And Not Be Silent: Toward Inclusive Worship
A talmudic story attributed to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi ( B. Yoma 69b) deals with liturgical change and restoration:
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, "Why were they called members of the Great Assembly?1 Because they restored the divine crown to its ancient wholeness. For Moses came and said, 'great, mighty and awesome God' ( Deut. 10:17). But then came Jeremiah who said, 'if strangers are destroying his temple, where is his awesomeness?' so [in his prayer ( Jer. 32:17)] he omitted the attribute 'awesome' [and said, 'great and mighty God']. Then came Daniel, who said, 'if strangers are enslaving his children, where is his might?' So [in his prayer ( Dan. 9:4)] he omitted the attribute 'mighty' [and said, 'great and awesome God']. Then carne the members of the Great Assembly who said, 'on the contrary! This shows his might: that he restrains his anger and is patient with evildoers. And this shows his awesomeness: if it were not for the awe of him, how could a distinctive nation survive in the midst of other nations?'"
The text goes on to ask what could pass as a halakhic question: How was it permissible for Jeremiah and Daniel to abolish God-language established by Moses? Rabbi Eliezer explains, "since they knew that the Holy One is truthful (amitti), they would not lie to him."2
I want to juxtapose to this story another told by Rabbi Laura Geller.
One day when I sat in a class in my Rabbinical seminary...we studied the tradition of berakhot -- blessings, blessings of enjoyment, blessings relating to the performance of mizvot (commandments) and blessings of praise and thanksgiving. My teacher explained... "There is no important moment in the lifetime of a Jew for which there is no blessing." Suddenly I realized that it was not true. There had been important moments in my life for which there was no blessing. One such moment was when I...first got my period.3
Both passages I have quoted presume that words we say to God are grounded in our personal integrity. A prayer that belies or misrepresents