Monday, October 02, 2006

More on Rav Soloveitchik Machzor

I used the new Rav Soloveitchik machzor throughout Yom Kippur and loved it. Congratulations and thanks to all those involved in creating it, particularly Dr. Arnold Lustiger. The commentary was beautifully written, inspiring and informative. It draws on Rav Soloveitchik's philosophical teachings as well as his lomdishe teachings, which can be seen from the books quoted. They include the recent books published in the MeOtzar HaRav Series as well as the Mesorah journal and R. Hershel Reichman's Reshimos Shiurim (there is a bibliography in the back, but I found it to be incomplete). I cannot recommend this machzor more highly! It gets the Hirhurim five stars.

Let me share with you something from the commentary. Since Yom Kippur is over, I'll skip the main point -- about repentance -- and just point out an interesting sidepoint. In two places in the commentary, Rav Soloveitchik is quoted as saying that biographies that treat their subjects as perfect are Christian (and see the definition of hagiography):

אבל אנחנו ואבותינו חטאנו -- For indeed, we and our forefathers have sinned: We confess the sins of our ancestors based on the verse in Leviticus (26:40): והתודו את עונם ואת עון אבותם, They will confess their sin and the sin of their forefathers. Whenever a Jew is duty bound to say confession, he must mention his fathers and ancestors as well. Other faiths consider sin as something that a human being can avoid. The biographies of their saints thus pursue one objective -- to demonstrate that they in fact never sinned. We reject this idea, for there is no man so wholly righteous on earth that he [always] does good and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20)... [pp. 161-162]

וירד ה' בענן -- And Hashem descended in a cloud. Hashem often conceals Himself behind a cloud. His actions are hidden. He does not act demonstrably, nor does He seek recognition... Man must imitate this attribute of God, as part of the obligation to follow in His ways....

[T]he greatest individuals in Jewish history reflect precisely the opposite tendency, exhibiting instead a predisposition towards obscurity. One example is seen in an august institution from thousands of years ago, the 120-member אנשי כנסת הגדולה, the Men of the Great Assembly...

Beyond the אנשי כנסת הגדולה, other great rabbinic personages embodied this attribute as well. What do we really know of R' Yochanan ben Zakkai, of Abaye, Rava, the Rif, or the Ramban? Indeed, what do we know of great gedolim of more recent times? There are no autobiographies, no life stories of these great men, such as other religions have of their saints.... [pp. 820-821]
Apropos this post:
At the end of Kedushah, in the paragraph starting לדר ודר, From generation to generation, the Rav held that the chazzan should pronounce the word ושבחך, with a shuruk vocalizing the opening letter "ו" ["u"]. Even though the Rav believed that vowelizing that "ו" with a sheva (ו) ["ve"] may be more grammatically correct, R' Chaim of Volozhin reported that he heard from the Vilna Gaon that the "ו" should be vowelized with a shuruk (see his introduction to the Sefer Maaseh Rav; see also Maaseh Rav par. 48)... [p. xxxvi]
Now here's a question about something that I didn't see in the book. I seem to recall that Rav Soloveitchik insisted that we change the order of the passage in the viduy regarding God forgiving our sins. It currently reads "שתסלח לנו על כל חטאתינו, ותמחל לנו על כל עונותינו, ותכפר לנו על כל פשעינו". What I remember is that the verbs and nouns are mismatched, but I don't remember how they should be properly matched. I thought it was in Nefesh Ha-Rav but I couldn't find it there. Does anyone know what I'm talking about or is this a false memory?

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