Sunday, 23 March 2008

Birkat Haminim

"Blessing" of the Heretics. In case one unfamiliar with Jewish liturgy should grace these humble pages, "blessing" is a euphemism. The full prayer and a brief explanation can be accessed here.

I always wondered about this prayer when I was a Good Yid (tm). Shouldn't we be encouraging the repentance of those heretics, asking God to allow them to see the light, in His eternal kindness, rather than call for the utter destruction? It always seemed a bit odd to me.

And now it's even more odd. When I do go to synagogue and say prayers, should I skip this out? Maybe? Maybe not? I don't want to curse myself! Obviously, there's no Halachic answer to this, unless there's a Sheilos V'Teshuvos I'm missing on the subject, or a sefer "al Ha-Minim," perhaps written by the Rambam, which guides us troubled souls on such matters.

Being in these sort of Halachic situations is still a little awkward for me. It's not that I'm scared of Divine Retribution, it's that I don't want to mess with the beliefs of others. It would annoy me if people were disrespectful of Judaism when I was practising it, things have to be done properly, don't you know. So why should I ruin it for others?

For example, what do I do if I'm called upon to pray from the pulpit? Do I refuse twice and accept on the third time, as is the custom? Or do I say "I'm wearing sandals" as a cryptic reference to Mishnah Torah hilchos avoda zara, describing minim as those who wear sandals or coloured clothes?

What about leading bentching? Am I posul for that too? And what about all forms of eidus, especially vayachulu on shabbos [I never really understood how we could give eidus about something we never saw]?

I must confess that sometimes I do try and make life easier for those around me, if I won't go discovered. After all, what they don't know won't hurt them, right?

For example, on shabbos if no-one's remembered to tear up the toilet paper into usable bits, I do that. If there's a light on in a room that shouldn't be, I turn it off before anyone notices it was ever on. Or if a room is freezing I turn up the heating, and vice versa. Maybe the fridge light is on...Or is it? It's so hard to remember these things after a bowl of chicken soup, but it's off now, that's for sure.

Of course it's risky, discovery would be followed by the certain catastrophe all of us frum sceptics and skeptics are familiar with. But still...mitzvah gorreres mitzvah, right?

If anyone has any ideas on these puzzling questions, let me know.


a inger said...

Just saw your post. Welcome to the world of unbelievers.

a inger said...

I am quite a bit older then you and for many years I practiced Orthodoxy in one form or another. Then I discovered the web and found out that there were many many people who had trouble accepting the nonesense that we were taught. It feels great to be an agnostic or an atheist.....Avi

Baal Habos said...

Yep, difficult issues for a newbie. But you'll get there.
I've had similar issues in the past.

See -

a inger said...

By the way for all you ( us ? ) skeptics here is another web site for you to check out.

king of all jews said...

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FedUp said...

Great post.

abandoning eden said...

you would only be cursing yourself if there was actually a god; it seems despite your disbelief you are still operating under assumptions of belief :)

so if everyone who is benching is actually just talking to themselves, and you are called upon to lead benching, but you realize everyone is just talking to themselves, is that outside the "spirit" of the mitzvah, or are you just doing exactly what you were doing before, but with a different awareness of the true impact of your actions?

Jewish Sceptic said...

Abandoning Eden
you would only be cursing yourself if there was actually a god;
Ahh, would I? As I see it, my objection is I wouldn't say "I hate myself and I wish I could die!" so why should I say that about myself in Hebrew?

Bentching Problem
Good point. For the record, I don't even bentch anymore. But of course, if God doesn't exist, then you were always talking to yourself and on that level it makes no difference whatsoever. I understand that you're implying, therefore it doesn't matter. To me. It matters to the other people though, and again, that's where my concern would lie...Maybe I'm being too polite about it all..

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