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Is it Permissible to Change the Wording About the Sacrifices in the Middle Blessing of the Musaf Service?

Responsa in a Moment: Volume 5, Issue No. 3, January 2011

Question: In light of the fact that many modern Jews do not feel comfortable asking God to restore the sacrificial service in the Temple, is it permissible to change the wording of the middle blessing of the Musaf service which asks God to restore the sacrificial system? This responsum is based on my lecture at the conference “The Actuality of Sacrifice” which took place at the Schechter Institute on January 9, 2011.

Responsum: This topic has been hotly debated and widely discussed since the Reform movement was founded in Germany 200 years ago. We shall present a brief history of the Musaf service from the Talmudic period until 1810, twelve different approaches to our topic since 1810, and some concluding remarks.

I) Musaf in the Talmud and in Medieval Siddurim. (Re. the history of Musaf, see Yitzhak Baer, Seder Avodat Yisrael, Rodelheim, 1866, pp. 238-239; Yitzhak Moshe Elbogen, Hetefillah B’yisrael B’hitpathutah Hahistorit, Tel Aviv, 1972,  pp. 88-89, 414-415; Aryeh Leib Gordon, Otzar Hatefillot, Nusah Sefarad, Vol. 1, Vilna, 1928, pp. 731-737; Israel Davidson, Otzar Hashirah V’hapiyyut, Vol. 3, New York, 1930, p. 528, No. 269; Levi Ginzberg,Peirushim V’hiddushim Bayerushalmi, Vol. 3, New York, 1941, p. 434; Yosef Heinemann, Hatefillah Bitekufat Hatanna’im Veha’amora’im, second edition, Jerusalem, 1966, pp. 34, 172;idem., Iyunei Tefillah, Jerusalem, 1981, p. 190; David Golinkin,Conservative Judaism 41/1 (Fall 1988), pp. 45-46; Jeffrey Hoffman,ibid., 42/1 (Fall 1989), pp. 41-45; Ezra Fleischer, Tefillah Uminhagei Tefillah Eretzyisraeliyim Bitekufat Hagenizah, Jerusalem, 1988, pp. 21-53; David Golinkin, Ma’amad Haishah Bahalakhah, Jerusalem, 2001, pp. 58-59).

Originally, the Musaf service may not have been connected to the Musaf sacrifice since it was recited as part of the Ma’amadot service (Mishnah Taanit 4:1-4 and cf. Mishnah Berakhot 4:7). However, it is usually mentioned in connection with holidays which included a Musaf sacrifice when the Temple was still standing (Tosefta Berakhot 3:3 and cf. ibid. 10-11 and Sukkah 4:5). The Babylonian Talmud does not provide any halakhic parameters for the Musaf service. In such cases, we look for a halakhic ruling in the Jerusalem Talmud, which states as follows (Yerushalmi Berakhot 4, fol. 8c):

Rav said: One has to say something new [in Musaf that is different than Shaharit] and Shmuel says: he does not have to say anything new. Rabbi Zeira asked Rabbi Yossi: What does it mean “to say something new”? He replied: even if he said “and may we perform before you our obligation, the Tamid sacrifices and the Musaf sacrifice” – he has fulfilled his obligation.

In other words, according to Shmuel, Shaharit and Musaf can be identical! According to Rav — and the halakhah follows Rav in ritual matters (see Bekhorot 49b and Niddah 23b) — we must say something new, but he does not specify what. Rabbi Yossi gives an example – asking God to restore the sacrifices – but it is merely an example, not a binding halakhah. This passage was quoted or codified in various forms by quite a few medieval authorities (See Baer Ratner, Ahavat Tziyon V’yerushalayim to Berakhot, Vilna, 1901, pp. 114-115; Rabbeinu Asher, Piskei Harosh toBerakhot, Chapter 3, parag. 17; Bet Yosef to Orah Hayyim 268; the Rema to Orah Hayyim 268:4).

In the medieval period, there were at least four different piyyutim or liturgical poems recited in the middle of Musaf, which shows the flexibility of this blessing:

a) Tikanta Shabbat, which is found in all Ashkenazic siddurim today, is also found in Seder Rav Amram Gaon (ed. Goldschmidt, p. 78), Siddur Rav Saadiah Gaon (p. 112) and many medieval siddurim and halakhic works (Sefer Hamanhig, ed. Refael, pp. 169-170; Orhot HayyimSeder Tefillat Musaf, parag. 1, fol. 65c = Kol Bo, parag. 37, fol. 39a-b;Mahzor Vitry, pp. 99, 174-175; Siddur Rashi, parag. 505, p. 252;Sefer Hapardess, p. 310; Sefer Hamahkim, ed. Freimann, pp. 22-23; Shibboley Haleket, parag. 82, ed. Buber, p. 60 and ed. Mirsky, pp. 312-314 = Tanya Rabbati, parag. 17, ed. Horwitz, p. 42).

b) L’moshe Tzivita which is found in the Siddur of the Rambam (ed. Goldschmidt, p. 206), Sefer Abudraham (pp. 174-175) and Yemenite siddurim until today.

c) Menuhat Am Olam which was published by Simcha Assaf from a genizah fragment (Sefer Dinaburg, Jerusalem, 1949, p. 126).

d) Yom Anugah Tatah which is found in a number of genizah fragments published by Fleischer (pp. 30 ff.).

All of these piyyutim include some sort of prayer that God should return us to our land where we will sacrifice our Tamid and Musafsacrifices. In addition to the verses from Numbers 28:9-10 which summarize the Musaf sacrifice, some of the genizah fragments add the V’shamru verses from Exodus 31.

II) Twelve Modern Approaches to the Musaf Service

We shall now present twelve modern approaches to the Musafservice from the most conservative which changed nothing to the most radical which eliminated the Musaf service entirely.

1. Recite Tikanta Shabbat as an historical memory: Rabbi Yehiel Ya’akov Weinberg (1884-1966), a leading modern Orthodox authority, maintained that we should recite the traditional Tikanta Shabbat Musaf prayer for the restoration of sacrifices out of loyalty to our ancestors. The final “Bet Din” [court of law] in these matters is the Jewish people itself which decided to maintain this wording. (Kitvey Hagaon Rabbi Yehiel Ya’akov Weinberg, ed. Marc Shapiro, vol. 2, Scranton, 2003, pp. 240-256). Interestingly enough, his reasoning sounds very much like Prof. Solomon Schechter’s doctrine of Catholic Israel (Studies in Judaism, Vol. I, Philadelphia, 1896, pp. xvii-xviii).

2. Recite Tikanta Shabbat but understand it in a new way as we recite it: Orthodox Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in the nineteenth century and Conservative Rabbis Benjamin Scolnic and Ira Stone in our own time have argued that we should recite the traditional Musaf prayer for the restoration of sacrifices but understand it in different ways as we recite it (For Rabbi S.R. Hirsch, see David Ellenson, Between Tradition and Culture, Atlanta, Georgia, 1994, pp. 27-35; Benjamin Edidin Scolnic, Conservative Judaism 37/4 (Summer 1984), pp. 28-36; Ira Stone, JUDAISM 40/1 (Winter 1991), pp. 52-59).

3. Recite Tikanta Shabbat but reinterpret a specific word or words as we recite it: A number of modern rabbis have written that we should leave the Tikanta Shabbatparagraph as is, but we should reinterpret some specific words in the prayer. Conservative Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser said (Conservative Judaism 13/3 [Spring 1959], pp. 13-17) that we should reinterpret the word “korban/korbanot“/ “sacrifices” as a metaphor for prayer. Modern Orthodox Rabbi David Rosen maintained (The Jewish Vegetarian, No. 93 [June 1990], pp. 42-43) that we should reinterpret the words “kemo shekatavta aleinu btoratekha“/”just as you wrote down for us to do in your Torah” as follows: “The phrase ‘just as’ or ‘just like’ can mean ‘the same’ or ‘similar’ – in quality and devotion, for example, but not necessarily in the same form!”

4. Leave Tikanta Shabbat as is but change the translation: Some Reform siddurim in the 19th century left the Tikanta Shabbat paragraph as is the Hebrew, but changed the German translation as in number 7 below (Joseph Aub, Mayence, 1853 quoted by Petuchowski, p. 248).

5. Leave Tikanta Shabbat as is in the loud repetition of the Musaf but change it in the silent devotion: This was the suggestion of Dr. Michael Friedlander, the Orthodox Principal of Jews College in London for forty years, in 1891: “References to the Sacrificial Service, and especially prayers for its restoration, are disliked by some who think such restoration undesirable. Let no one pray for a thing against his will; let him whose heart is not with his fellow-worshippers in any of their supplications silently substitute his own prayers for them, but let him not interfere with the devotion of those… who yearn for the opportunity of fulfilling Divine commandments which they cannot observe at present” (The Jewish Religion, London, 1891, p. 452). Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz (1872-1946) endorsed his decision in his Authorised Daily Prayer Book published in London in 1946 (pp. 532-533), adding the late origin of the prayer and the that for a long time the Musafprayer was deemed to be voluntary for the individual worshipper (see Mishnah Berakhot 4:7).

6. Change Tikanta Shabbat from the future to the past tense: Beginning in 1927, Conservative prayer books began to offer the option of reciting Tikanta Shabbat in the past tense. They changed “na’aaseh v’nakriv“/”we shall do and we shall sacrifice” to “asu v’hikrivu“/”we did and we sacrificed” and they also changed a few other words to conform to this understanding. This change was first approved by Rabbi Prof. Louis Ginzberg for the United Synagogue’s Festival Prayer Book edited by Prof. Alexander Marx in 1927. Prof. Ginzberg allowed the United Synagogue to publish two versions of theFestival Prayer Book, one in the future tense and one in the past which would say on the title page “Adapted to the use of certain conservative Congregations by Rabbi …”. (The Responsa of Professor Louis Ginzberg, edited by David Golinkin, New York and Jerusalem, 1996, pp. 52-53).
In the Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book edited by Rabbi Morris Silverman and approved by a committee chaired by Rabbi Robert Gordis in 1946, asu v’hikrivu in the past tense became the only option (Robert Gordis, Conservative Judaism 2/1 (October 1945), pp. 14-15 = Robert Gordis, Understanding Conservative Judaism, New York, 1978, pp. 147-148; pp. viii-x, 379-380). This wording was adopted in subsequent Conservative prayer books which also offered other options as we shall see below.

7. Ask God to accept our Musaf prayers instead of theMusaf sacrificeA number of the Reform siddurim published in Europe in the 19th century beginning in Hamburg in 1819 pray that God should “accept in mercy and with favor the expression of our lips instead of our obligatory sacrifices” (Petuchowski, pp. 247, 249, 250). Similar wording was adopted by Rabbis Mordecai Kaplan and Eugene Kohn in the Reconstructionist Sabbath Prayer Book, New York, 1945 (pp. xxiii, xxvi-xxvii, 188) and in their prayer books for the High Holidays (1948) and the Festivals (1958).

8. Rewrite Tikanta Shabbat so that it emphasizes Jewish values other than animal sacrifice: Many modern rabbis felt that the middle blessing of Musaf needed to be rewritten in order to emphasize Jewish values other than animal sacrifice. Interestingly enough, it appears that the first to articulate this – though he did not suggest any specific text – was an Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Solomon Isaac Scheinfeld (1860-1943), the unofficial chief rabbi of Milwaukee. In his article “L’takanat hayahadut“/”Towards the Improvement of Judaism” written under the pseudonym Even Shayish [=Shlomo Yitzhak Scheinfeld] in 1911 (Hashiloah 25, 5671, pp. 193-197) he said that not one sensible Jew expects the restoration of the sacrifices. “In my opinion, it is appropriate that the Sages of Israel and its authors in our time should compose new prayers and piyyutim (not shorten and change the old ones as the Reformers did in Germany and America) which will contain concepts of the Deity and religious and ethical beliefs according to the taste of the cultured Jew in our time” (p. 196).
Rabbi Scheinfeld’s wish was partially fulfilled in a number of Reconstructionist and Conservative siddurim which included alternatives to Tikanta Shabbat which emphasized other Jewish values such as the ingathering of the exiles, helping other people as a form of sacrifice, unifying the Jewish people in Israel and the like (Sabbath Prayer Book, New York, 1945, pp. 188-191; Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book, New York, 1946, p. 140; Weekday Prayer Book, New York, 1961, p. 186; Siddur Sim Shalom, New York, 1985, pp. 446-447; Siddur Va’ani Tefilati, Jerusalem, 1998, p. 388).

9. Change the verses in Musaf from Numbers 28:9-10 which describes the Musaf sacrifice to Exodus 20:8-11 or other verses which describe the observance of Shabbat: This was the solution of a number of European Reform siddurim, including Leipzig 1876, Berlin 1881, Stein 1882, and the Einheitsgebetbuch, 1929 (Petuchowski, pp. 250-252). They were unaware that the Genizah fragments mentioned above, which were published after 1929, used other Shabbat verses in addition to Numbers 28: 9-10.

10. Leave out parts of the middle blessing of Musaf:Reform Rabbis Abraham Geiger (1870) and Caesar Seligmann (1910 and 1928) left out Tikanta Shabbat and Numbers 28:9-10 from the Musaf (Petuchowski, p. 248). The Conservative Silverman Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book(1946) left Numbers 28:9-10 in the Hebrew but omitted it in the English translation. In the Conservative Siddur Sim Shalom(1985), Rabbi Jules Harlow indented Numbers 28:9-10 with the instruction “Some congregations add” since Maimonides did not include these verses in his siddur.

11. Recite Zekher L’musaf, in memory of Musaf: This is the approach of Ha’avodah Shebalev, the official siddur of the Reform Movement in Israel (1982). Musaf normally includes seven blessings, the three introductory blessings, the middle Tikanta Shabbat blessing, and the three closing blessings.Zekher L’musaf omits the three introductory and closing blessings, while presenting two modern alternatives to Tikanta Shabbat along the lines of No. 8 above.

12. Omit Musaf entirely: This omission was originally found in the Berlin siddur of 1817/1818 (Petuchowski, p. 242) but was not continued in subsequent Reform siddurim in Germany. It was introduced in the United States by Rabbi David Einhorn after he immigrated to Baltimore in 1855; he omitted the Musaf service in his Olat Tamid (1858). This became the basis for all subsequent Reform siddurim in the United States, including The Union Prayer Book (1892-94),Gates of Prayer (1975), and Mishkan Tefilah (2007). It was also eliminated from some British Liberal and Reform siddurimbeginning in 1926 and in the new Reconstructionist siddur Kol Haneshama in 1994.

III) Summary and Conclusions

1. There is ample precedent for leaving problematic passages intact and reinterpreting them (approaches 1-3 above). For example, Rabbeinu Tam (1100-1171), one of the leading rabbis of the Middle Ages, explained the blessing mehayeh hametim, who revives the dead, in the Amidah as a reference to God who awakens those who slumber from their sleep (quoted by Rabbi Asher ben Shaul of Lunel, Sefer Haminhagot, written ca. 1210, ed. Assaf, Jerusalem, 1935, p. 135).

2. Regarding approach No. 5 where there is a difference between the silent devotion and the loud repetition, this sounds strange to a modern Jew, but it was very common in the Middle Ages where the silent amidah was brief, while the loud repetition contained lengthypiyyutim recited by the hazzan. The main remnant of this practice is on the High Holidays. As long as both the silent version and the loud repetition of Musaf follow the halakhic guidelines of saying something new, this is permissible.

3. Regarding approaches 6-10 where the Tikanta Shabbat paragraph is changed to the past or rewritten or shortened, this is permissible since these versions of Musaf contain something new as explained by Rav in the Jerusalem Talmud quoted above.

4. There are three alternatives presented above which are not halakhically permissible: No. 4 which leaves the Hebrew intact but changes the translation is a form of gneivat da’at or deception since many modern Jews who can read Hebrew but do not understand it will think that the Hebrew is identical to the translation. Nos. 11 and 12 are not halakhic alternatives since the first omits six out of seven Musaf blessings while the second omitsMusaf entirely.

It is healthy that modern Jews have taken the Musaf service seriously enough to argue about its wording for the past 200 years. I hope and pray that we will continue to recite Musaf and the other required services throughout the year, even if we sometimes debate the exact wording of these ancient statutory prayers.

David Golinkin
Tu Bishvat 5771


1. Eric Caplan, From Ideology to Liturgy: Reconstructionist Worship and American Liberal Judaism, Cicinnati, 2002, pp. 115-116, 187-188, 327-328 (Conservative and Reconstructionist).

2. Ezra Fleischer, Tefillah Uminhagei Tefillah Eretzyisraeliyim Bitekufat Hagenizah, Jerusalem, 1988, pp. 21-53 (Genizah).

3. David Golinkin, An Index of Conservative Responsa and Practical Halakhic Studies 1917-1990, New York, 1992, pp. 35-37 (Conservative).

4. Jakob Petuchowski, Prayerbook Reform in Europe, New York, 1968, Chapter Nine (Reform).

5. Marc Shapiro, “Rabbi Kook on Sacrifices and Other Assorted Comments”, The Seforim Blog, April 15, 2010 (Orthodox).

All four volumes of Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin’s Responsa In A Moment – Halakhic Responses to Contemporary Issues as well as other books by the author are available for purchase from the Schocken-JTS Press Bookstore.

David Golinkin is President of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and President Emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. For twenty years he served as Chair of the Va’ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly which gives halakhic guidance to the Masorti Movement in Israel. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah at Schechter and also directs the Center for Women in Jewish Law. Rabbi Professor Golinkin made aliyah in 1972, earning a BA in Jewish History and two teaching certificates from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Rabbinics and a PhD in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as Rabbi. For a complete bio click here.

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