Friday, March 17, 2006

amim l'yisrael

e+k dropped by for havdalah the other week. mount pleasant is wonderful.

eli was leading havdalah, and he grabbed the nearest book with it inside to be sure
i generally don't say the phrase yisrael l'amim as part of the last blessing in havdalah. basically it is a series of dichotomies in a row, one of which is israel and the nations.
eli and kavitha generally do add that dischotomy.
they made an argument which i will have trouble summing up, but basically they don't view praticularism as necesarily bad but i think have slightly different reasons for coming to that conclusion.
i suggested that i don't argue that there is no difference but that the liturgy basically draws an analogy between the relationship between shabbat and the other days, mundane and holy, light and dark, and finally jews and the nations.
let's recap:
shabbat, light, jews, holy v. not-shabbat, darkness, non-jews, mundane
the setup is problematic. it is drawing an analogy between light and dark and jews and non-jews.

it seems important to some people to keep the yisrael/amim distinction in that liturgy. it is important to me that we don't suggest that non-jews are drk and mundane. if that is the suggestion than i think i am right to remove that line. however it might be that i am reading too much into word order.
i suggested to e+k that we reverse yisrael and amim. if there is no implicit assumption, it shouldn't matter what order they go in.
the last few weeks i have been trying it out. it still feels awkward, but it has been an interesting experiement.

shabbat shalom everybody.


At 3/18/2006 , Blogger BZ said...

Here's how I see it:
The beracha is about separation between Shabbat and the rest of the week. Jews observe Shabbat and non-Jews don't. One way to transition from Shabbat into non-Shabbat is to go from light (on Saturday) into darkness. Another way is to go from Jews to non-Jews. I don't think that's a value judgment about non-Jews; it's just a statement that Shabbat is both localized in time and localized in people. If the beracha were said on Friday (going from weekday into Shabbat), then the Jews/Shabbat would correspond to darkness, and the non-Jews/weekday would correspond to light.

At 3/18/2006 , Anonymous Jo said...

When we go from Shabbat directly into a holiday/hag, the havdalah ceremony has different wording: "hamavdil ben kodesh l'kodesh."

On these days, we bless the One who separates between the holy and the holy. What does it mean to bless a distinction that doesn't create hierarchy (holy vs. less holy) but instead is a mark of distinctiveness between two equal entities (holy vs. differently holy)?

This is a different "setup" from the regular text which has consequences for the analogies which follow. If the distinctiveness between Yisrael l'amim is a boundary ben kodesh l'kodesh, between the holy and the holy, what could it mean to bless that line, the contours of our little space in the world's expanse of holy communities and traditions?

Not sure, but it seems like a better question!

At 3/23/2006 , Blogger ZT said...

i think your save is admirable but we don't say the beracha at the begining of shabbat only at the end. maariv arivim is similar but doesn't invovle seperating jews and non-jews nor is it shabbat related. i like the recontectualization of jews on shabbat, non-jews the rest of the week, but it still seems to fall into the trap of seeming to claim that non-jews are equated with darkness and mundane-ness, no?

i love the idea of thinking about the world as kodesh and the different parts as differently holy. i think the issue lies is translating kodesh as holy. my sense is that jewishly kedusha (~holiness) is about seperation [rashi translates it that way]. so the question is how we can view "holiness" on both sides of a seperation. how can we move from hierachies of holiness to seperations of equal sanctity. indeed, jo, your question is an interesting one!


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