Orthodox Jewish prayer(s)


A couple of things I’d like to get clarification on from Jews, if there are any here, and particularly this is directed for observant Orthodox Jews, and particularly the males.

See the links below:



This is something that has always bothered me about Jews, again it mainly applies to the practicing observant Orthodox males. How can you explain or rationalize morning prayers like this ?? I mean, trust me , I have nothing against the Jewish people as a whole. Or the modern state of Israel and its right to exist. I think it has every right to exist. I know they’ve gone through alot with their Arab neighbors over there, and both sides have a lot of valid grievances, and that’s something they will have to work out amongst each other hopefully in the future, and hopefully both sides will get to finally see some peace in our lifetimes. But, when a certain group within a group of people prays like this, it kind of , to me, shows a real level of arrogance to be honest. How would they like it if we woke up every morning and washed our hands and said , Thank you God, for not making me a woman , or a Jew. I mean, come on, right ?? Any thoughts on this ??


A question up front?

Are you grateful you are a catholic? Do you thank God you have the opportunity being part of the real church?

Yes, that’s what it is about.
The blessing is a gratitude to be part of the chosen people, and particularly for male, being obliged to do God’s commandments, from which women are partially excempt, which non Jews don’t have to do at all.

They thank God every morning that we worship the true God. Every religion does that. I don’t see what’s wrong with this in particular.

the blessing exists in different forms - one is thanks that you didn’t make me a worshipper of stars (idolators) - perhaps less offensive but this depends on view.



Teresa, sure I’m happy to have been born into a nice Roman Catholic Italian family, I’m happy with who / what I am, but I don’t say a prayer in the morning that says, "Thank you God, for not making me a woman, or a non-Catholic, or a non-Italian ", etc. How do you think non-Catholics or non-Italians would think of that kind of thing if I did ? And they’d be right to call it very arrogant , in my opinion, if I / we were praying that way.

I know what you’re saying, but at the same time can’t you see what I’m saying at all? The negativity * that is so deep and inherent in that type of a “prayer” ? Again, imagine what Jews would say, if we said every morning, what amounts to, “Thank God I’m not a Jew”. I could see a Jew praying thanks that he was made a Jew, made a member of the (so called) “chosen people”. But it’s the other side of that idea, or that prayer, the way the Orthodox actually say * it in the prayer, that makes it sound offensive to me. I mean come on. If it were Muslims and we found out part of what they were saying in Arabic every morning was , "Thank you Allah, for not making me a woman, or a Jew, or a Christian or non-Muslim ", we would be all over that kind of thing.

There’s definitely an arrogance, along with a (typically culturally “Semitic” in my opinion) deep-seated sense of male superiority over all things female within a prayer like that. You can’t see that as a female? There are Reform Jewish women who definitely take issue, big time, with that prayer. Look at how the Orthodox Jews (and the Muslims; again, both are the Semitic peoples) treat their women. The women can’t be touched, unless they’re close relatives , under the “negiah” laws. Their time of menstruation makes men who touch them at all, even a handshake, “ritually unclean”. They must always cover their hair and not bare any skin except face and hands. They must not touch or approach the bimah, where the Torah is kept. They must sit behind a mechitzah in temple or even in social settings like dinners, parties , etc, which is a separater to keep the men from the women. Their marriages are oftentimes arranged, without the girl’s feelings taken into consideration at all, at least among the Hasidim. Then in the morning the men , among the Orthodox Jews (not the Muslims, that I know of ) , actually pray, what amounts to, “Thank You God, that I’m not a woman, and also not a Gentile”. Come on. Something about that kind of a prayer is just not very… prayer-like. Just my opinion.


now we touch a lot of issues which are highly misunderstood.

tumah 's translation us “unclean” goes totally against the point. The Bible knows physical tumah - has nothing to do with being clean or not - lots of ways to get tumah - death, menstruation, birth, semen, …, and you have to clean yourself in a mikveh with/without animal sacrifices. It is not a concept against women, it applies to all priests, men, everybody.

Not touching is not related to tumah - as you are not allowed to touch a pregnant woman either (you are assumed to be “clean” during pregnancy). It has to do with modesty.

And if I look at the history of the sex abuse scandal in the US, I must say these laws make sense, don’t be in a room along with someone who is not your relative - abuse can happen. Always have at lest 2 or more people around you. You can hide a lot of sexual things behind a handshake. you may laugh but I experience how men misuse these little things to get close if you understand what I mean.

Honestly I like sitting separated from men nobody to disturb you during praying. I like my balcony - the best view of all. That was never an issue. I don’t know about your background, but older catholics tell me, in old days, women down, men on balcony - no mixed seating either.

these are blessings - and orthodox Jews honor tradiiton, nobody will ever delete these verses out of an orthodox prayer book but the teaching about them will change. You ask from an orthodox perspective, then you compare reform etc, that’s inconsistent. If you want an orthodox answer, you cannot compare if with reform wich changes everything if it comes “pleasant”.

These are blessings - there are lot of them in the morning, and I doubt most Jews pay much attention to them, you are through them in 2min. I would not consider them as a prayer in the more deeper sense like psalms and the amidah, shma.

The rabbi’s instituted them - and why in the negative there is discussion about this, some old prayer books have the blessing, thanks for not making me an animal. It’s a form of gratitude.

And to compare religions: Islam sends all non-muslims to tell and till 40 years ago, the catholics did the same to non-catholics. Every religion considers itself to be the best and most enlightened. And you cannot compare it - Judaism is one of the view religions which doesn’t encourage conversion or considers it necessary - the righteous non-Jew has a nice place in the coming world.
Not every Christian Group teaches that about non-Christians, etc. Mohammed might consider Jews/Christians Bible of the Book but nowadays it looks they are not much better than idol worshipers.

Today I see a lot of sense in a lot of the “feminine” issues, separated seating - fun - no guys starring at you, no touching, no tricks possible. It has something to do with dignity. That’s how I feel.

If one isn’t used to them, they might look like “restrictions” if you live them, you would see, they are only for the best.

Doesn’t mean, men don’t misuse them.
But all traditions restrict women’s role in public and the catholic church has their own feminine issues which the pope closed but which is still going on - women’s role in church, priesthood, role as mother etc…

I could say, thanks God I am not a man - it’s not about thinking man are bad, it is about being grateful in the position God put you in.

But if you have already your “reform” answers, why ask after an orthodox position?



looks like you mix up with Islam.

Only Hands and Faces is an islamic doctrine not a jewish one.
knee/elbows have to be covered, you can show lower arms and legs.

I cover my hair all the time - for it’s a sign of dignity and privacy -
till 100 years ago every christian woman did the same.

Men react to hair, again I have my own experience with it. It is one of the things most people have problems with and it is the least thing to bother with.

I met a lot of orthodox young couples, they didn’t look like they were matched up without consent - my husband spent lots of time in the chassidic world, that’s not the impression he got, parents are very careful in which hands they place their kids - and it would be counterproductive to force them, just to get a divorce later on.

Separation makes sense - I was once on a party where a co-worker came up, danced kiss with married man (not her own) and telling oh its just friendship. Sorry, something’s wrong here. There should be boundaries of dignity. A married man/woman is nothing to fool around with - separation makes sense, how strict depends on the group.

And if you compare right wing groups, you have to compare them with right wing groups, don’t assume them valid for all people in the group.

chassidim are a minority and if you didn’t grow up in there, it is highly unlikely you will end up marrying into it.



Hi all!


Orthodox Judaism does not, in any way, denigrate or disparage the role of women. A common (and very condescending :mad: ) liberal fallacy is that because a traditional faith like orthodox Judaism believes that men & women are different and have different roles, that we necessarily believe that women are inferior; people confuse uniformity with equality & mistake the absence of the former for a lack of the latter. This is nonsense. (Neither does orthodox Judaism deny/disparage a married woman’s sexuality; indeed, it is our view that satisfactory sexual relations are the wife’s right & the husband’s duty to meet that right & not the other way ‘round.)

jewfaq.org/women.htm is a good, basic, introductory read. The 16 articles (all by the same orthodox Jewish woman) at beingjewish.com/kresel/ go into various women’s issues in more detail (including the blessings, separate seating in synagogue, the “negiah”/menstruation laws, etc.

The only woman I will touch with anything other than a kiss or hug of greeting other than my Mom (in the USA), my mother-in-law (in South Afruca) or a few close relatives is my wife. I do not touch other women, not even to shake hands. This is out of modesty and of respect for them; this in no way denigrates them. None of our Jewish friends seem to mind. The Arab Christian woman & the secular Jewish women at my office all understand. It really is no big deal.

About menstruation (a menstruating woman is not considered dirty; “unclean” is a very poor mistranslation of the Hebrew word tameh) & Jewish sexuality, see forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=343310&highlight=mikveh#post343310.

Men & women sit separately in synagogue because we believe that in a synagogue we should kkep our minds & hearts on our prayers, with a minimum of distractions. As much as I love, and am physically attracted to my wife, the synagogue is not the place for me to contemplate her attractiveness. Like the non-touching, this has absolutely nothing to do with women being inferior.


  1. Genesis 2:24 says

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.

Our Sages note that it is the man who seeks out the woman and not vice-versa, and teach that it is the spiritually weaker man who is driven by an inner need to seek out the spiritually stronger woman. Our Sages comment on God’s pronouncement in Genesis 2:18

‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help-meet for him.’

Our Sages teach that it is the spiritually weaker man who needs the assistance of the spiritually stronger woman.

  1. Look at Genesis 21:10-13. Sarah tells Abraham to get rid of Hagar & Ishmael. Abraham is very distressed by Sarah’s request & doesn’t want to. Yet God tells Abraham to listen to his wife! (See, I figure if someone like Abraham, who was on a spiritual level that such as we can barely even imagine, had to be told by God to listen to his wife, how much moreso do I have to listen to my wife! :slight_smile: )



[quote=teresa613]And if I look at the history of the sex abuse scandal in the US, I must say these laws make sense, don’t be in a room along with someone who is not your relative - abuse can happen. Always have at lest 2 or more people around you.

You do know that the majority of sexual abuse actually happens within the family? By fathers and brothers, uncles and cousins - those men who normally WOULD have unrestricted or unchaperoned access to their womenfolk. Not saying this to scare you, but why the fear of strangers if most risk comes from within your own family?



  1. Look at Genesis 31:3-13. Even though God gives Jacob a peremptory order to return to the Land of Israel, Jacob still goes & consults his wives & secures their agreement before setting out. In Genesis 31:1-2, Jacob “puts” Rachel “in her place.” Our Sages strongly criticize Jacob’s angry rebuke and say that God told Jacob, “This is how you speak to a troubled and distraught soul??!!” (Contrast Jacob’s angry rebuke with Elkanah’s attempts to soothe & calm Hannah, in I Samuel 1:5 & 1:8!)

There’s a Hasidic song about marriage that, roughly translated, goes like this:

Don’t walk in front of me, I will not follow.
Don’t walk behind me, I will not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend
and together we will walk in the paths of the Lord.

DW & I try to build our marriage according to this song. Marriage is, and must be, a relationship between two equal partners.

About the blessing, “…who has not made me a non-Jew.” I think that the explanation in the link you cited

One explanation of the meaning of these blessings is that a gentile is exempt from all of God’s commandments except the seven Noahide laws, a slave is also exempt from a significant number of commandments, and a woman does not have to keep all positive, time-bound commandments. Therefore, one is thanking God for the obligation to keep the greatest number of commandments.

stands on its own. We do not see these blessings as rejoicing in our supposed superiority over women or non-Jews (see ou.org/torah/tefillah/5761/051101.htm, ohr.edu/ask_db/ask_main.php/68/Q1/ & forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=773740&highlight=chosen#post773740) since we do not believe that God has conferred upon us any such superiority! Don’t take offense where one is most definitely not intended!

Judaism most definitely does NOT believe that it’s “our way or the highway to hell” (i.e. We don’t believe that all non-Jews will go to hell). Our Sages say that, “The righteous of all nations have a share in the world-to-come.” We believe that whereas there are 613 precepts/commandments in the Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy; our most basic scripture) that are incumbent/binding on Jews, there are only 7 that are binding on non-Jews. Using the traditional methods of Jewish Biblical exegesis, our Sages infer these 7 precepts from Genesis 9:1-17 & believe that God gave them to Noah & his sons. Since Noah & sons were not Jewish, we refer to these 7 precepts as the 7 Noahide Precepts. The 7 are: 1) To establish courts of justice; 2) No blasphemy; 3) No idolatry; 4) No incest/adultery; 5) Do not shed blood; 6) Do not steal & 7) Do not cut meat from a living animal. (“Bnai Noach” means “Children of Noah” in Hebrew and refers to those non-Jews who abide by the 7 precepts. See noach.com/links.html for some interesting links.)

Since Judaism does not consign all Jews to hell & since we believe that non-Jews can/do have a personal relationship with God, it follows that there is no need to “carry the Torah to them” as it were, i.e. missionize (although we do, of course, accept converts)

So some orthodox Jews have arranged marriages? Lots of cultures around the world still have them. 1) It is a principle of Jewish law that no Jewish woman (or man for that matter) can be compelled (by a parent or anyone else) to marry against her wish. 2) Did you know that the divorce rate among orthodox Jews is far lower than many other groups? Again, this in no way denigrates or disparages women!

Other than all this, I agree with Teresa613/Shira!

Be well!

ssv :wave:


Thank you for your detailed answers. I respect your ancient and deeply - held traditions. That they differ from the secular Western culture which we live in does not make them “bad” necessarily, no. Just different. May come off as quite foreign to many non-religous Westerners, non-religious Jews included I bet. As I said before, I’m sure there are lot of non-religious, or maybe Reform, Jewish feminists who take issue with Orthodox for these kinds of things. But that’s kind of an internal Jewish difference of opinions, not really the business of outsiders I suppose. How about the part of the prayer though about the Gentiles? And why do they say the word “goy” or “goyim” ? Does this mean something negative ? Doesn’t that make us feel kind of undercut a bit when we hear “Thank God for not making me a Gentile” ? Like we’re that bad, right?? I know the Jews have alot of reasons to dislike or distrust Gentiles due to past persecutions, which were horrendous of course, but I was just surprised to find that in a prayer, when I initially heard of it. At first I thought all Jews say it, and I was thinking, you know, I can’t picture guys like Seinfeld, Woody Allen, Ben Stiller, etc., saying something like that each morning. I thought we get along well with each other and like each other, even if we don’t share the same religious beliefs. But then I found out it’ s only really said in that way by observant Orthodox Jews, and I don’t think those guys are. Maybe I’m wrong to ask it, but I’m just wondering about this. It’s better to get things out into the open instead of keeping them inside and letting them foster into dislike or anger towards some people , some group, all because of what’s a misunderstanding I’m sure.


I am well aware that most abuse cases occur inside the close family - I just wanted to point out that in the light of recent events the laws make lots of sense - if I look back in my family, there’ was never much intimacy shown between close members, and I can only see why this is good.

goyim is just a hebrew term for people, becomes later in history a term for someone who is not jewish. It might be used in a derogatory fashion but isn’t in itself - like so often, the voice makes the music.

You can say: the catholics (and if you are anti-catholic), it becomes derogatory.

Or you can say it positively.

Goy means people.


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