generally (but not always) avoid tampering with the traditional Hebrew liturgy. The movement’s preferred strategy for dealing with troublesome doc­trines embodied in the liturgy is to retain the Hebrew text but to shade the translation to reflect a more acceptable reading of the doc­trine.

As an instance of this practice, the 1945 Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book, omnipres­ent in Conservative congregations in the middle decades of this century, translates the concluding words of the Gevurot benediction, “who calls the dead to life everlasting.”

In the foreword to this prayer book, Robert Gordis, the Conservative rabbi and scholar who chaired the committee that edited the prayer book, justifies this translation by not­ing that this rendering of the traditional Hebrew “…is linguistically sound and rich in meaning for those who cherish the faith in human immortality, as much as for those who maintain the belief in resurrection” (pp. viii‑ix).

Gordis’ personal predilection for spiritual immortality over bodily resurrection is re­corded in his A Faith for Moderns (revised and augmented edition, New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1971): “The facet in man’s nature which is deathless, the vital spark, the breath of life, we call the soul” (pp. 251‑252).

A more recent prayer book for use in Con­servative congregations, Siddur Sim Shalom(1985), is more aggressive in its liturgical changes, yet it retains the traditional Hebrew formula for the Gevurot benediction, which it translates “give life to the dead,” or more freely, “Master of life and death.”

Orthodoxy: Revival in All Languages

Finally, all prayer books for use in contem­porary American Orthodox congregations primarily the various editions compiled by Philip Birnbaum (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co.) and those under the Art Scroll imprint (New York: Mesorah Publications, Ltd.), retain the traditional Hebrew text of the liturgy and translate it literally as either “…who revives the dead” or “…who re­suscitates the dead.”

By the middle of the twentieth century then, the entire liberal wing of the American Jewish religious community had abandoned the doctrine of resurrection, either explicitly by modifying the Hebrew liturgy, implicitly by shading its translation in favor of spiritual immortality, or by adopting a deliberately ambiguous reading of the Hebrew.

13 יג

Reform siddur revives resurrection prayer By Ben Harris September 19, 2007

NEW YORK (JTA) – Of all the theological and liturgical questions attending the design of the Reform movement’s forthcoming prayer book, none was more contentious than the decision to restore the prayer for the resurrection of the dead.

“That’s the hot one,” said Rabbi Elyse Frishman, editor of the new work, Mishkan T’filah.

The issue was revisited several times. Various study texts were considered and reconsidered. At one point the prayer book’s editorial committee – composed of clergy and theologians as well as movement professional and lay leaders – elected to dispense with the language altogether.

In the end, however, the designers elected to revive the prayer whose elimination was once a hallmark of Reform theology.

“There is no question that this represents a move towards tradition in the Reform movement,” said Rabbi David Ellenson, the president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Ellenson said he rejects the literal idea of resurrection and believes most Reform Jews do as well.

Due for release in the coming weeks, Mishkan T’filah has been in the works for more than two decades. Perhaps the most democratized prayer book in history, it has been subjected to years of testing in hundreds of Reform congregations and at major rabbinical conferences and other movement events.

The book’s unique two-page layout provides readings and commentary alongside the liturgical text intended to allow for an array of theological approaches.

Movement insiders generally agree the change reflects Reform’s continued turn toward traditionalism and its growing willingness to entertain liturgical tropes and rituals once shunned in the name of modernity.

But befitting a prayer book conceived to appeal to diverse beliefs and practices, members of the editorial committee offered various and sometimes conflicting explanations for the prayer’s return. In particular they differed on whether the change reflects merely a new comfort with liturgical metaphors or a deeper change in Reform theology.

The movement’s Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 explicitly rejected the notion of bodily resurrection, an idea considered unmodern, unscientific and irrational.

“Certainly to the 19th century reformers, the idea that Judaism believed in resurrection of the dead seemed to them the antithesis of the kind of rational Judaism that they thought most Jews wanted and expected,” said Jonathan Sarna, a Jewish history professor at Brandeis University.

In prior Reform prayer books, the traditional blessing of God as the one who revives the dead – in Hebrew, “m’chayeih hameitim” – was changed to “m’chayeih hakol,” literally “who gives life to all.” The new prayer book includes the modified version, but also offers worshipers the ancient formulation as an alternative.

Many if not most of those involved in the production of Mishkan T’filah continue to reject the idea of God literally raising dead bodies from the earth. As metaphor, however, the phrase is thought to be sufficiently meaningful for people that it was worthy of restoration.

“For a number of people in our movement, reclaiming traditional language feels very meaningful,” Frishman said. “And when that language resonates positively, people want it.”

Editorial committee members provided various metaphoric interpretations for the prayer, from the reawakening that occurs after surgery to the notion that the Jewish people were resurrected after the Holocaust in the rebirth of the State of Israel.

Others, however, are less willing to dismiss the idea of resurrection as pure metaphoric fancy, arguing that if there is an afterlife – a notion that Reform has never renounced – it will have to be a bodily one, since human beings do not know themselves in any other way.

“The subject of life after death is very difficult for moderns for many reasons,” said Eugene Borowitz, a Hebrew Union College professor and one of the world’s leading Jewish philosophers. “But once one understands that, there are good reasons for hoping that there is life after death. And that since we know ourselves as embodied persons, the traditional terminology makes sense, although it has to be taken quite poetically.”

Borowitz ascribes the theological shift to the impact of feminist thought, which has forced a reconsideration of the strict separation between body and soul.

“Gender is substantially a bodily matter,” he said. “So if body is that critical to our proper sense of self, then to hope that God will grant us life is – with all the difficulties involved in the phrase – a way of saying that in some sense life after death is also embodied.”

One who has long urged the prayer’s reinstatement is Neil Gillman, a Conservative rabbi and author of a book on death and resurrection in Jewish thought. Gillman’s book, “The Death of Death,” was acknowledged as an influence on the thinking of the prayer book’s editorial committee members.

“When the rabbis envisioned how God would like us to be for eternity, God would like us to be as we are now in historical time and in society – as embodied beings,” Gillman said. “The way we are now is so important and so treasured by God that that’s how he wants us to be for eternity.”

14 יד

(א) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יקוק, אֱלקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם, יוצֵר אור וּבורֵא חשֶׁךְ. עשה שָׁלום וּבורֵא אֶת הַכּל. (ב) הַמֵּאִיר לָאָרֶץ וְלַדָּרִים עָלֶיהָ בְּרַחֲמִים. וּבְטוּבו מְחַדֵּשׁ בְּכָל יום תָּמִיד מַעֲשה בְרֵאשִׁית.

(1) Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who forms light and creates darkness, who makes and creates all things. (2) You illumine the world and its creatures with mercy. In Your goodness, you renew the works of creation each day!

15 טו

Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez(52) G'd, in His great pity for His creatures, has made thoughtful provisions so as not to totally cast out a sinner. This is why He established the principle of re-incarnation, i.e. transmigration of souls. By allowing a soul to return to earth once more, it is given a "second chance" to rehabilitate itself and recapture its original place in the world of the spirits. (53) This principle of transmigration of souls is applied in three different ways, corresponding to the attributes in which our three patriarchs excelled respectively. (54) Some souls do not return to earth because they have to rehabi¬litate themselves for positive commandments neglected or for negative commandments which they transgressed when they were on earth previously. The only reason they return to earth is in order to perform acts of kindness for the people of their respective gene¬rations. Details of this are explained in ספר הפליאה, ספר התמונה, and ספר לבנת ספיר. The Torah alludes to this in Deut. 3,26: ויתעבר יקוק בי למענכם. The term עבורis compared to גלגול, both meaning a kind of "transfer." Moses is in effect telling the Jewish people that his being transferred from this world at that time and place was for their own good. This paralleled the attribute of חסד which Abraham excelled in. (55) Some souls are forced to undergo a second round of life in this world as a punishment i.e. rehabilitation for sins committed in this life which cannot be atoned for in the purely spiritual regions. This is the way the King of Kings has arranged it. When one has broken a number of covenants one may have to return to earth for each and every covenant one has broken during a previous life on earth. This is the mystical dimension of infants or small children dying. They obviously did not commit a sin in their most recent incarnation, yet they may have had to experience death a second time to expiate for having broken G'd's covenant with Israel in a previous incarnation. All of this occurs when the sinner had failed to repent properly while he lived on this earth. This is why it is appropriate for a person who is not knowingly guilty of any major sins in his present life on earth to repent thoroughly any sins he may have been guilty of in a previous incarnation and for which he had not then obtained forgiveness. If such a person engages in thorough repentance in this round of his life on earth, the vicious circle of transmigration will be broken and his soul will find eternal rest in the Hereafter, not needing to return to life on this earth again. (56) A different fate awaits those who have failed to take advantage of their third round of life on earth, as we know from the words of Elihu in Job 33,29. During the first two or three incarnations the souls were reincarnated in the bodies of human beings. If they have failed to rehabilitate themselves they will be reincarnated as "pure" animals, i.e. the kind of animals fit for consumption by Jews; their eventual fate may be reincarnation in the bodies of impure animals. (57) Anyone who has failed to understand Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai [the author of this description in the Zohar ] properly, believes that he describes how G'd puts ever greater distance between Himself and the sinner. In fact the reverse is true; G'd tries to arrange for the "lost object" to be restored to its owner. This kind of reincarnation is based on the attribute of פחד, fear, [not relying on or appealing to G'd's attribute of Mercy. Ed.] the outstanding characteristic of Isaac. (58) The third category of transmigration is due to providing an opportunity for the souls in question to perform those command-ments which they had been unable to in a previous incarnation due to lack of opportunity. This kind of reincarnation could theoretically continue for one thousand generations under the aegis of the emanation תפארת, outstanding characteristic of Jacob."

16 טז

“Are These Sufferings Dear To You?” My Disability, Its Isolation, and My Journey

Jessica Belasco

Once, the rabbi of the Reconstructionist shul where I grew up told me of a discussion he’d had with other rabbis about the second blessing of the Amidah prayer, “Blessed are You, God, who resurrects the dead”—m’chayeh ha-meitim, in the Hebrew. Since Reconstructionism eschews the traditional Jewish belief in bodily resurrection (at the End of Days), the movement’s prayerbook replaces the phrase m’chayeh ha-meitim with m’chayeh kol chai, declaring God as the One “Who gives life to all that lives.”

Some of the rabbis objected to the revised liturgy, my rabbi told me, on the grounds that, even absent literal belief, the concept of resurrection still holds powerful metaphorical power. Perhaps invoking a God who resurrects the dead provides irreplaceable liturgical language for our human experiences of being as-if-dead, and for our sense that we need a force larger than ourselves to help us return from that to life and wholeness.

“I bet you understand that position,” he said to me.

I did.

I was born with a physical disability, a rare muscle disorder. During my childhood, I was quite healthy, and the most salient manifestation of my disability was my significant speech impediment. But when I was 16, I suddenly developed major health problems that, eventually, turned out to be struggles with breathing. I learned quickly that I couldn’t rely on doctors — even the fancy ones — to diagnose me accurately, especially as the problems I was having became increasingly complex and unusual. And so I pushed through mostly on my own.

17 יז

אנטונינוס לרבי גוף ונשמה יכולין לפטור עצמן מן הדין כיצד גוף אומר נשמה חטאת שמיום שפירשה ממני הריני מוטל כאבן דומם בקבר ונשמה אומרת גוף חטא שמיום שפירשתי ממנו הריני פורחת באויר כצפור אמר ליה אמשול לך משל למה הדבר דומה למלך בשר ודם שהיה לו פרדס נאה והיה בו בכורות נאות והושיב בו שני שומרים אחד חיגר ואחד סומא אמר לו חיגר לסומא בכורות נאות אני רואה בפרדס בא והרכיבני ונביאם לאכלם רכב חיגר על גבי סומא והביאום ואכלום לימים בא בעל פרדס אמר להן בכורות נאות היכן הן אמר לו חיגר כלום יש לי רגלים להלך בהן אמר לו סומא כלום יש לי עינים לראות מה עשה הרכיב חיגר על גבי סומא ודן אותם כאחד אף הקב"ה מביא נשמה וזורקה בגוף ודן אותם כאחד שנאמר (תהלים נ, ד) יקרא אל השמים מעל ואל הארץ לדין עמו יקרא אל השמים מעל זו נשמה ואל הארץ לדין עמו זה הגוף:

Apropos exchanges with prominent gentile leaders, the Gemara cites an exchange where Antoninos, the Roman emperor, said to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi: The body and the soul are able to exempt themselves from judgment for their sins. How so? The body says: The soul sinned, as from the day of my death when it departed from me, I am cast like a silent stone in the grave, and do not sin. And the soul says: The body sinned, as from the day that I departed from it, I am flying in the air like a bird, incapable of sin. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said to him: I will tell you a parable. To what is this matter comparable? It is comparable to a king of flesh and blood who had a fine orchard, and in it there were fine first fruits of a fig tree, and he stationed two guards in the orchard, one lame, who was unable to walk, and one blind. Neither was capable of reaching the fruit on the trees in the orchard without the assistance of the other. The lame person said to the blind person: I see fine first fruits of a fig tree in the orchard; come and place me upon your shoulders. I will guide you to the tree, and we will bring the figs to eat them. The lame person rode upon the shoulders of the blind person and they brought the figs and ate them. Sometime later the owner of the orchard came to the orchard. He said to the guards: The fine first fruits of a fig tree that were in the orchard, where are they? The lame person said: Do I have any legs with which I would be able to walk and take the figs? The blind person said: Do I have any eyes with which I would be able to see the way to the figs? What did the owner of the orchard do? He placed the lame person upon the shoulders of the blind person just as they did when they stole the figs, and he judged them as one. So too, the Holy One, Blessed be He, brings the soul on the day of judgment and casts it back into the body, as they were when they sinned, and He judges them as one, as it is stated: “He calls to the heavens above and to the earth that He may judge His people” (Psalms 50:4). “He calls to the heavens above”; this is the soul, which is heavenly. “And to the earth that He may judge His people”; this is the body, which is earthly.