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prayer in English


Rabbi David Sperling

Iyyar 4, 5777
Kavod harav, Thank you for your response. Regarding Artscroll - In many Artscroll siddurim, there is a note at the beginning of the siddur that if one is davening in English, he should say G-d or L-rd or Hashem’s name in Hebrew. If one is just practicing the prayers, he should say the word Hashem. [This note does not appear in all Artscroll siddurim, but it does appear in many of them, although it is probably easy to accidentally pass over this page without realizing it.] However, in the most recent version of the Artscroll siddur, they wrote that one who said L-rd has not fulfilled his obligation. When I contacted them and asked why they changed their mind, they advised me that they discovered that according to some opinions, L-rd is not an acceptable translation. They did not tell me which "opinions" (plural) hold this way, but it appears to me that they were referring to the opinion of the great Gaon and Tzaddik Rav Shternbuch, may he live and be well, as it says in "Teshuvot V’Hanhagot" by R’ M. Sternbuch, I/ 128, who indeed seems to hold this way. However, to the best of my knowledge, he is the only one who holds this way. I am acquainted with people (deeply sincere baalei teshuva) who daven and make many of their daily benedictions in English, due to the fact that (as of yet) they have not learned to daven fluently in Hebrew, and they say L-rd and G-d. To learn of Rav Shternbuch’s ruling was very upsetting, but I am glad to hear that their prayers were nevertheless acceptable.
Shalom, Thank you for your learned comments. There are others who are doubtful as to saying blessings in English – see for example the Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Haim, 62, 4. He says that when translating the name Hashem it needs to include the “was, is and will be” meaning indicated by the letters of Yud Hay Vav Hay. He writes of many other translation doubt he has. None the less I believe that the simple reading of the Shulchan Aruch (see 101, 4) indicates that one can pray in other languages. Even though, as I wrote, one should certainly make every effort to learn how to pray and say blessings in Hebrew – or at least use Hebrew for the G-dly names – in cases where this is not possible, one fulfills their obligation in any language they understand. Blessings.
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