How the “Soloveitchik Prayer Book” Loses Sight of J.B. Soloveitchik’s Perspective on Prayer

July 19 2017

Published in 2011, the Mesorat HaRav Siddur is an English-Hebrew prayer book with commentary excerpted and paraphrased from the writings and lectures of the towering 20th-century thinker Joseph B. Soloveitchik, along with adjustments that align with his sometimes idiosyncratic version of the traditional liturgy. Its appeal stems in part from the desire of Modern Orthodox Jews to have a siddur more reflective of their attitudes and beliefs than more popular editions, which are increasingly seen as having a decidedly ultra-Orthodox bent. Yet, argues Yaakov Jaffe, while the volume admirably conveys many of Soloveitchik’s ideas, his overarching approach to prayer seems to get lost, and may even be at loggerheads with the book’s purpose:

Soloveitchik convey[ed] the feeling of surrender toward God and halakhah precisely through a series of differences between his liturgy and the conventional one, with the differences all pointing in the direction of withdrawal and recoil. One offering prayers before God must be . . . constantly unable even to formulate certain prayers. It is an approach to prayer that carries intense caution, even fear, lest the wrong words be uttered. And so, as much as we think about the prayers we do say, we are also constantly reminded of all the prayers we cannot utter. Permission is needed to be able to pray, and prayer without permission borders on heresy. . . .

In contrast, conventional prayer in Modern Orthodox synagogues has embraced the opposite attitude. Creativity, victory, and denominational ideology abound. Parts of the prayer service that fail to resonate are removed to the extent possible, while the parts that do resonate tend to emphasize closeness to the Creator [and therefore] become centerpieces of the service, even if they are the most daring and anthropomorphic. [For instance]: whereas for Soloveitchik the blessings that precede and follow the recitation of the Sh’ma convey the themes of divine authority, the Modern Orthodox Jew sees in them the theme of divine love. . . .

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Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism, Modern Orthodoxy, Prayer, Religion & Holidays

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy