Monday, August 30, 2010

Who in G-d's Name is "Tamechlom"?

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear someone make hamotzi for some other people (but not for me). To my surprise, the berachah was directed to a deity that I didn't recognize.

"Baruch Tamechlom hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz."

That's a verbatim transliteration of what was said. My transliteration didn't skip any syllables, although I may have subconsciously added one or two.

I've heard some other people praying to this deity, and I just don't understand it. Every other word in the berachah is enunciated properly. So why are the most important words so badly mangled? Is that particular combination of letters a tongue-twister?

I remember that in yeshivah, guys would take turns making havdalah for everyone, until this problem became so bad that the job had to be done by one person who could actually say the words properly. Surely mechanchim could teach their students how to speak Hebrew, especially the most important words of all.

43 comments:

  1. Baruch Tamechlom...
    Hmmm, is that better, or worse, than
    Baruch atah I deny...?

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  2. this is sad but ironic enough to be amusing.
    but then you already knew the focus in the 'religious' world was skewed way before this.

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  3. Shir Hashirim Rabbah 2:5

    אמר ר' אחא עם הארץ שקורא לאהבה איבה כגון ואהבת ואייבת אמר הקב"ה ודילוגו עלי אהבה

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  4. Saying berahoth quickly without kawannah is a widespread problem.At the root of it seems to be a jaded approach to Judaism which emphasizes carrying out the motions without much emunah and enthusiasm behind the actions. The problem is most glaring in some of the Haredi community where many pride themselves on their "frumkeit" but never really think of addressing Hashem, or the reasons they do mitzvoth.

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  5. "Tamechlom"-is this perhaps another magic formula which has been "revealed" such as "Na nach nachman..." :)

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  6. S:
    It says there an am haaretz - that certainly is not the way people are supposed to daven and make brochos.

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  7. Ironic, I came to this piece right after this one:
    http://text.rcarabbis.org/enhancing-prayer-and-thereby-faith-and-spirituality-in-the-modern-orthodox-world-by-yaakov-bieler/

    Everyone seems to know the problem; the answer-not so simple.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  8. As per increasing one's kavana it would be helpful if more rabbis would be willing to innovate regarding nusach tefillah. Rav David Bar-Hayim's birkon eretz yisrael and also nusach eretz yisrael for the tefillah are briefer which is conducive to bentching and davening with more kavana. How many of us avoid eating bread just because of the tircha of the long nusach?

    At the beginning of the Shulchan Aruch it says that it is preferrable to pray less with more kavana.

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  9. Harazieli writes: "At the root of it seems to be a jaded approach to Judaism which emphasizes carrying out the motions without much emunah and enthusiasm behind the actions."

    Since no one really has this "approach" and this "emphasis" is not intentional, I would suggest that the root of the problem is simply being human (and therefore nonthinking and lazy at times.)

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  10. The solution is "simpler" than many realize: Yemenite Hebrew pronunciation.
    It is not so easy for someone who did not learn it at a young age, especially if they are just starting to learn.
    For the person that will say it is too hard, I respond "lo alacha kal hammalacha lighmor walo atah ban chorin livtal".
    Additionally, provide your kids with the opportunity to learn it from a young age.

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  11. I do not think that one can simply dismiss this as laziness. It is a symptom of lack of a serious approach towards Judaism.

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  12. "Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe..."

    Whether we pronounce it perfectly or blurt out a "tamechlom", we're still hiding behind the Hebrew in order to make it sound more palatable, less "Christian." (no offense to Christians!)

    More important IMO is to overhaul our understanding of this formulation to make it more relevant and accessible.

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  13. David Meir said:
    Whether we pronounce it perfectly or blurt out a "tamechlom", we're still hiding behind the Hebrew in order to make it sound more palatable, less "Christian." (no offense to Christians!)

    What exactly do you mean? Hiding, why? If anything I would say that for non-Hebrew-speakers, it facilitates the tendency for rote and unthinking davening, once you learn how to say the words. I started out life in the Episcopal church, and I certainly found singing "Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of our fathers" (aka Benedictus Es, Domine) pleasantly in Anglican chant to be much more near to me than reciting Hebrew at length.

    Ploni said:
    How many of us avoid eating bread just because of the tircha of the long nusach?

    Agree.

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  14. >It says there an am haaretz - that certainly is not the way people are supposed to daven and make brochos.

    Indeed. Before Rabbi Slifkin updated his post it specified what sort of person, God bless them, he is talking about and I am not at all certain that the text I quoted doesn't apply to them, at least in spirit (no offense intended).

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  15. Dear Friends,

    Why does everything have to be "a problem with the frum community", "a symptom of the larger problem" etc.

    Are there issues that must be addressed? Certainly. But it seems like some people will jump on any issue and use it to attack the chareidi community (e.g. car safety, mispronunciation).

    The mishna says hevi dan es kol adam likaf zechut.

    Must we always be attacking?

    Ketivah vachatimah tovah to us all.

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  16. "you already knew the focus in the 'religious' world was skewed way before this."

    "The problem is most glaring in some of the Haredi community where many pride themselves on their "frumkeit" but never really think of addressing Hashem"

    Why the gratuitous swipes against the charedi world, when the problem at hand (mispronouncing brachos and t'filos) is unfortunately not limited to any one sector? Honestly, this is very unbecoming.

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  17. I agree with Tuli. This particular problem, of not saying Hashem's name in a berachah, is something that I have seen on numerous occasions in MO communities but almost never in Charedi communities.

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  18. It seems to me that slurring and misreading words is widespread. It's one thing to carry on a conversation that way - as long as the listener understands your meaning, it's another to make such a pseudo beracha for the public. Unfortunately, chinuch nowdays tends to de-emphasize correct reading and pronounciation in favor of simply showing an understanding of the verse or text.

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  19. There's a joke in our house: first there was seudah shelishit, then there was shaloshudis. So, i decided to take it one step further and call it: shludis.

    Seriously now, besides the problem of rushing through the words and lack of kawanah, I have noticed that many Ashkenazim, especially English speaking Askenazim, just don't know how to pronounce Hebrew. I've been listening to a serious of shiurim from a learned man who has given daf yomi shiurim, and I cringe at how he manages to mangles up Hebrew. And this is one of many examples I've been privy to. Matechoth became mathches, matara became mitra, a qen became a kan (confusing the word with the semichuth form qan-sipor), qodashim became Kodshim, karethoth became kreisos (dropping the shwa na at the beginning of the word); the list goes on and on. And don't get me started on Aramaic!

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  20. One suggestion for improving kawannah-slow down the pace with which you say the beracha.

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  21. The gemara in Bube Mayseh 1c identifies Tamechlon as an ancient Accadian (sic) god who played poker on a regular basis with some other guy named Meretz Hashem and his wife, Shakoyach.

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  22. "I have noticed that many Ashkenazim, especially English speaking Askenazim, just don't know how to pronounce Hebrew. I've been listening to a serious of shiurim from a learned man who has given daf yomi shiurim, and I cringe at how he manages to mangles up Hebrew."

    I have noticed that some English speaking critics of those who speak Hebrew just don't know how to write English ("a serious of shiurim" "manages to mangles up Hebrew").

    :)

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  23. @yitznewton

    First off, I apologize if what I said caused any offense. I merely meant that saying prayers in English can feel like a different religion for one who normally says them in Hebrew. (For that matter, a Reform service can also feel like a different religion to an Orthodox Jew, and vice-versa.)

    You're certainly right that saying the tefila in English and connecting with what you're saying can be much more meaningful than saying it by rote in Hebrew. However, there are many people out there who do NOT connect with the English meanings, and the Hebrew acts as a "buffer" against this cognitive dissonance.

    I don't know if Christianity has the idea of being "yotzei", but that's what a great many Jews are trying to do when they say brachot - i.e. cover their obligation. It's simply an act which identifies them as religious Jews, members of the frum community. You might not call it "praying" per se, but it has its place.

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  24. Amongst all the stomach wrenching horrifying things in ‘our’ community, this doesn’t register with me much more than an amusing observation. Perhaps it isn’t ‘halachically correct,’ but to me, if someone has the right intent in what he is saying then Tamechlom by any other name will understand. In addition, if he feels the words without properly saying them, he will be moved by his own bracha and the realization of what he is saying, and will have hakarah of the brachos in his life. Actually it bothers me more when people ridiculously enunciate each and every syllable in their kiddush, losing the flow of what they are saying amongst the linguistics, as if Melech Haolam kavyachol has a hearing problem. Throughout school teachers reminded us to be careful with the words of shema, and to pause between the words bechol and levavecha. I never did, and doubt thought that those who did had any more heartfelt motives.

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  25. think i was too hasty. rethoughthis asoon as i hit send. by definition tamechloming can't be done with much feeling or thought.

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  26. Well technically, according to Mishneh Torah, no one who uses Ashkenazi pronunciation should be allowed to lead davening since they don't pronounce the Chet or Ayin correctly. I don't think Rambam mentioned anything about Tav only because he probably couldn't image anyone pronouncing it as a Samech.

    Seriously though, shorter nusachim would help. IIRC, only from Barachu until the end of Tachanun is actually Rabinically required via the Talmud ( according to M.T. ) and for allot of people that's more than enough. The average person just can't add all the prayers before and after and finish davening in a reasonable amount of time without speed reading / slurring it together.

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  27. Like others have said long birchat hamazon causes people to try to avoid eating bread and to often use Mazonot rolls which are probably questionable. What seems to have happened is that over the years different Rabbonim have kept adding and adding to our nusach and this is the end result a very long davenning with Kavannah or a quick one without and with words half swallowed Take your pick! Who is going to revise or refresh our nusach?

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  28. David Meir said:

    First off, I apologize if what I said caused any offense.

    Absolutely none taken :) just confused.

    However, there are many people out there who do NOT connect with the English meanings, and the Hebrew acts as a "buffer" against this cognitive dissonance.

    I think I understand now: praying in English has uncomfortable "foreign associations" for folks, and Hebrew washes that away. I would ask (honestly), where do they get those associations from? But more fundamentally, why would you point to this as a reason for using Hebrew - surely the reason is simply that Orthodoxy has traditionally prayed in Hebrew and only Hebrew (AFAIK)! Perhaps this would be a reason not to explore using the vernacular in prayer.

    I don't know if Christianity has the idea of being "yotzei"

    Not in any formal sense, at least in my experience.

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  29. Exactly what are the main points of saying a beracha? It appears to me to be an expression of appreciation.

    Since we all admit that nobody can conceptualize what is represented by the words "HaShem" or "Melech Ha'Olam" the words in question seem [to me] to be relatively unimportant. The best we can do is say the wording and be aware that we have no idea of what we're talking about. Certainly, muffing those words is inconsequential in terms of any understandable meaning involved.

    Thank the fellow for taking the time involved and for making a public declaration of his appreciation.

    Gary Goldwater

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  30. I heard someone a few days ago daven with a clear Modern Israeli style American pronunciation, except for sheim Hashem, which he pronounced specifically as "Ah-Dee-Noy".

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  31. "Anonymous said...

    The solution is "simpler" than many realize: Yemenite Hebrew pronunciation."

    Why is that the solution? What aspect of the Yemenite pronunciation addresses this particular issue? Won't they just say it with the same abbreviations "tamechlom" but the letters of "tamechlom" will be pronounced differently? How does that help? Not sure what you meant by that comment.

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  32. Since we all admit that nobody can conceptualize what is represented by the words "HaShem" or "Melech Ha'Olam" the words in question seem [to me] to be relatively unimportant.


    Sorry, but this is an argument against the whole halachic system with all its details of how to do mitzvot. All mystical approaches aside, from a purely 'rationalistic' perspective, saying specific words correctly is supposed to be our main way of conceptualizing whatever we are capable of.

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  33. The Talmud does emphasize the importance of proper pronunciation. This is in line with Judaism being a religion of action not just belief. Having merely the right kawannah without the proper pronunciation is not enough. Regarding Yemenite pronunciation-for the majority of letters-they have preserved the proper pronunciation which is why Rav David Bar-Hayim advocates a pronunciation which is very similar to theirs.

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  34. But you claimed that Yemenite pronunciation actually solves the problem in my post. It doesn't.

    Look, it may have advantages, as Rav Bar-Hayyim's approach in general may have advantages. But please don't try to insert it at every instance!

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  35. My anonymous comment of "August 30, 2010 3:56 PM" (The solution is "simpler" than many realize...) is the only comment by me on this page (in addition to this one). All other anonymous comments on this page are from different author(s). I have not authored any comments regarding Rav Bar-Hayyim (nor am I sufficiently familiar with him).

    This being said, in the unlikely event that a plethora of adults would learn yementite pronunciation (in addition to sending their kids to a yemenite teacher to learn, which is rare), why would this not solve the problem? Did you mean that it would not solve the problem of the incorrect pronounciation of those who do not have yemenite pronounciation?

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  36. As mentioned at the side of the blog, please use a name, preferably a real one, not "anonymous."

    Learning Yemenite pronunciation only solves problems of pronunciation that follows incorrect practice. It does not solve the problem of people who don't bother pronouncing the word in the first place.

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  37. >>I don't think Rambam mentioned anything about Tav only because he probably couldn't image anyone pronouncing it as a Samech.

    Arguably it's more correct than pronouncing tav with and without a dagesh the same, but certainly not less correct.

    Considering that the evidence we have of how the Spanish Jews pronounced the ayin - ng - isn't so hot either, I don't think this critique is so warranted.

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  38. A story with the Bardichiver (from memory, I hope I got it basically right) has him approach a young man he was observing, and mumble to him some words mashed together. The man didn't understand. Whereupon he chided him, "why do you speak to Hashem that way?"

    The man responded, "when my young child speaks to me in his garbled language, I understand what he wants. Hashem understands me too." The Bardichiver was astounded and remarked, "you are right and thanks for setting me straight."

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  39. Wondering. When it was that Jews began thinking of Hashem as Melech Ha’olam? In what ways is Hashem a king? Do I have to think of Hashem as a melech in order to be a ma’amin? Could it possibly not be better not to concretize Gd with this human image, along with all its connotations?
    Hashem says. ‘Anochi Hashem…Loh yihye lecha Elokim acherim al panai.’ Could conceptualizing Hashem as a king be somehow in the vein of elokim acherim?
    Hashem says, that there will come a time when you will want a melech..”kechol hagoyim.” Did we begin thinking of Hashem as a king at the same time as the goyim did? (hmm, probably not)
    Who decided that I really have to enunciate every word in saying a bracha? Why isn’t it ok just to have the general feeling? As I’m writing becoming curious about the process by which saying brachos began. How did they get it to take off? Ok, enufor now. I’d better take off myself. Any respsonses welcome.

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  40. seeker, your idea that only the intent matters is not the halachic approach - particularly if one is supposed to make a bracha or kiddush for others. There is no way that such obliteration of the divine name and title makes it a valid beracha. According to you just thinking about the subject should suffice.

    By the way, it's incorrect, if not inadvertant blasphemy to write "Elokim acheirim" - as if we need to acknowledge and show respect to other deities by capitalizing them and modifying their pronounciation. It is, "elohim acheirim". You may have been misled by some Chabadniks who speak that way, thinking that the torah is refering to angelic beings who still require respect.

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  41. "When it was that Jews began thinking of Hashem as Melech Ha’olam?"

    See here, from Malchuyot in Shmoneh Esrei on Rosh Hashanah, and the pesukim which are cited.

    that is:
    כַּכָּתוּב בְּתוֹרָתֶךָ, יְיָ יִמְלךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד:
    וְנֶאֱמַר, לא הִבִּיט אָוֶן בְּיַעֲקֹב וְלא רָאָה עָמָל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, יְיָ אֱלֹהָיו עִמּוֹ וּתְרוּעַת מֶלֶךְ בּוֹ:
    וְנֶאֱמַר, וַיְהִי בִישֻׁרוּן מֶלֶךְ, בְּהִתְאַסֵּף רָאשֵׁי עָם, יַחַד שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:
    וּבְדִבְרֵי קָדְשְׁךָ כָּתוּב לֵאמר, כִּי לַיְיָ הַמְּלוּכָה, וּמֹשֵׁל בַּגּוֹיִם:
    וְנֶאֱמַר, יְיָ מָלָךְ גֵּאוּת לָבֵשׁ, לָבֵשׁ יְיָ עֹז הִתְאַזָּר, אַף תִּכּוֹן תֵּבֵל בַּל תִּמּוֹט:
    וְנֶאֱמַר, שְׂאוּ שְׁעָרִים רָאשֵׁיכֶם וְהִנָּשְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם, וְיָבוֹא מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד: מִי זֶה מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד, יְיָ עִזּוּז וְגִבּוֹר, יְיָ גִּבּוֹר מִלְחָמָה: שְׂאוּ שְׁעָרִים רָאשֵׁיכֶם וּשְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם, וְיָבֹא מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד: מִי הוּא זֶה מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד, יְיָ צְבָאוֹת, הוּא מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד סֶלָה:
    וְעַל יְדֵי עֲבָדֶיךָ הַנְּבִיאִים כָּתוּב לֵאמֹר, כֹּה אָמַר יְיָ מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגֹאֲלוֹ יְיָ צְבָאוֹת, אֲנִי רִאשׁוֹן וַאֲנִי אַחֲרוֹן וּמִבַּלְעָדַי אֵין אֱלֹהִים:
    וְנֶאֱמַר, וְעָלוּ מוֹשִׁיעִים בְּהַר צִיּוֹן לִשְׁפֹּט אֶת הַר עֵשָׂו, וְהָיְתָה לַיְיָ הַמְּלוּכָה:
    וְנֶאֱמַר, וְהָיָה יְיָ לְמֶלֶךְ עַל כָּל הָאָרֶץ, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יִהְיֶה יְיָ אֶחָד וּשְׁמוֹ אֶחָד:
    וּבְתוֹרָתְךָ כָּתוּב לֵאמֹר, שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְיָ אֶחָד:

    kt,
    josh

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  42. Dear Seeker,
    In my opinion, the questioning state you have is the only "religious" answer. If you find answers [about spiritual matters], just consider them a stopping point between questions. That's the answer. Or, is it the question?

    When answers [about spiritual/metaphysical matters] satisfy me, I know I've surrendered my curiosity to either the "pack leader" or to my own voracious ego. In either case, it's time for me to get off my duff and get curiouser.

    Gary Goldwater



    Gary Goldwater

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  43. Thanks all!
    YA:
    ~According to me, nothing...yet. Twas just my musing along.
    ~Yes, it was inadvertent, though hopefully notoo blasphemous. I meanto say “Him”.
    Josh:
    ~That was actually very helpful, (and timely.) I shoulda thought of that.
    Gary:
    :):)

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