We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.
Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by The Internet.
Pick up an older or Orthrodox Siddur and turn to the morning blessings. Chances are, there’s a blessing for men to say specifically thanking G-d for not having made them a woman. What’s up with this blessing and why isn’t it in our siddur?
“”It is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Meir would say: A man is obligated to recite three blessings every day praising God for His kindnesses, and these blessings are: Who did not make me a gentile; Who did not make me a woman; and Who did not make me an ignoramus.””
A version of these blessings was eventually added to the siddur, where men thank G-d for not having made them a gentile, a slave or a woman.
Throughout history, all three of these blessings have been problematic:
“”In the 13th century, the Church, for reasons of its own, began to take a vigorous interest in the contents of Jewish prayers. As, with time, the Inquisition expanded its writ and printing enhanced the reach of the censor, Jews began to insert an “explanatory note” to the effect that mention of Gentiles anywhere in the siddur referred not to Christians but to proper heathens.
The “slave” blessing was problematic for another reason. The Hebrew word eved means not only slave but also servant and, more to the point, serf—which is just what many Jews in medieval Europe were. “”
The conservative movement opted to use the blessings we do today based on historic text:
“”The American Conservative Movement opted to replace the negative formulation with an affirmation of what we are: free, Jewish, and (instead of “male”) created in God’s image. In making this change, they could cite the precedent of the [Cairo] Geniza text cited above, as well as the text of the Rome Mahzor , (High Holiday prayer book) which reads “who has made me an Israelite.”””
While the conservative movement has relegated this blessing to the history books, its active use in the Orthodox community has served some as an opportunity for study and reflection. Consider these examples: