https://opensiddur.org/?p=7692 עָלֵינוּ לְשַׁבֵּחַ | Aleinu, interpretive translation by Joshua Gutoff 2013-10-21 08:15:46 A "redemptive translation" of Aleinu emphasizing universalist Jewish values. Text the Open Siddur Project Joshua Gutoff Joshua Gutoff Abba (Arikha) bar Aybo (traditional attribution) https://opensiddur.org/copyright-policy/ Joshua Gutoff https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ Aleinu עלינו Aleinu על כן נקוה al ken n'qaveh interpretive translation Rosh Hashanah English Translation North America tolerance of difference Late Antiquity 21st century C.E. 58th century A.M. particularism and universalism
|Source (Hebrew)||Translation (English)|
עָלֵֽינוּ לְשַׁבֵּֽחַ לַאֲדוֹן הַכֹּל
לָתֵת גְּדֻלָּה לְיוֹצֵר בְּרֵאשִׁית.
שֶׁלֹּא עָשָֽׂנוּ כְּגוֹיֵי הָאֲרָצוֹת
וְלֹא שָׂמָֽנוּ כְּמִשְׁפְּחוֹת הָאֲדָמָה׃
שֶׁלֹּא שָׂם חֶלְקֵֽנוּ כָּהֶם וְגֹרָלֵֽנוּ כְּכָל הֲמוֹנָם׃
[. . .]
וַאֲנַֽחְנוּ כּוֹרְעִים וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים
וּמוֹדִים לִפְנֵי מֶֽלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים
הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא׃
שֶׁהוּא נוֹטֶ֣ה שָׁמַיִם֘ וְיֹסֵ֣ד אָרֶץ֒ (ישעיה נא:יג)
וּמוֹשַׁב יְקָרוֹ בַּשָּׁמַֽיִם מִמַּֽעַל וּשְׁכִינַת עֻזּוֹ בְּגָבְהֵי מְרוֹמִים׃
הוּא אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ אֵין עוֹד אֱמֶת מַלְכֵּֽנוּ אֶֽפֶס זוּלָתוֹ
וְיָֽדַעְתָּ֣ הַיּ֗וֹם וַֽהֲשֵֽׁבֹתָ֘ אֶל־לְבָבֶ֒ךָ֒
כִּ֤י יְהוָֹה֙ ה֣וּא הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים בַּשָּׁמַ֣יִם מִמַּ֔עַל
וְעַל־הָאָ֖רֶץ מִתָּ֑חַת אֵ֖ין עֽוֹד: (דברים ד:לט)
Ours is to praise the Master of all;
to recognize the greatness of the One who fashioned our beginning.
Not as a nation-state,
nor as a tribe;
but by giving us a particular task, a particular fate:
[. . .] [omitting the passage, שֶׁהֵם מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וָרִיק, וּמִתְפַּלְּלִים אֶל אֵל לֹֹא יוֹשִׁיעַ – built from the two verses, Isaiah 30:7, “For the help of Mitsrayim (Egypt) shall be (הבל וריק) vain and empty …”; and Isaiah 45:20. “… No foreknowledge had they who carry their wooden images (וּמתפּללים אל־אל לא יוֹשׁיע) and pray to a god who cannot give success.” For more, refer to this Wikipedia article. –Aharon Varady, ed.]
to bow, to bend,
to acknowledge the Authority over all authority,
the Blessed Holy One,
who stretched out the expanse and gathered the substance, Isaiah 51:13
filling the farthest emptiness and humbling the heights.
This alone is our God, the one true ruler.
As it is written:
“That you may know today and understand this truth:
that Adonai alone is God in the heavens above
and on Earth below; there is none other.” Deuteronomy 4:39
עַל כֵּן נְקַוֶּה לְּךָ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ
לִרְאוֹת מְהֵרָה בְּתִפְאֶֽרֶת עֻזֶּֽךָ
לְהַעֲבִיר גִּלּוּלִים מִן הָאָֽרֶץ וְהָאֱלִילִים כָּרוֹת יִכָּרֵתוּן
לְתַקֵּן עוֹלָם בְּמַלְכוּת שַׁדַּי:
וְכׇל בְּנֵי בָשָׂר יִקְרְאוּ בִשְׁמֶֽךָ
לְהַפְנוֹת אֵלֶֽיךָ כָּל רִשְׁעֵי אָֽרֶץ:
יַכִּֽירוּ וְיֵדְעוּ כָּל יוֹשְׁבֵי תֵבֵל כִּי לְךָ תִּכְרַע כָּל בֶּֽרֶךְ
תִּשָּׁבַע כָּל לָשׁוֹן:
לְפָנֶֽיךָ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ יִכְרְעוּ וְיִפּֽוֹלוּ
וְלִכְבוֹד שִׁמְךָ יְקָר יִתֵּֽנוּ:
וִיקַבְּלוּ כֻלָּם ׀ אֶת עֹל מַלְכוּתֶֽךָ
וְתִמְלוֹךְ עֲלֵיהֶם מְהֵרָה לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד:
כִּי הַמַּלְכוּת שֶׁלְּךָ הִיא
וּלְעֽוֹלְמֵי עַד תִּמְלוֹךְ בְּכָבוֹד׃
יְהוָ֥ה ׀ יִמְלֹ֖ךְ לְעֹלָ֥ם וָעֶֽד׃ (שמות טו:יח)
And so we put our hope in You, Adonai our God,
to see your power revealed in its beauty,
erasing that which is wicked, that which is false.
To restore Creation under Your nurturing rule;
that all life be able to call upon You,
and even the evil will return to the light.
All who share this earth will see that only to You need we be humble,
only to You need we be loyal.
Then, Adonai our God, all will bow and bend before You,
acknowledging Your name as precious.
All humanity will join in the task You set,
and You will lead all humanity for ever.
For You are the true Ruler,
and will rule gloriously forever.
As the Torah teaches,
“Adonai will rule for all eternity.” Exodus 15:18
וְהָיָ֧ה יְהוָ֛ה לְמֶ֖לֶךְ עַל־כָּל־הָאָ֑רֶץ
בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא יִהְיֶ֧ה
וּשְׁמ֥וֹ אֶחָֽד׃ (זכריה יד:ט)
And it is said:
“And Adonai shall be king over all the earth;
In that day who Adonai is
and how Adonai is called
will be one.” Zechariah 14:9
|1||[omitting the passage, שֶׁהֵם מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וָרִיק, וּמִתְפַּלְּלִים אֶל אֵל לֹֹא יוֹשִׁיעַ – built from the two verses, Isaiah 30:7, “For the help of Mitsrayim (Egypt) shall be (הבל וריק) vain and empty …”; and Isaiah 45:20. “… No foreknowledge had they who carry their wooden images (וּמתפּללים אל־אל לא יוֹשׁיע) and pray to a god who cannot give success.” For more, refer to this Wikipedia article. –Aharon Varady, ed.]|
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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”
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.