June 11th, 2012
There is a well-known question on one of the key paragraphs of our prayer service. The first paragraph of the amidah was written as follows:
Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d and the G-d of our acnestors. The G-d of Avraham, and the G-d of Yitzhak, and the G-d of Y’akov.
So the question is, why does it say G-d of… and G-d of… and G-d of…? Why not say, “The G-d of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’akov“? And the answer given is that Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’akov each had a unique relationship with G-d. So the experience of the G-d of Avraham is quite dissimilar to the experience of the G-d of Yitzhak, or of Ya’akov.
Following this logic, then, there is a serious flaw in the addition of the Imahot-mother to the recitation of the Amidah. The text usually reads as follows:
Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d and the G-d of our Fathers and Mothers, the G-d of Avraham and Sarah, the G-d of Yitzhak and Rivkah, and the G-d of Ya’akov and Rachel and Leah.
The flaw is clear: this prayer assumes that Sarah and Avraham had the same experience of G-d. We know that not to be true, even from a simple reading of the text. And Rachel and Leah—how could two experiences of G-d be more different that those of Rachel and Leah. We are careful not to conflate the G-d-experiences of the Avot, but we shouldn’t be so with the Imahot?
I am not saying one should say the Imahot. But if one chooses to do so, and I fully understand why someone would, I believe they should do full honor to the experiences of the Imahot as unique lights, working separately from but together with their male counterparts.