In Nussah sfard the text is

אַתָּה חוֹנַנְתָּנוּ ה' אֱלֹקינוּ לְמַדַּע תּוֹרָתֶךָ. וַתְּלַמְּדֵנוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּהֶם חֻקֵּי רְצוֹנֶךָ

in Nussach Ashkenaz:

אַתָּה חוֹנַנְתָּנוּ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ לְמַדַּע תּוֹרָתֶךָ. וַתְּלַמְּדֵנוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת חֻקֵּי רְצוֹנֶךָ

They differ by one word "בהם"

"taught us how to do (apply) laws" Without this word the sense is obvious. But with "בהם" I don't understand. Can anyone explain?

  • לעשות בהם is actually the Jeckisch nusach, see upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/… . I don't know why, that's the origin of the nusach. – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 15 '16 at 15:47
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt What is the pshat of this nussach? – kouty Mar 15 '16 at 15:48
  • 1
    @Noach Not just Jeckisch. All Ashkenazi-based Nuschaot had that word until a printer named Reb Shlomo Zalman Henau deleted it from his Siddur in 1724 because he thought (without any manuscript support) that it was a mistake. Why that change became so popular is not clear to me. If anyone today wrote a book identifying ~500 words to change in the Siddur based on reasoning alone (no manuscript evidence), they would be laughed out of town and condemned as reformers. – Double AA Mar 15 '16 at 15:57

I have seen some that explain that "בהם" relates to "מדע תורתך", even though "מדע" is singular, it is treated as plural (all the details of "ידיעות תורתך").

I have also seen an explanation that "בהם" is connected to the former "דעת" and "בינה" that are mentioned in the beginning of this beracha.

Unfortunately, I do not remember the sources for the above two opinions. However, the opinion stated in the Avodat Yisrael siddur is that it is simply a mistake (as mentioned in DoubleAA's comment as appears in Sha'arei Tefillah). Notice that the Avodat Yisrael says that the Bach tried to explain why "בהם" is said, but aside for the fact that he mentions saying "בהם", I couldn't see a specific explanation for the use of this word.

  • I think we can do better than dismissing all of Nusach Ashkenaz as having a mistake. Sha'arei Tefillah and R SZ Henau was a highly controversial work, with greats like R Yaakov Emden and the Gra being highly critical of its comfort changing the traditional Nusach willy-nilly based on his own personal opinions. True many of his changes caught on, but that's due to the printing press, not rabbinic approval. – Double AA Mar 15 '16 at 16:09
  • @DoubleAA I'm pretty sure I've seen Ashkenazi versions without "בהם". Also, he does mention an ancient proof, which doesn't seem to me willy-nilly at all - see wording in Berachot 33b. – Cauthon Mar 15 '16 at 16:16
  • All the "Ashkenazi" versions you've seen without it are just copying from RSZH's changed-Siddur. No Ashkenazi Siddur before 1724 would have it TTBOMK. – Double AA Mar 15 '16 at 16:17
  • Note that wording is only found in printed editions of Berachot 33b. The manuscripts all end the quote after only a couple words. So it's not such an ancient proof at all, given that the Bakh clearly did have the word בהם. (it does appear to predate RSZH, i'll give you that, though he doesn't cite it) – Double AA Mar 15 '16 at 16:27
  • @DoubleAA Good point. Also notice that in the "ותודיענו" verse, the subject is "משפטי צדקך", which of course suits "בהם", and this may be a carryover. – Cauthon Mar 15 '16 at 16:44

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