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עלינו | Aleinu, interpretive translation by Joshua Gutoff

5 comments to עלינו | Aleinu, interpretive translation by Joshua Gutoff

  • Ralph

    I am sure that is intentional, but I think that by translating שֶׁלֹּא עָשָֽׂנוּ כְּגוֹיֵי הָאֲרָצוֹת וְלֹא שָׂמָֽנוּ כְּמִשְׁפְּחוֹת הָאֲדָמָה: שֶׁלֹּא שָׂם חֶלְקֵֽנוּ כָּהֶם וְגֹרָלֵֽנוּ כְּכָל הֲמוֹנָם:‏ with “Not as a nation-state, nor as a tribe; but by giving us a particular task, a particular fate:” (and leaving out שהם משתחוים להבל וריק ומתפללים אל אל לא יושיע …) you are rejecting a fundamental concept of the Jewish faith. We are *different* from the idolatrous nations, because we believe in the one God and they do not. I don’t agree with the weak meaning you give to those statements, but I appreciate the honesty with which you call this a “free translation”

  • Joshua Gutoff Joshua Gutoff

    Thanks for your comment, Ralph. First of all, I don’t use that line; it’s not part of any siddur I use. Second, even so I don’t think it changes things, because what’s not overdetermined is where the condition described happens. Is monotheism the precondition to our being made different; is it incidental to our different fate/nature, or is monotheism the *ikar* of the distinction? Whether or not that line is there, the question – and the interpretive possibilities – remain.

  • The history behind the inclusion, censoring, and re-inclusion of Isaiah 30:7 and 45:20 in Aleinu is fascinating and important. While I would object to declaring, as Ralph has, that the removal of these verse references amounts to “rejecting a fundamental concept of the Jewish faith,” I do think that their invocation in the Middle Ages needs to be contextualized within the frame of the same violent trauma that inspired “Av Haraḥamim” for Ashkenazi Jews during and after the Crusades. These verses validate the universal mission implicit in rabbinic Judaism’s particular religious philosophy through the fairly clever deprecation (via gematriah) of the beliefs of their historical oppressors in Christendom. The re-inclusion of these verses, referenced in another historical context (in Siddurim published in the ascent of national religious Zionism), to me reflects a certain self-confidence in distinguishing Jewish particularism without the fear of censors in the State of Israel (and with freedom of speech in the United States), as well as a certain kind of chauvinist reaction to the Other in response to the horrors of the Holocaust. The readiness of many North American Jews to welcome the censored variations of the Aleinu that exclude these verses, I think should be respected within their historical context as well. Their choice reflects the privileged and welcome experience of a religiously (rather than nationally) identified people secure enough in their freedoms that they can make common cause with Christians, Muslims, and even practitioners of polytheistic belief systems in the pursuit of world peace, compassion, and expansive consciousness in the Divine. In expressing these intentions through the exclusion of these verses, North American Jewish communities, I believe, are in a sense expressing a very Jewish faith and belief in a Tikkun, a repair of one aspect of brokenness in the world that demands repair, not through violent Crusade, but through listening, respect, and understanding.

    So while, it must be acknowledged that the censoring of these verses does transgress the integrity of the original composer of this prayer in their creative expression, I believe that the acceptance of the censored version version does not reflect, as some detractors would have it, the continued weakness of the Jewish community in the world. Rather, I believe the choice to accept and appropriate a variation of the Aleinu, originally imposed by censors, is in this Age after the Holocaust, an expression of communal strength through associating one’s religious identity with a universal mission without invoking verses which in the context of this prayer demand the comparable and increasingly collaborative mission of other belief systems.

  • Nowadays the uncensored version is commonly known and available. Even in the German translation of the famous Roedelheim siddur there are three dots, marking that there is some text missing.
    The Jewish printers were forced to delete the phrase, so my opinion is, if we are able to re-install the correct text we should do so.

  • arpadlar

    I just googled for a translation of the Aleinu. I think that Ralph is right, and unfortunately I have to look after an other site.

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