A siddur from 1471 has revealed an early example of egalitarian Jewish prayer, presenting historical attempts to battle gender inequality.
According to the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), the 600-year-old siddur replaces the traditional prayer recited by women, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, Master of Universe for Creating me According to your Will”, with “Blessed Are You Lord our God, Master of the Universe, For You made Me a Woman and Not a Man.”
The prayer offered by the 1471 siddur stands as a clear counterpart to the morning prayer recited daily by observant Jewish men: "Blessed are You For Not Creating Me a Woman".
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, Conservative Judaism’s official rabbinical association, discussed the prayer in light of current tensions between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel.
“This Siddur proves that the degrading attitudes towards women, which we are seeing in certain extreme religious communities in Israel today, are a modern distortion of Judaism,” said Rabbi Schonfeld. “Ironically, treatment of women in certain extreme sectors of the community is far more denigrating to women today than even the attitudes of the late Middle Ages.
According to the JTS, the siddur was written by the scribe Rabbi Abraham Ben Mordechai Farissol, a well-known Northern Italian rabbi (1451-1525) who was a scholar, cantor, and physician. In addition, he wrote many interpretations of books in the Bible, and literature focused on comparing Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The rare siddur is part of a collection of the JTS library, a Manhattan based academic and spiritual center of the Conservative movement.
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