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Liturgy of festivals, class 2 - 2.1809


An item I'd like to elaborate on: I'd like students in the class to do presentations. Imagine that the cycle will call each of you to do one of them or two of them, depending on whether you want to do them alone or do them in groups (up to three.)

In the next couple of days, choose the presentation(s) you want to do. If there's something you would particularly like to explore that you don't see on those list, email or talk to me offline.

The divrei tefilah lists for the coming weeks should be up by this afternoon.

D'var tefilah generally means a couple of minutes about the text you've selected, which would be appropriate if you're leading a minyan somewhere. Not intended to be critical, scholarly or analytic. Might offer historical pieces or analytic ones but that's not the prime goal. The prime goal is the realm of spiritual exploration of the text.

For these presentations the goal is to be more critical, historical, or analytic. As you begin to look at them, please be in touch w/ me as you identify yourselves so that I can give you some ideas on where to begin reading and research. The idea is that those groups would give 10-15 or 20 minute, tops, presentations to the group to open up studies in those particular areas. I'd like you to visit -- I know you all go to shul regularly -- but for 3 festival visitations between now and the end of the class, go with your participant-observer anthropologist from Mars yarmulke on.

Two of them should be Jewish; one should be not Jewish. I haven't totally looked up all the non-Jewish calendars, though you've got Easter which is a biggie in most churches. But Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, also fine. In each case, go to experience those things with a critical, questioning feel, which is: how does this symbolic observance bring you in to an understanding and experience of the calendar's symbolic occasion that you're going to? Interpret that however you wish. Reflect on whatever aspects of the experience seem to you to be most responsive to that. Develop a sense of what works well.

For the 2 Jewish ones, I recommend that they not be places you regularly attend.


- I could write a big long paper on my experiences in this realm

I want to encourage you not to write big long papers.

- I could write a short list of what does and doesn't work, based on experience in military chapel and of being only Jew in town

Don't do it from memory. Make 3 visits, so that what you write should -- let me note: please don't do any writing on yom tov! as soon as the sun goes down, scribble away while your memories are fresh. What you're doing close to the moment is different from looking back into a longer cycle of experience.

- the only festival between now and when classes end is Pesach; and some of us have no shul to go to

There's Purim also. Sefirat ha-omer also. Whoever has difficulties for whatever reason, speak to me individually.


I imagine that each of you will do 2 divrei tefilah, the short ones, 2-3 minutes, spiritual. I also imagine you'll do one longer one, perhaps with a partner or group, of 20 minutes or so.


Kiddush for erev chag

(note to self: in my Artscroll it's p. 656; for Succos is 772)

This is about sanctification of time, so let's make this for the elevation of the souls of those we have lost.

What's the performative function of kiddush? What does it do?

- turns eating into something spiritual based on gratitude

- sets aside the time

What do you mean?

- a way of saying, from this moment until we're finished, we're into holy time

Why the connection between kiddush and food?

- the table is next to the altar?

- gratitude in both cases; pote'ach et yadecha

- we are somehow connecting ourselves to sacrifice in the temple

- kiddush invokes our remembrance of past events that brought us to this day; redemption from Egypt e.g., and the act of eating sustains us through to the next day. So it seems that there's this energetic connection of sustenance, transmission from God and from God's bounty.

[Question from Reb Sami which I couldn't hear]

- we are being sanctified with the commandments

Why does kiddush begin w/ borei pri hagafen? And need it be the case that kiddush begin with borei pri hagafen, and in what circumstances does kiddush not begin with borei pri hagafen? Who's been to a Chabad shtibl on Shabbos morning? For shnapps what do you say?

- shehakol

Right. Given the ritual piety of places that do this, we derive that you don't have to say borei pri hagafen. Perhaps you need to say a bracha upon some liquid. Would that be the case?

- in brachot it says you can [blurred] wine.

What does the gemara there indicate?

- bread

Of all the things the gemara could say, why does it specify bread?

- because that's what makes a ritual meal: wine and bread

- havdalah: bringing a guest into our presence, so we're inviting the holiday or shabbos as a guest into our midst

Following Marie Antoinette, if all we had was cake, would that be okay?

- we do kiddush with cake after shabbos, instead of motzi, that way we don't have to do zimun afterwards

There's a couple of special factors for kiddush in shul which we deal with more in the daily/shabbat class. One issue is, the requirements in brakhot 10, you should make kiddush in the place where you're going to have seudah. Why do we then say kiddush in shul?

- people came and were given a place to stay overnight there

...Kiddush should be recited over elements which are part of the normal repast. But why do you need borei pri hagafen or anything else? Why not just say the blessing of kiddush? Hold that question; read-and-translate first.

- because a blessing needs to be followed up with an action to fulfil it; so if we're just blessing the sanctification of the day, that isn't enough.

Is that the case? This is an interesting observance, that a blessing needs to be followed up by an action. Is that always the case?

- not always

- kiddush is a way of sanctifying physical reality; it's not always the case that we do something physical. But when we make bracha over holiness of the day, there's some element of how we bring that kedusha into this world.

What do you say when you see her Brittanic Majesty the sovereign queen Elizabeth, what do you say?

- the same as the rabbis said on Barack Obama

Do you have to follow that up w/ physical action?

- No

Right. Simcha's right: many blessings do require a physical action. You shouldn't say al netilat lulav and then start watching spongebob squarepants. Brachot that specifically precede an action need to be followed up by that action.

In the morning brachot, pokeach ivrim or she'asani Yisrael - none of those are particularly tied up with an action. So there are diff categories of brachot.

Raises an interesting question: is kiddush in the category of mitzvot which requires an action?

- asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav, so...

Yes. That is embedded in kiddush. So it's an interesting question whether kiddush is in the category of birchot ha mitzvah, or birchot nehemin - blessings of praise and thanksgiving.

[reading-and-translating festival kiddush and havdalah addition]

This is an interesting blessing (bein kodesh l'kodesh) - only recited when the end of Shabbat flows into Yom Tov.

How many distinct assertions are made in this paragraph? In addition to normal havdalah?

- between the sanctity of Shabbat and the sanctity of the other holidays

And what is being done to thm?

- distinguished & sanctified

- there's a repetition of the kiddush [too quiet to hear] - kidashta

Is that a repetition? Is there any new assertion in this, beyond what's stated in the regular nusach of havdalah?

- in regular havdalah we say yom hashvi'i l'sheshet ymei ha-ma'aseh. [too quiet to hear]

So that assertion, for some reason - there's an assertion that is more graphic than in the regular text of havdalah. And there's a third assertion.

- kidashta et amcha Yisrael

Hivdalta v'kidashta. What is the subject of the verbs hivdalta v'kidashta in the preceding sentences?

- holiness

- yom ha-shvi'i

Yes. Both of these first two assertions are addressed to the sanctity of Shabbat. Is this bracha being recited on Shabbat?

- No. At the end of Shabbat.

So what might be the agenda of doing this? Why is this so important?

- it's re-asserting the kedusha of Shabbat, lest someone think that Shabbat is less important than the yom tov.

Why might someone think that? Why would it in fact be v. reasonable to assume that yom tov takes precedence?

- because it does! it's only ours. Shabbat is for the whole world.

- and also because it doesn't come every week

- on yom tov you can work; work is not completely proscribed.

Work is proscribed but there are some nuances in the definitions. But what do kids get more excited about? Seder or Friday night?

- seder!

We've to a certain extent lost a little touch with the real profundity of the annual calendar. I think of seder because in a lot of observant or conscious households, which is a bigger deal, erev shmini atzeret or erev Shabbos? I would say erev Shabbos. In many households with modest to moderate households, erev Shavuot or ever Shabbat -- the cycle of shalosh regalim with the excption of seder night has mainly lost its power. I'm not speaking of Mea Shearim etc, but mainly the archaism of this particular havdalah doesn't resonate for us because it's addressing a reality which isn't valid. But in a cultural context where all of the chagim have enormous power, where erev shemini atzret, erev shavuot, erev sukkot -- there might be a little sense that says, oy, I can't wait for shabbos to be over so we can really get into the wonderful inyanim of the chag. So this is a textual reminder that shabbat is really shabbat shabbatot.

There's a reminder of it: what tangible reminder is there in ritual observance l'mala that Shabbat is greater than the other notable days on the calendar?

- when we light candles, Shabbat and Yom Tov, we say shabbat first.

Good. Think also of being called to Torah:

- seven aliyot on Shabbat; five on holidays.

Right. 3 on weekdays, 4 on Rosh Chodesh, 5 on Yom Tov, 6 on...? We'll see. But the thing is, the greatness of Shabbat comes out in the fact that Shabbat has 7 aliyot. There's a message that comes through the structuring of this liturgy, that Shabbat is l'mala.

Between the language of kiddush and trad havdalah is also a sense of struggling with the idea of the sanctity of identity. When you look at kiddush for shabbat - open to that in another siddur?

(note to self: in koren it's 142)

It actually does begin with asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav. But there's no v'tzivanu. There's v'ratza vanu, which has similar sounds to v'tzivanu. The core syllables are the same. But how is it different?

- worlds apart! one is, God commands us to do something; but ratza vanu says we're complete just as we are.

It's an amazing betrayal of the liturgical expectations. When you hear asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav, that sanctified relationship to mitzvot, you're expecting to affirm what ma'aseh you're now expected to do. And there isn't one. What's the one mitzvah nowadays associated with shabbat?

- candles

And what's the bracha?

- asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu

And where does God command us to do that?

- torah she'b'al peh.

Right. It is possible that the mitzvat of hadlikat neirot subverts the liturgical understanding of Shabbat which is that there is no mitzvah of Shabbat -- as Simcha Daniel said, it's about being complete & not having to do anything. But, even hadlikat neirot is before Shabbat begins. The only remaining real requirement -- trad requirement of later origins, hearing kriat ha-trah. What other requirement is there for Shabbat, the fulfillment of which will preserve you from the eschatological period? Three meals. The Talmud says whoever fulfils the 3rd meal will be preserved from Gog and Magog.

Someone should rewrite melody for Friday night kiddush focusing around that huge existential leap between b'mitzvotav & v'ratza vanu.

There's no bracha for hearing Torah; you just do it. There are brachot for kriat for Torah but they're not affirming the mitzvah of hearing it. There are no brachot for Shabbat, whereas there are for festivals. So think about why the festival kiddush is set up as it is. Instead of asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav -- asher is there, and then kidshanu b'mitzvotav. What's inserted between them? "Bachar banu mikol am," etc. Why is that inserted?

- Steinsaltz says, the diff b/w Shabbat and holidays is that the holidays are only for the Jewish people but Shabbat is for everyone

So why is romemanu mikol lashon necessary? If Shabbat is universal, why would it not suffice to say asher bachar banu mikol am? What does romemanu mikol lashon add?

- obligations, since we have been lifted up / exalted above every tongue? Intrinsic holiness of the language?

My personal intuition is that it's an anti-nationalistic thing. If it were just asher bachar banu mikol am, it would be national. But language and mitzvot are open to everyone, regardless of national identity. Shift from national identity to linguistic identity to active choice. We choose our language, we choose our speech-associations, we choose the words that we use. This elevates lashon hakodesh, recognizing Hebrew above other languages, and then continues with kidshanu b'mitzvotav.

There are specific mitzvot associated w/ festivals, esp. sukkot & pesach. So we can't continue v'ratza vanu; there are things specifically set up for us to do on festivals. And there are korbanot.

moadim l'simcha, chagim uzmanim l'sason. Diff between simcha and sason?

- simcha is a mitzvah

- sason has a connection with moed, a season?

See if you can track it down; post to the wiki if you have something to back up that sense.

How does Steinsaltz analyze it?

- I recall it was just, the joy of celebrating the holidays.

I'm not sure about this. The Steinsaltz -- if any of you have Munch's commentary -- there's a couple of interesting things on this though I'm not persuaded by any of them. Nobody knows where this language for kiddush originates, who wrote it or why. But there are strong discernings about what the agenda might be. There are pieces of this I believe are just a nice poetic structure.

Why is sukkot called zman simchateinu?

- phrases in Talmud which say that it was actually about shemini atzeret, the joy of the year


Why is Shavuot called zman cheruteinu? It's a time of our freedom. So why is Shavuot also called zman mattan torateinu?

- in the Torah there's no connection between Torah and Shavuot. They read that in.

If one wants to be Torah-based what should one say here?

- something about the offering of barley grains; chag ha-bikkurim

The process of bikkurim is ongoing, but the first are the best.

Process to restructure liturgy around the agricultural cycle. Having Shavuot as zman mattan Torateinu...

- the secular understanding is entirely about the bikkurim

I know they came up with the song [blurred], but has anybody preserved a textual equivalent of the kiddush? If you can come up with anything I'd be fascinated. I don't have a collection of those early kiddushim.

- another reason for changing it: bikkurim were not all offered on one day since the Temple was destroyed and we can't perform that mitzvah anymore. So they may have wanted a phrase that would still be relevant to us, keep the chag connected to our hearts. So simchateinu, cheruteinu make sense, but bikkurim, not so much.

Then it's interesting that we retained musaf! I would say this is a real challenge, and let it go at that.

- tangent: the possibility of sacrifice is still discussed in musaf, no longer pertains to us, it's about giving. Now the Torah was given to us. Could it be a reciprocal form?

Just because of time, I'm going to say that we not go there.

After whichever various -- zman mattan torateinu, simchateinu -- there's mikraei kodesh and then it flows back into the nusach of Shabbat, which is zecher l'y'tziat Mitzrayim. What in the Shabbat kiddush has been quietly glossed over in the nusach of kiddush l'yom tov?

- remembering the work of creation?

No. Even more. Ki hu yom t'chila l'mikraei kodesh. It's only in the context of understanding that there is a kiddush for yom tov that that phrase in the kiddush for shabbat has any meaning.

If you look at all the rest of kiddush for Friday night -- it's all beautiful, lyrical, pastoral, existential menucha l'nefesh. Buried in the middle of it is this odd piece of Talmudic pilpul. Who cares about this little piece of halakhic minutiate, that Shabbos is precedented / privileged over other days of the calendar? When you're celebrating Friday night, does it really make a difference to you that Shabbat is holier than erev Shemini Atzeret?

If you're so moved, add a reflection on this to the wiki. But note that that phrase only makes sense because of its absence from kiddush l'yom tov.

- 3 regalim - people are told to come to a certain place, based on the fact that people had to be in a certain place at a certain time. And Shabbos, you can have anyplace.

- convergence of Eliot's class and this one: we've been studying a text about Shabbat being embedded in time and the other holidays require an action and intention whereas Shabbat is just embedded in time

Please give us that reference. In contrast I would say: anything on an annual cycle, and there is an agricultural element to the regalim, is embedded in agricultural time, whereas Shabbat is not. So that Hasidic source spiritually reverses what you would expect from natural observation.

The idea of bein kodsh l'kodesh, hivdalta and kidashta. There's a distinction. Almost inviting you not to quantify units of sanctity, but -- it's mathematics there are 2 kids of identified sets. Sets which are arbitrary, and sets where there is a particular relationship that you can identify between elements. The people in this class I could identify as members of a set. I could giv eyou an exam and arrange you in order of how you do on that, but there isn't a way of mapping the elements of the members of this class onto any kind of linear sequence that can be measured as greater than or lesser than. People or places don't have quantifiable relationships. When you have a set like trees, how tall is a tree -- you can define size relationship mathematically and put things in order. Smallest to biggest, poorest to richest. How red is the cup of wine on Tu BiShvat as it increases. The fact that this says hamavdil bein kodesh l'koesh, that you distinguish between the kedusha in one context and in another - in some sense it says that sanctity is capable of being measured, at least to the extent that you say one thing has a greater measure of sanctity than others. The Torah speaks of the kodesh kodashim.

So think about the fact that we have an idea that kedusha -- we don't have units of sanctity. But think about the idea of sanctity of an ascending sequence. One can always hope to ascend in that order. The chagim, between moed and Shabbat -- the relationships of those sanctities.

Let's look quickly at the amidah for the regalim.

The blessing which changes is the 3rd bracha.

(note to self - p. 660 Artscroll)

[reading and translating]

Talk about keravtanu malkeinu l'avodatecha

- keravtanu --> korbanot. The avodah of the service was the sacrifices, korbanot, karev, keravtanu.

- there were also korbanot for Shabbat but here I'm thinking of the physical coming-close of the regalim -- the people were supposed to be physically drawing near

This became a big deal in Talmudic literature. If we didn't have Dvarim what would stop us from offering these sacrifices in our back yards?

- we're not kohanim!

What's the archetypal phrase of Dvarim which keeps coming up?

- the place where I've chosen to place My name

Yes. Dvarim is full of that phrase. What would any critical scholar of Bible say?

- that this was written by somebody who wanted to have control over the priestly doings of Israel.

Not only control but also centralization. It would be interesting to ask Reb Leila how the sacrifices came to be centralized to only one place.

Skip the havdalah text (v. similar to kiddush) and keep going with vatiten lanu.


Connection between moadim, chagim, zmanim - if you have a favorite one, post it to the wiki.

[translating ya'aleh v'yavo]

(asking that the memory rise in God's mind, the memory of all the people Israel together, in a way that stands out, in a good way)

Theological reflection on what holds it together?

- for our eyes are upon You; the image of the dog sitting at the corner of the table, waiting for you to drop food!

- 8 words could stand for 8 days of chag, e.g. 8 days of Pesach

Where do you get the 8 days of Pesach?

- Oh; there are only 7. But there are 8 of Sukkot, ending with Shemini Atzeret!

There's a debate whether or not Shemini Atzeret is part of Sukkot. I think the analysis you're coming up with is a wonderful example of Renewal spiritual commentary, e.g. to take the numbers and invest them with meaning. I'm not sure of the extent to which I think it's good analysis.

What's the single-most common shoresh in this paragraph, starting with titen-lanu?

- zecher


What's the binyan here?

- hif'al

What do we derive from that?

- do we don't know who the actor is. May they be heard, remembered, etc, but we don't know who's making it happen

There's a sense of these disembodied memories floating up to the divine presence. OTOH, in the language of the daily amidah -- what grammatical form do we most frequently address to God?

Slach lanu, barech aleinu -- they're all addressing God in tzivui, imperative. The beginning of this paragraph here is in passive voice, hoping for memories to come into God's presence; and then, interestingly, and a lot of the congregational minhagim stress that there's a different voice introduced here: zochreinu is going back into tzivui. It becomes an active petitionary voice. So the idea is, if these memories, recollections, reach God to the extent to which they arise and make it that far and become desirable and discerned, all of those things will then let our memory come before God. It's almost as if this is existential.

- other way around; if our memories arise then our petitions are heard?

If all of this happens, the memories of moshiach and Jerusalem and the people, the image I have is of rei'ach nicho'ach. This anticipates that. In the absence of rei'ach nicho'ach, of literally this sweet savor rising up ascending in an embodied way from the altar, we have a sense of the existential message, coming into the divine presence. And if it does, then we have basis to say, remember us. There's a direct progress: zochreinu to hoshienu.

- it's like an airplane heating the clouds to make rain; these things come up, they are acted upon, and return to us

[reading last paragraph: v'hasienu]

How does this paragraph differ from the Shabbos equivalent? The first sentence is added. But from where it begins eloheinu v'elohei avoteinu, it's clearly a Shabbat equivalent. What are the differences and why?

- simcha / sason, which we don't have on Shabbat

Right, and that's a theme we've had consistently. That's a leitmotif for the calendar of the regalim. V'taher libeinu is a piece of commonality. After hanchilenu, it diverges quite significantly. How?

- simcha u-sashon, moadei kodshecha

We have a sense that's unfolding in the right symbolic language in each case. Some interesting divergence. The real difference is, the festiva one says v'yismechu v'cha, and Shabbos is vayanuchu bah. What's the difference?

- one is with reference to Israel's relationship to the day, the Shabbat one; in her, in Shabbat. The other one is in God, v'cha.

- Shabbat is more a shekhinah holiday, and the festivals are more Kadosh Baruch Hu

Good. And also, Shabbat is a much less active modality of being. You drop in and rest during Shabbat. Whereas sason, simcha -- this is active. The festivals invite you to go out and play with God, in the prescribed way. That's more active. Festivals, we're asking God to come out ot play with us.

That distinction of verb and object is an important one. Also the chatimah, whatever follows Baruch Atah Hashem. The active verb is m'kadesh, but in the case of the Shabbos version, what God sanctifies is the day itself. What is that based on scripturally? Torah, which speaks in terms of kadesh oto. The first investiture of sanctity is the sanctity with which the day of Shabbat is invested. Whereas here we have kadesh Yisrael v-hazmanim -- the sanctity of Israel and the rejoicing that is rejoiced, all of the holidays.

We are nearly out of time. We won't do every text in quite this level of detail.

Look at the traditional language in Artscroll or equivalent -- I will post this material -- on mipnei chataienu, the musaf amidah for chagim. Look at what is being done with that, if anything, in various other liturgies: Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist etc. If you come across any interesting text, pls put them on wiki. I'd also like to speak about duchening / birkat kohanim.

We're also going to begin on Pesach, so begin to look at the prayer for tal / dew. I'll put up references by midnight tonight.