Ysoscher Katz

Time To Tweak the Amidah?

In light of what we have recently learned about Walder, Meshi Zahav and many others, I am wondering: is it time to tweak one of the brachot in the Amidah to make it more accurately reflect our (unfortunate) cultural reality?
In the past, mosrim (informers) and minim (most likely early Christians) were our greatest tormentors. We were constantly persecuted by the local Christian community, and mosrim historically caused tremendous havoc to Jewish communities around the world. That is why these two groups merited their own prayer in the Amidah. Thrice every day we pray for their destruction and decimation, using every synonym in the book to express how badly we desire their comeuppance; ותעקר ותשבר ותמגר ותכלה ותשפיל ותכניע.
But, if you think about it, that prayer, thank God, no longer makes sense. It is outdated.
Of course there are occasional antisemetic flare ups here and there, but overall we now live peacefully with our Christian neighbors. Blood libels and pogroms are a thing of the past. Mosrim, likewise, ceased to be a problem we have to contend with. We no longer have to deal with Jews telling on one another to the local authorities, causing them to be killed or incarcerated.
Saying this bracha as is, therefore, seems wrong.
I do however have a solution. A single-word tweak can possibly make this bracha relevant again.
While the mosrim and minim are gone, the last few years has made us aware of their replacement, a different group of people who cause no less damage than the minim and mosrim did in their time. That is child molesters. They, like their evil predecessors, cause harm and torment to Jewish communities the world over.
Consequently, my suggestion is that the word ולמלשינים in the eleventh bracha should be replaced with the word ולמתעללים (the molesters). They are the ones who need to be eliminated from our midst; to have their evil behavior completely eradicated.
As the Talmud tells us: God wants our tefilot to be true and factual. This would be a most appropriate adjustment to our daily prayers, making them factually accurate. Instead of praying about something that is now in our past and is no longer relevant, let us plead for the end of something that currently plagues us: molestation and sexual abuse.
May be a closeup of person and child
As for the halakhic issue, I don’t think there is any problem with this change.
1) We are changing a word but are nevertheless still keeping the essence of this prayer intact. This paragraph is a request of God to rid us from violent and malicious people who wreak havoc on our communities. We will still be praying for that, with the caveat that the identity of the perpetrators will have changed. Otherwise everything remains the same.
2) The current version “ולמלשינים” is itself a change. The original version had ולמשומדים; the convert. It was a prayer for God to apply his wrath to those who abandon the Jewish faith by embracing a different religion. Once it became dangerous to pray for that, we replaced משומדים with מלשינים, thereby setting a precedent for changing the subject of this prayer, so that it is in consonance with our political reality.
Today might be the right time to once again change that one word, and point the tefila in the appropriate direction, toward those who are currently causing tremendous havoc, destroying our youth by robbing them of their essence, identity and sexuality.
I think I might start doing that: [רבונו של עולם] please ולמתעללים אל תהי תקווה… והזדים מהרה תעקר ותשבר ותמגר ותשפילם ותכניעם במהרה בימינו. ברוך אתה ה’ שובר אויבים ומכניע זדים.
Adding a small tefila to our arsenal in our milchemet mitzva, our fight to eradicate the evil doers in our midst couldn’t hurt.
You should consider doing it as well.
We have paid such a high price already, at this point we have no choice but to utilize EVERYTHING we have, including our tiny prayer book. The last few days have shown us that the contemporary rabbinic leadership would rather cover for the perpetrators then protect the victims. Our only hope is ourselves, with some help from HKBH.
(Yes, your observation is correct. I am in this fight for the duration. I am not leaving until we have completely eliminated this evil. I/we owe it to our children, students, loved ones–and ourselves. It is also our religious duty: והיה מחניך קדוש, our charge is to create a community that is holy, where every human is considered sacred and treated accordingly. Molesting a child is a profanation of their innate kedusha.)
About the Author
Rabbi Ysoscher Katz is Chair of the Talmud department at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. He received ordination in 1986 from Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, dayan of UTA Satmer. Rabbi Katz studied in Brisk and in Yeshivat Beit Yosef, Navaradok for more ten years, and is a graduate of the HaSha'ar Program for Jewish Educators, Rabbi Katz taught at the Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls and SAR High School, and gave a popular daf yomi class in Brooklyn for more than eight years.
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