PRAYING THE PRAYERBOOK*

 

 

MAPPING THE SIDDUR

CHART OF THE ORDER OF SERVICE

THE BASICS

WAYS TO RECITE THE SH'MA

WAYS TO RECITE THE AMIDA

WAYS TO RECITE BAR'KHU

WAYS TO RECITE ASHREI

HOW TO BLESS YOUR CHILDREN

HOW TO LIGHT SHABBAT CANDLES AND MAKE KIDDUSH

HOW TO SING A SONG

VIDDUI: CONFESSING ONE'S SINS

PROTEST AS PRAYER

A CONCLUDING STORY

MAPPING THE SIDDUR

Siddur means "order." In the context of prayer, it means the "order of prayer," hence, the "prayerbook." Similarly, seder means "order" and it refers liturgically to the order of prayer, ritual, and study that constitutes the home service for Pesah.

The morning and evening prayers in the traditional Siddur are ordered like an elipse; they have two foci. The first is the Sh'ma. It is composed of verses from the Bible, assembled by the rabbis into a liturgical whole. The Sh'ma begins with Deuteronomy 6: 4-9: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one ... And you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might ..." [1] This is followed by Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15: 37-41. The phrase "the Sh'ma" can refer to the first verse, the whole first paragraph, and/or the three paragraphs taken together.

The second focus of the morning and evening prayers in the traditional Siddur is the Amida. Because it is recited standing, it is called "Amida" from the Hebrew root "to stand." Because it is recited silently, it is sometimes referred to as the "Silent Devotion." Because the daily version of the Amida has about eighteen benedictions, it is sometimes referred as the "Shemoneh Esreh " ("the Eighteen"). [2] The Amida always has the same structure. There are three opening prayers. The first praises God in history, the second praises God in creation (nature), [3] and the third, which has an expanded poetic form when the Amida is repeated out loud, praises God in holiness. [4] The Amida also always has three concluding prayers. The first is for the return of God's presence to the temple in Jerusalem. The second acknowledges God as God, and gives thanks to God for the miracles of life. And the last is for peace. In between the three opening and the three concluding benedictions, the Amida contains prayers that vary according to the occasion. On Shabbat and holidays, there are prayers about Shabbat and the holidays. On the weekdays, there are thirteen petitionary prayers. The whole is followed, on weekdays, by Tahanun (penitential prayers) and, on holidays, by Hallel (the psalms of praise).

With the Sh'ma as one focus and the Amida as the other, the rest of the core liturgy arranges itself around these foci. Thus, there are two prayers before the Sh'ma in both the evening and morning services. Though they differ in their language, these prayers praise God as the God of creation (including heavenly beings) and as the God of revelation (giver of the Torah). After the Sh'ma, there always follows a prayer praising God as the God of redemption, invoking the exodus from Egypt. In the evening service, there follows one, sometimes two, prayers invoking God as protector. Then, comes the Amida. The whole is preceded by the Bar'khu, the call to communal worship. This unit -- Bar'khu, God in creation, God in Torah, Sh'ma (all three paragraphs), God in history, (God as protector, in the evening), the Amida (with its opening, intermediate, and concluding prayers), and Tahanun or Hallel (in the morning) -- is known as nusah ha-tefilla, the core of liturgical prayer. [5]

However, the nusah ha-tefilla as described is not the entire order of service. It, too, is surrounded by additional parts. It is preceded, in the morning service, by a selection of biblical verses and psalms of praise called Pesukei de-Zimra, this entire section being opened and closed by prayers of praise. The Pesukei de-Zimra is, in turn, preceded by other benedictions dealing with waking up in the morning and with study. In the morning, the nusah ha-tefilla is followed by the reading of the Torah on days when that is called for, by the Musaf (the additional service which recalls the sacrfices in the temple on Shabbat and holidays), and by the concluding prayers. This structure can be seen clearly in the accompanying chart.

There is also an afternoon service. It is composed of Psalm 145, with liturgical modifications, [6] and the Amidah with Tahanun. It, too, has a concluding prayer. The morning service ( Shaharit ) and the afternoon service ( Minha ) are substitutes for the daily morning and afternoon sacrifices. In the temple, a sheep was sacrificed each morning as the first offering and another was sacrificed in the late afternoon as the last offering. This daily sacrifice, called the tamid, was seen by some as a type of atonement offering, thus allowing the people and the temple to begin and end each day in purity. [7] The evening service ( Ma´ariv ), although closer to Shaharit in liturgical structure, does not have the same importance. Generally, Minha and Ma´ariv are recited together, both being rather short.

The Siddur also contains much more than the order of the service with all its variants. The interested reader should study the sequence of prayers and the range of its contents. [8] It is also the case that there are very subtle variants in the liturgy according to the occasion. These too can only be appreciated through study. Iyyun tefilla (the study of the prayers) is a mitsva unto itself. [9]

Having grasped something of the order of the service, we must now try to integrate what we have learned in the previous chapter about holiness and kavvana with what we have learned about the nusah ha-tefilla, the liturgy. A few examples may be the best way to learn and will certainly provide a point of departure for your personal spiritual praxis.

CHART OF THE ORDER OF SERVICE

 

Introductory Prayers (morning only)
early morning prayers
Pesukei de-Zimra
blessing, verses and psalms of praise, blessing
Nusah ha-Tefilla
Bar'khu (call to worship)
God in creation (including heavenly beings)
God in revelation
SH'MA
Hear, O Israel ... Thou shalt love (Dt. 6:4-7)
Dt. 11:13-21
Nu. 15:37-41
God in redemption
God the protector (evening service only)
AMIDA
three opening prayers: God in history, creation, holiness
intermediate prayers: one or more on Shabbat and holidays, 13 on weekdays
three closing prayers: God's return to the temple, acknowledgement and thanksgiving, peace
Tahanun (on weekdays) or Hallel (on holidays) (mornings only)
Reading of the Torah (mornings: Mondays and Thursdays, and Shabbat and holidays)
Musaf (recalling of the sacrifices, on Shabbat and holiday mornings)
Concluding Prayers
THE BASICS

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In order to use the liturgy prayerfully, you must, first, pay attention to what is going on in your mind when you recite any text. The next few times you say a prayer, whether in synagogue or on your own, pay attention to what is going through your mind. It may be that you are thinking of something having nothing to do with the text, e.g., of someone, or of some task you need to do. Or, you may be thinking of something indirectly related to the prayer, e.g., of being Jewish, or of the Jewish people. It may also be that you are concentrating on ideas about God, in contrast to being in God's presence. Whatever it is, take the time to get to know yourself in prayer, for you will change as a person in due time.

Second, take a moment before you recite any prayer, to call up the presence of God as follows: Whatever God means to you, call up God's felt Presence. It may be that, for you, God is a Force, a Power, in the universe. If so, place yourself in that Presence. Open your consciousness to the underlying Energy of the universe, to the ultimate Power that moves everything, to the ultimate Being of all that exists. Take a deep breath, and go in to that Presence. Hold that consciousness steady for a few moments. When you have done that, you have been able to call up the presence of God . Then, recite the text you were planning to pray, in the Presence of that Power.

It may be, however, that for you, God is a deeply personal being, a Person. If you relate to God in this way, do not be misled by what you may have been taught about God being an abstract, disembodied force, for you will not be able to relate with any depth to that kind of God. Rather, image God's presence as Person. Do not be distracted by the concreteness of the imagery that may come to your mind, for imagery is one of God's gifts to us and we must use it. If you understand God as person, place yourself in that Presence. Take a deep breath, and image God -- whatever image comes to you. [10] Hold the image steady for a few moments. When you have done that, you have been able to call up the presence of God . Then, recite the text that you were planning to pray, in the Presence of that Person.

In the beginning, there may be no connection between the consciousness / image of God and the text you recite. Keep at it. Just feel the presence of God, whatever that means to you, and then recite whatever prayer you want to say in that Presence. The connections will be made for you.

WAYS TO RECITE THE SH'MA

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When you read [11] the Sh'ma, there are many techniques you can try in order to bring yourself into the presence of God. But you must practice each of them for a while -- long enough to be able to do each one easily, long enough so that something comes to you when you do them. You will know when it is time to move on.

First, you must pay attention to what is going on in your mind when you recite the Sh'ma. The next few times you say it, pay attention to what is going through your mind. What were you thinking? What do you think you ought to be thinking? Take the time to get to know yourself in prayer. Then, try one or more of the following techniques.

*

Take a moment, before you recite the Sh'ma, to call up the presence of God -- whatever God means to you. Hold that consciousness / image steady. When you have done that, recite the Sh'ma.

Recite the Sh'ma five times out loud, focusing on who the "Israel" is. First, recite this prayer and say "Israel" but think your own name and presence, sending the message to yourself. Then, recite this prayer and say "Israel" but think of some particular person -- a friend, family member, or even an enemy -- to whom you would like to address the message of God's oneness. Third, recite it, say "Israel," and send the message to all the Jews -- religious, secular, American, Israeli, Russian, all Jews -- as Moses did on Mt. Sinai. Fourth, know that the Sh'ma was recited by the martyrs of Jewish history. Recite it, say "Israel," and say it for them and on behalf of all those who have died for their faith and their people. If you have relatives who were killed in the shoah, this is the place to say the Sh'ma for them since they cannot do it. Finally, know that the Sh'ma is recited as part of the confession on one's death bed. Think of yourself as ready to die. Then, recite the Sh'ma as if it were your very last act in this life. [12]

**

The real Name of God is YHVH. We do not know how to pronounce it but we do have the letters: yod, hey, vav, hey. When we need to pronounce God's Name, we see the four letters but we say, Adonay. [13] Visualize the letter yod and say "ah." Visualize the letter hey and say "doh." Visualize the letter vav and say "nah." Visualize the letter hey and say "ay." Hold each aural-visual form for a moment before going on to the next. In this way, we "pronounce" the Name of God, in the two forms it is known to us, simultaneously. Having twice unified the visual and auditory saying of God's Name in reciting the Sh'ma, think that it is all one and say, 'ehad ("one"). When you are at ease with this meditation, invoke the presence of God and then do it.

***

Jewish law provides the following advice: [14]

One should read the Sh'ma with kavvana, with fear and awe, with trembling and shaking. "Which I command you this day" -- that is to say, each day the words should be new in your eyes; and [you should] not be as one who has already heard it many times such that it is not special for him or her.

To this, one of the commentators, citing earlier authorities, adds: [15]

Every time one recites the Sh'ma, one should see it as a new royal decree and one should think in one's heart, "If a human king were to send a new royal decree, certainly every citizen would read it with fear and awe, with trembling and shaking. How much more should this be so for the Sh'ma which is the royal decree of the King of the king of kings, the Holy One blessed be God -- that each person is obligated to read it with fear and awe, with trembling and shaking" .... to teach you that you should not recite the Sh'ma rapidly, lickety-split, jumbling the words together; rather, [you should read it] with care, word for word, stopping after each point as one would read the command of the king which is read with great care, each command on its own, in order to understand its content....

The same commentator also teaches: [16]

It seems that this fear and awe must be understood as follows: that, when reading the Sh'ma, one should have the kavvana to accept upon oneself the yoke of the kingdom of God, to be killed for the sanctification of the unique Name of God, for this is the meaning of "with all your soul" -- even if God takes your soul, concerning which Scripture has written, "For Your sake we are killed all day long" (Ps. 44:23). With this kavvana, one will recite the Sh'ma with fear and awe, with trembling and shaking.

These sources, which come from the standard work on Jewish law and which are studied by all students of this material many times during their lives, indicate a level of kavvana not available to one through simple meditation techniques. For these sources indicate that, in praying the Sh'ma, deep matters are at stake. It is not singing along with the congregation, or even saying the Sh'ma meaningfully in a personal way. Rather, the kingdom of God, and martyrdom, are at issue. Call up in yourself the feelings of "fear of God" and "awe." [17] Image the kingship, and kingdom, of God and accept this into your own life. Then, recite the Sh'ma.

****

When you say the word 'ehad ("one"), there are many types of kavvana:

One kavvana is to think, "The God Whom I have just named is one, and there is no other. There is only the one, true God."

Another kavvana is to think, "The God Whom I have just named is the one true King, the only true authority on earth. There is no other authority of equal status. God's Word is one and true, and God's kingdom alone will prevail."

Another kavvana is to think, "The God Whom I have just named is one and simple, the single underlying principle of all being and reality, the Simple out of which comes the complex."

Another kavvana is to think, "The God Whom I have just named is inclusive of everything, multiple in every way, yet that God is unified into a single whole, just as the human personality is multiple and complex but constitutes one whole person."

Jewish law formulates it thus: [18]

It is the custom put put one's (right) hand over one's face when reading the first line of the Sh'ma so that one not look at anything else that might prevent one from proper kavvana.

One should draw out [the vowel "a" of] the letter het in the word 'ehad so that one proclaim the Holy One, blessed be He, King in heaven and on earth. This is what is hinted at in the crowns in the middle of the letter het. One should also draw out the dalet [the letter "d"] of the word 'ehad long enough to think that the Holy One, blessed be He, is unique in His world and rules in the four directions. But one should not draw it out longer than this. There are those who have the custom of moving their heads according to their thoughts: up, down, and to the four directions. [19]

Choose one of these kavvanot and have it in mind when you say 'ehad.

*****

You cannot do all the meditations for the Sh'ma presented here at once. Do one until you are comfortable with it; then, proceed to the next. Eventually, one will seem the "best" to you. Or, you may come upon one of your own. It is also good to change the kavvanot you use once in a while.

WAYS TO RECITE THE AMIDA

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The Amida is composed of a series of prayers recited silently and then repeated publicly, each of which concludes with, "Blessed are You, Lord, Who ...." As noted above, the first three and last three prayers are the same in all Amidot while the inner set of prayers varies according to the occasion, the daily Amida containing personal and national petitions and the Shabbat and holiday Amidot containing a middle section relevant to the occasion.

First, you must ready yourself for prayer. Clear your mind of other matters and, then, do the following: Call up the presence of God. Take three steps forward, respectfully, to enter the presence of God.

*

The first three prayers form a unit. In this section of the Amida, we sense and praise God. The first blessing is in praise of God's power in history. We begin with God's presence among the people, particularly to our ancestors. We do not begin with God in nature. We also do not begin with the action of Jews in their own political and social history. Rather, we begin with God's presence in the life of the Jewish people. Concentrate on sensing God's active presence in the history of the Jews.

The second prayer is in praise of God's power in nature -- in rain, in healing, in life, in interpersonal help, and in the resurrection which is a renewal within creation. Concentrate on sensing God's unlimited presence in all of creation.

The third prayer is in praise of God in the realm of the sacred. [20] Holiness has its origin in God. Our awareness of the sacred as a quality of persons, objects, moments, texts, and places comes from the element of the numinous in them. This holiness is not reducible to beauty, or mind, or goodness. It is a special quality of God present in all things. Concentrate on sensing the awesome holiness of God's presence. [21]

Praise is a prelude to the intimacy. It enables us to feel trust, to have faith, and to ask -- directly, clearly, and sincerely. We move from the praise of the opening prayers to the petition of the intermediate prayers.

**

The intermediate section of the Amida on weekdays deals with petitionary prayer. Prayer which asks for something may seem strange to moderns. It may seem like magic. It may appear childish, and we may feel foolish saying these prayers. That, however, should not be so. The tradition teaches that the high priest, before he could cleanse the sanctuary and atone for the sins of the people, had to confess his own sins. The grace after meals also provides, in the personal prayer toward the middle, that one pray first for oneself, then for one's family, and then for others. Similarly, during the closing prayer of Yom Kippur, one should pray for that which one really needs most for oneself. For some, that need is to find a job or have success at work. For others, it is to find a spouse or companion. For yet others, it is to have children, or the health of a parent or other loved one. Praise alone is not sufficient. It must be an introduction to petition. As the Zohar says:"We have learned that, first, a person should pray for himself or herself and, then, one should pray for others, as it says [Lev. 16: 17, referring to the high priest on Yom Kippur], 'He shall atone for himself' -- first, and then 'and for all the community of Israel' -- afterwords. We have adopted this way, and it is good and is worthy for those who come after us." [22]

Some of these petitionary prayers are personal; some are national. Really, all are both personal and national. Concentrate on having faith that God can answer the request you are about to make. Feel and say, "I believe that God can grant me / us ...." Then, recite the prayer, holding that feeling in mind and intending both the personal and the national meanings.

These are the thirteen petitional prayers in the daily Amida:

The first petitionary prayer is for knowledge. Feel and say, "I believe God grants me / us knowledge." Then recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "You are the One Who graciously gives knowledge to human beings and teaches humanity understanding. Grant us [think: "me / us"], from Your essence, knowledge, understanding, and commonsense. Blessed are You, Lord, Who graciously grants knowledge."

The second petitionary prayer is for the power to repent of one's sins. Feel and say, "I believe God grants me / us the power to repent." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "Return us [think: "me / us"], our Father, to Your Torah and draw us [think: "me / us"] closer, our King, to worship of You. Bring us [think: "me / us"] back, in full repentance, to Your Presence. Blessed are You, Lord, Who desires repentance."

The third petitionary prayer is for forgiveness. There are many types of sin and forgiveness; two are used here. [23] Think of a specific sin for which you ask forgiveness. Think, too, of a specific serious sin for which you ask forbearance. Feel and say, "I believe that God grants me / us the gift of forgiveness." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "Forgive us, our Father, for we [think: "I / we"] have sinned. Forgo our debts, our King, for we have transgressed. For You forgive and forgo. Blessed are You, Lord, Who is gracious and generous with forgiveness."

The fourth petitionary prayer is for redemption from political trouble. Think of specific persons who are in political trouble. [24] Feel and say, "I believe that God grants me / us redemption." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "See, now, our oppression and fight our battle. Redeem us [think: "me / us"] speedily for the sake of Your Name, for You are a mighty Redeemer. Blessed are You, Lord, Who redeems Israel."

The fifth petitionary prayer is for healing from illness. Feel and say, "I believe that God grants me / us healing." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "Heal us, our God, and we will be healed. Save us, and we will be saved, for You are the One we praise. Grant full healing to -- at this point, if you know someone who is ill, mention his or her name and that of his or her mother -- and to all those who are ill, for You are God, King, and faithful and merciful Healer. Blessed are You, Lord, Who heals the sick of His people Israel." [25]

The sixth petitionary prayer is for sustenance, for food, for the means to support ourselves and our families. Feel and say, "I believe that God grants me / us sustenance." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "Make this year a blessed one for us, Lord our God, together with all its types of sustenance. Grant blessing upon [26] -- at this point, think:of yourself, or of someone you know who is without a job -- the land. Make us [think: "me / us"] full with Your goodness and bless this year of ours like the good years. Blessed are You, Lord, Who blesses the years."

Note the sequence here: We ask for knowledge, which teaches us what is wrong, which leads to repentance, which leads to asking for forgiveness. This leads to redemption from political trouble, which leads to healing from illness, which leads to sustenance. Each of these prayers is both personal and national, but our understanding starts with the personal. The emphasis in the next group of petitionary prayers is on the national, though we are aware of the personal dimension because we, too, are members of the people of Israel.

The seventh petitionary prayer is for the ingathering of the Jewish people. Remember that you are in exile. Feel and say, "I believe that God will gather in our people." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "Sound the great shofar for our freedom and raise the banner of the ingathering of our exiled people. Gather us [think: "us / me"] together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are You, Lord, Who gathers the dispersed of His people Israel."

The eighth petitionary prayer is for a just government under which we can live. Too many people live under unjust governments, or are exploited by the political system in which they live. Pray for the leaders of the State of Israel and for the government of the United States of America, especially in times of crisis. Feel and say, "I believe that God grants us / me just government." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "Return our judiciary as it was in the beginning, and our government as it first was. Remove from us sadness and sighing. Rule over us [think: "us / me"], You, Lord, alone, in graciousness and mercy. Give us our fair judgement. Blessed are You, Lord, the King Who loves righteousness and fairness."

The ninth prayer is for the destruction of evil. Do not be bashful. Everyone has enemies. Think of specific personal and national enemies. Pray that their evil designs against us / you be thwarted. Feel and say, "I believe that God grants us / me triumph over evil." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "Let there be no hope for the traitors. Let all evil be wiped out in a moment. Let all Your enemies speedily be cut off. Uproot, smash, grind down, and subdue the evil ones, quickly, in our days. Blessed are You, Lord, Who smashes enemies and subdues the evil ones."

The tenth prayer is for reward for those who work hard for the good. Do not be bashful. Ask for reward for the good work we / you have done. Feel and say, "I believe that God grants us / me reward for doing good." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "May Your mercies, Lord our God, be aroused for the righteous, the pious, the elders of Your people Israel, the remnant of their scholars, and the true converts, and us [think: "us / me"]. Grant proper reward to all who truly trust in Your Name. Cast our lot with them so that we not ever be ashamed, for we have trusted in You. Blessed are You, Lord, Who is a support and security for the righteous."

The eleventh prayer is for the restoration of Jerusalem. It is a prayer for the ultimate redemption. Feel and say, "I believe that God grants us / me the messianic return to the holy city of Jerusalem." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "May You return in mercy to Jerusalem, Your city, and may You dwell in it as you have said You would. Build it, speedily in our days, permanently. Restore to it quickly the throne of David. Blessed are You, Lord, Who rebuilds Jerusalem."

The twelfth prayer is for the restoration of God's reign over the Jewish people in the form of the Davidic king. It, too, is a prayer for the ultimate redemption. Somewhere, there is a descendant of King David; this is a prayer asking that that shoot, wherever it may be, be kept alive and safe. Feel and say, "I believe that God grants us / me the return of the messianic kingdom." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "Cause the branch of David, your servant, to grow speedily. Establish his triumph [27] with Your saving action, for we [think: "we / I"] have hoped for Your saving action all day long. Blessed are You, Lord, Who causes the triumph of salvation to grow." [28]

The thirteenth prayer sums up and closes the petitionary section of the Amida. This petition is for God to hear our prayers, for God to pay attention to any petition you have forgotten or which you feel does not fit into the other petitions. Some of our needs are subconscious. We barely know them and cannot really articulate them. Yet they, too, deserve to be put before God. Put yourself in the presence of God and insert your deepest conscious and subsconscious petitions here. Feel and say, "I believe that God grants me / us even our unarticulated prayers." Then, recite the prayer holding this feeling in your mind: "Hear our voices, Lord our God. Be gracious and merciful to us. Accept our [think: "our / my"] prayers in mercy and goodwill, for You are God Who listens to prayers and petitions. Do not send us [think: "us / me"] away empty from Your Presence, our King, for You hear the prayers of Your people Israel in mercy. Blessed are You, Lord, Who hears prayer."

Petitionary prayer is not the end of prayer. We return from personal and national petition to praise, passing into some of the most basic of religious feelings.

***

The last three prayers form a unit. They, too, are common to all Amidot. The first is for the return of God's real presence in history, for the return of God to the temple in Jerusalem. Pray for God to come back, in a physical sense, to God's people -- as God's presence was physically felt in days of old.

The second prayer has two parts, based on the two meanings of the Hebrew word, modim -- to "acknowledge" and to "thank." The beginning of this prayer is a real confession of faith. It is as close as Jewish liturgy gets to a formal "I believe." The prayer says: "We acknowledge You -- that You are Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors forever and ever. Rock of our lives. Shield of our salvation. You are He Who endures from generation to generation." [29] Think about this. Consider the two metaphors and what they mean. Then, feel and say, "I / We acknowledge ...." The rest of this prayer is thankfulness to God for the many miracles of daily and national life. Count your blessings.

The final prayer is a prayer for peace and for all the blessings that go with peace. Feel and say, "I believe that God is the source of peace and grants us the power to make peace among humans." Then, holding this in mind, recite the prayer itself.

****

The Amida concludes with some biblical verses and personal prayers. Choose one verse of your own from Psalms to insert here.

The Amida ends here. Bow and walk back three steps, respectfully, to leave the presence of God. One does not leave the presence of the Creator with a rapid, unthinking movement. It is customary to bow first to the left, then the right, and then directly forward. [30]

WAYS TO RECITE BAR'KHU

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The Bar'khu is short prayer, a call by the leader of prayer and a response by the community. It introduces the nusah ha-tefilla and is also used to introduce the blessings to the Torah. [31] Wherever one is in the liturgy, one stops for the Bar'khu.

The words are simple but their meaning is complex: "Bless God Who is blessed." "Blesséd is God Who is blessed for ever and ever." To meditate on this, one must first ask, what is "blessing" or "blessedness," such that God Godself can be described as "blesséd" and be said to be blessed. [32]

For humans, blessedness is a state of being. It is being the object of God's attention. It is being the recipient of God's spiritual energy. Blessedness is knowing you are, or have been, in the Presence. In this sense we, humans, are blesséd, that is, we are aware that we are the object of God's attention, energy, and Presence.

Further, because we humans are blesséd, blessing, as a state of being, can also be conveyed by us to someone else. We can invoke God's presence and, with kavvana, pass it on to a child or some other person. We can receive God's energy and attention, and convey it to another. (See below on blessing a child.)

God Godself is "blesséd" in two senses. First, God is the source of all spiritual energy. God is the fountain out of which divine attention and care flow. Think, "God is the ultimate source of all being, energy, and blessing." Then, put yourself in the Presence and say "Bless God Who is blessed."

Second, God is blesséd because we receive God's energy and then we acknowledge that God is God and we are God's creatures. We open ourselves to God's presence and then we return our sense of that Presence, so to speak, to God. We, alone in all creation, know. We understand. Think, "God is present and I am aware of that. I return that Presence to God." Feel this and then say "Bless God Who is blessed."

When we recite Bar'khu and "bless" God, then, we are putting ourselves into the spiritual presence of God, acknowledging as an act of faith and experience that God is the source of all spiritual energy, and mirroring the energy we receive back toward God. [33]

Always, when you are leading the service or when you are called to the Torah, pause for a moment of silence before Bar'khu. This will enable you to pull yourself together spiritually and to evoke the Presence before you say the words. The intervening silence will seem awkward, especially in the beginning, but those who pray with you will eventually realize that this is a real call to worship, not just another line of liturgy that has to be recited.

WAYS TO RECITE ASHREI

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Psalm 145 is an alphabetic acrostic (minus one letter). As such, it has no one theme but presents many voices and ideas. It is a very complex work. The rabbis added verses before and after the text of the psalm itself, forming a liturgical unit known as Ashrei. The name is taken from the opening word. Ashrei is recited three times daily, twice during the morning liturgy and once at the beginning of the afternoon liturgy. It is also recited at the beginning of the closing prayer on Yom Kippur. [34] There are many ways to pray Ashrei. Several are given here, though they are best understood after studying the text and its commentaries [35].

*

One way to pray this psalm is to "perform" the words: Envisage God's "greatness." Image God's "wondrous deeds." Feel God's "majestic glory." Experience God's "caring." "Bless" God. "Proclaim God's kingdom." When you come to "You open Your hand," open your hands, palms up, and receive God's grace and love. Don't rush in order to "keep up" with the congregation. Prayer is not about communal mumbling, but about Presence.

**

Another way to pray this psalm: Recite it slowly and make the links between the words. Be aware of the connections. Try to associate each root word, as you say it, with its other occurrences as you say it. [36] Then, try to hold the complexity of the whole in your head. This is not easy, but it is a very powerful meditation.

***

Yet another way to pray this psalm: Weave the verses as you recite them, as one would weave a carpet with warp and woof. See the first verse in front of you. Draw it horizontally through your field of vision. See the second verse in front of you. Draw it vertically through your field of vision. See and draw the third verse horizontally, and the fourth vertically; and so on, to the end. You will have a woven carpet, a tapestry, as C.S. Lewis suggests is true of alphabetic psalms. [37]

****

Another way to pray this psalm, more complex than the previous way: Sit straight and visualize the first verse around you. Move your body gently in a small but complete circle clockwise, reading / reciting the verse as you go. Repeat this with each verse. When you get proficient at this, visualize the succeeding verses as a spiral that surrounds you.

*****

Another way to pray this psalm, still more complex: Weave these verses into a sphere or ovoid shape around you. See the first verse and draw it horizontally around you. See the second verse and draw it vertically around you. Continue visualizing and drawing the verses until you are inside and enveloped by the woven shape which is the Ashrei. [38] The feeling of being enveloped may be comfortable for you. If it is not, visualize the sphere or ovoid in front of you. The three-dimensional nature of this image can, with some effort, be extended toward infinity.

HOW TO BLESS YOUR CHILDREN

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We are not blessed in and of ourselves. We are only blessed insofar as we are the recipients of God's energy and attention. This Presence, or energy, is palpable. It can be sensed by humans. It creates a glow in us, a sense of power, of being part of something greater than we. It is holy, sacred, spiritual.

When we are in the Presence, we know who we are and we can act with clarity of heart and mind. When we are in a state of blessedness, we know right from wrong, pure from impure, sacred from vulgar. Martin Buber writes about this, though in slightly different terms. [39]

When we are the objects of God's being and when we are clear in our inner selves, we can, if we are willing, act as a conduit for that energy. We can serve, which in Hebrew is the same word as "worship," as a channel or passageway, for God's energy. This is what it means "to bless someone else." Blessing an other is not just reciting the words. It is feeling the divine energy in oneself and then conveying it to someone else. It is knowing that one is a mere tool, and then allowing the energy to flow through one to someone else.

It is traditional to bless children on Friday night at the Shabbat table (and on holidays), but one can bless any other. Do not be misled into thinking that you can accomplish miracles with this blessing, or that it will always "work." Such is not the way of God. But blessedness can be received and, according to the tradition, it can be evoked and passed on to another, especially to a child. I always tell people who wish to be more spiritual that, if they have only one mitsva to choose, then they should choose the practice of blessing their children.

First, learn the words. Practice saying them until you don't have to think about them any more. [40]

Yevarékhekha Adonái veyîshmerékha. lrnahu v lrfch

Ya-éir Adonái panáv eilékha vîkhunéka. lbujhu lhkt uhbp v rth

Yisá Adonái panáv eilékha veyaséim lekhá shalóm. ouka lk oahu lhkt uhbp v tah

 

Then, learn the meaning. Practice it until you are thoroughly familiar with it.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord cause the light of the Face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you.
May the Lord lift up the Face unto you, and grant you peace. [41]
 
May the Lord bless you with all material things
and may God protect you from the worry they bring.
May the Lord cause the light of the divine Torah to sparkle in your eyes
and may God graciously grant you wisdom.
May the Lord turn the Presence of the Face toward you, forgive you your sins,
and may God grant you and your generation the most precious gift -- peace.

Then, close your eyes and center yourself. Image the one you wish to bless, touch that person's head, and sense that person's presence. Image the Presence of God. Then, recite the blessing, holding the Presence and the presence in mind. Say it in English, if that is easiest for you. Better, say it in Hebrew and think the English. Best, say it in Hebrew and think in Hebrew. But, always keep the Presence and the presence, God and the person, in mind. Know that you are only a vessel, a channel for that which is not you, but rather for that which comes from outside and beyond you.

Some practical advice: Don't be afraid or embarrassed. Don't rush. Ignore all distractions. Practice.

HOW TO LIGHT SHABBAT CANDLES AND MAKE KIDDUSH

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The Shabbat is among the greatest blessings of the Jewish people. All week long we are pursued by the details of everyday life. We work to make a living, to support ourselves and our loved ones as, indeed, we are supposed to do. We work to accomplish the tasks of everyday living as, indeed, is natural. Increasingly, we are connected to other people through email, snailmail, internet, fax, and regular, cellular and car phones. Shabbat is the day to separate from all this work, to close down the communication links that connect us to the whole world. Choose a few basic "don'ts" and observe the following: Don't answer the phone, or check your email or regular mail. Don't drive your car. Don't buy anything. This will very effectively give you a feeling of Shabbat.

Refraining from work is a first step. Allowing Shabbat to help you invoke God is another. Shabbat begins when the sun sets, no matter what time of the workday that is. Try to be home and ready to receive Shabbat at sunset. Light Shabbat candles about 18 minutes before the sun sets but make Kiddush with your meal. (The meal can be later than sunset. In late spring, when the sun sets late, you can "receive Shabbat" before sunset by lighting candles, making Kiddush, and beginning the refraining from work. )

Lighting the Shabbat candles: It is customary for women to light Shabbat candles but it is permissible for men to do so. (It is my custom to this only if my wife is away for Shabbat.) Set the candles in candlesticks and place them in a place where it will not be necesary to move them. Light the candles first and close, or cover, your eyes. Breathe deeply several times. Release the tension of the work week. Put yourself in the presence of God. Keeping the sense of God's immediate presence, ask for blessing upon yourself and then upon those whom you love, one at a time. Then, still with God in mind, recite the blessing in Hebrew, outloud or silently. Finally, open your eyes and let the light of the candles enter into you. Don't rush or let anyone distract you. This is a spiritual moment; other persons and matters can wait.

Before you make Kiddush, it is good to sing a melody. Some use Shalom Aleikhem; others also add Eshet Hayil. But one could also use a niggun, a wordless melody. During the singing, close your eyes and let the meaningful moments of the week surface. They will come; just let them rise in your consciousness. You will find that there are some weeks filled with such moments. Blessed are you if there have been many times of spiritual awareness during the week just past -- in nature, in interpersonal relations, in study, or in prayer. But, you will also find that there are other weeks that have been a spiritual desert. That's the way life is. Dwell on the joy of these meaningful moments. Then, bless your children, grandchildren, and / or others who need to be blessed (see above).

The first paragraph of the Kiddush contains the verses which speak of the first Shabbat at the end of God's week of creating the world (Gen. 2:1-4). Take the cup of wine, close your eyes, and recite the first paragraph. Visualize all of creation and acknowledge God Who created it. Feel God's creative power. The blessing over the wine and the following paragraph, which announces the sanctity of the day of Shabbat, are prayers for all present. Open your eyes and recite the two blessings, bearing all in mind for this mitsva. When you have finished, drink the wine. (You should use only kosher wine for blessings. Some have the custom to recite the two blessings for Kiddush or, at least, a part thereof, in unison. Some sit and some stand for the blessings. Many sit when drinking the wine.)

After Kiddush, one washes hands and makes the ha-Motsi, the blessing over bread. When you wash, stop talking and concentrate. Pour the water three times over each hand and, while you are drying your hands, recite the blessing. Traditionally, one observes complete silence between washing one's hands and the blessing over bread. Some, however, sing a niggun, a wordless melody, to keep one focused on the presence of God. When everyone is seated and quiet, close your eyes, invoke God's presence, and say the blessing, bearing in mind that food is grown by God and only processed and then eaten by us.

HOW TO SING A SONG

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There are dimensions of being human that can only be reached with music. The nonverbal reaches into us and strikes chords of feeling and awareness that the intellectual-verbal cannot touch. Singing is, therefore, very important, even if one is not very musical.

First, learn the words. Many people think that the words don't count. That is not quite true because, where music has words, they form part of the meaning of the music. The words are in dialogue with the melody. Since the words to Jewish music are often in Hebrew, it is important to learn them first and also to learn their meanings. The zemirot, the special songs for Shabbat which are sung at table, are among the most beautiful poems in any literature, anywhere. "Yah! Master of the universe and the other universes! You are the King, the king of the kings" is not just a song. It is a religious poem. So is: "This day is for Israel, of light and joy, a Shabbat of rest" (it rhymes in Hebrew but not in English). And so is: "Rock of Whose bounty we have eaten! Bless God, my faithful ones, for we have eaten and been satisfied, as God had said." The songs we usually sing in synagogue are also really religious poems. Look at the words of Adon Olam ("Master of the universe Who ruled before any thing was created"), Ein Keloheynu ("There is none like our God"), Lekha Dodi ("Let us go, my beloved, to greet the bride"), and many others.

Second, learn the music. You'd be surprised how many of us can follow along but cannot actually sing the melody. We hear and we follow at a small fraction of a beat, but that is not singing. Some of the melodies are very complex. Others are very strange because their origin is not contemporary American. There are melodies I am still trying to learn.

Part of the greatness of Jewish life and culture is the diversity of its music. There are melodies that are slow, medium, and fast. There are marching songs, plaintive chants, and drinking songs. There are even waltzes in minor. Often these variations apply to the same poem. I think I know eight or ten melodies to some poems. Learn, and keep learning, new melodies.

And then there is the niggun, the song without words. Songs of the nonverbal soul. These too are sometimes joyous and sometimes sad; sometimes vigorous and sometimes poignant. There is such a range.

Learn the harmonies too, if you are musical enough. Learn, too, to sing and to hear those around you, whether in unison or in harmony.

When you have learned the words and the melody well enough so that you don't have to check yourself to be sure you know them, then you are ready to sing. Close your eyes and invoke God's presence. Sing to God. Do not sing for the purpose of singing, or to make beautiful music. Singing spiritually is not primarily an aesthetic experience, though it is also that. Singing spiritually means opening your inner self to God through music. It means being present to God in a nonverbal, yet fully expressive, way. If you are sad, and that happens to all of us, sing your sadness in the presence of God. If you are joyful, sing that joy, not to yourself or as an expression of yourself, but sing that joy "before the Face of God." Bring your self into God's presence, through song. Spiritual singing is a dialogue, not an (expressive) monologue. This is as true at table as it is in the synagogue.

There is one very beautiful melody that east-European Jews use to the Friday evening zemira called Yah Ribbon. The music is a waltz and it is in a minor key. When you have mastered the words and the music, ask yourself, "With whom am I dancing this waltz?" Can you dance with God? What would that be like? According to certain Jewish mystical streams of thought, God contains a feminine element called Shekhina. W/who is dancing with w/Whom as you sing this song? [42]

VIDDUI: CONFESSING ONE'S SINS

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Sin is not a faux pas; it is not a mistake. We all make mistakes. Sometimes they are intentional but most of the time they are unintentional. Usually our mistakes are errors, failures to do the right thing. Sometimes, our mistakes are wrongs acts and deeds. Sin, on the other hand, is a compulsive doing of something that we know is not right. Sin is a repetitive act that, for whatever reason, we cannot stop. It may be a socially insignificant act or, it may be a truly destructive or self-destructive act. But sin is serious wrongdoing; it is not a mistake.

When we sin, and we all sin, we feel guilt. We feel that we have failed our inner selves, those around us, and even God. Guilt is not bad. On the contrary, we should feel guilty for doing some things and for not doing others. A person without guilt is a person who has no moral sensitivity to good and evil, and no moral ambitions. When we feel guilt, we also feel remorse. We are sorry, deeply sorry, that we have done what we have done, or not done what we should have done. We may even feel shame. We may feel as if we just want to withdraw and hide -- from God, from our friends, even from our inner selves. Shame covers our faces, as the psalmist says. Guilt, shame, and remorse lead to confession.

Viddui, confession of sin, is a very primal religious moment because it is our way of acknowledging that we do things that we know are wrong and, that we regret doing them. Confession is the way we bring to the surface our guilt and our shame. Viddui is the way we express our remorse and ask forgiveness of the Power beyond us for what we have done. Viddui is the way we commit ourselves into the hands of a Judge more gracious than we Who, we hope, will understand the compulsive and deep nature of sin and Who will forgive us, clearing the slate so that we can start again. Confession gives us the hope that we will overcome sin.

Repentance comes before confession; teshuva precedes vidui. The first step in teshuva is examining one's actions and identifying those that were sinful. One can quickly discard the mistakes, but there will still be sins -- acts that we knew were wrong but we committed anyway, especially acts against other persons. To prepare for viddui, do teshuva: Examine your acts. Feel guilty. Feel ashamed.

The second step in repentance is asking forgiveness of the person(s) we have wronged. This is called bakashat seliha, asking for forgiveness. In Judaism, it is a prerequisite for confession. One cannot confess one's sins to God until after one has specifically asked for, and received, forgiveness from the person(s) we have wronged. God is not prepared to listen to us until after we have talked to those whom we have offended, and made our peace with them. This is not the same as apologizing, which is used for mistakes not sins. To prepare for viddui, do teshuva: Be sure to ask forgiveness of your fellow human beings.

When we are ready to confess, we recite viddui, the ritual confession of sins. [43] Viddui is said chiefly on Yom Kippur, once during the silent Amida and once, outloud, during the public repetition of the Amida. However, there are penitential prayers, called tahanun, recited almost every weekday. In the sefardi rite, these include confession of sin, while the ashkenazim think vidui during tahanun, but do not recite the formula. In addition, there are special penitential prayers, called selihot, recited on fast days and in the period preceding Yom Kippur, which contain various forms of viddui.

The structure of these selihot seems complex but it is not. There are a series of medieval poems, each of which is surrouned by introductory and concluding pasasges. Between each seliha, one recites the Shelosh Esreh Middot, the "Thirteen Attributes of God," which itself has introductory and concluding paragraphs. The Thirteen Attributes of God are as follows: "Lord, Lord, God, Who loves compassionately, and Who cherishes, Who is patient, and Who overflows with grace, and with truth, Who stores up grace for thousands of generations, Who forgives rebellious sin, purposeful sin, and inadvertent sin, Who cleanses" (Ex. 34:5-7). [44] These words constitute the prayer which God Godself taught to Moses after the sin of the golden calf as a prayer to be used by the Jewish people whenever they need to invoke God's mercy in time of sin and trouble; [45] hence, they form the refrain for all selihot services. This sequence -- poem-attributes-poem-attributes, each with introductory and concluding paragraphs -- is preceded by selected verses from the Tanakh and is followed by viddui. Viddui, then, is always part of selihot, that is, confession is part of the penitential liturgy. To prepare for full viddui of Yom Kippur, recite tahanun and selihot. Recognize your helplessness and yearn for God's mercy.

The text of viddui, the ritual confession of sin, has two versions. One is a simple alphabetic acrostic, known by its initial word Ashamnu. The other is a double acrostic, known by its initial word Al het'. The latter is recited only at Yom Kippur; the former occurs in various penitential prayers as well as on Yom Kippur.

Rabbis of all generations have realized that reciting the liturgical confession is rather impersonal and, because the alphabetic form is used, it is also limited. To counter this, some orthodox rabbis have prepared pamphlets that are to be used during viddui, which list more explicitly and in great detail all the sins that might come under each of the alphabetic sins listed in the viddui. Modern editors have countered the impersonal and limited character of the liturgical forms by writing interpretive translations, sometimes several translations which then are inserted in the prayerbook at the proper place.

As you examine the list of sins in the full viddui, you will recognize some of them as your own. Others will seem repetitive, or not relevant, to you. The best procedure is for you to examine your own deeds and identify those acts that are really compulsively wrong, either because they offend God and / or because they also offend others. Then, you should coordinate your sins with those on the lists. Remember that you will recite vidui twice, once in the silent Amida and once during the public repetition. When you recite the silent viddui, think of your own specific sins as you recite the ones listed in the prayerbook. However, when you recite the communal viddui, think of all the sins listed, for each of them has been committed by at least one person within the Jewish people.

Reciting the confession, even with intellectual attention to what you are saying, is not enough. You must also ask forgiveness of God. Invoke God's presence. Be present to God. Then, collect your thoughts about your own sins and about their relationship to the liturgical viddui. Then, recite the confession and ask God for forgiveness of each one. This takes time and the congregation will move on. Don't worry. Prayer is between you and God.

PROTEST AS PRAYER

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An individual who has suffered unjust loss may speak his or her anguish to God. This is what it means to be in a covenantal relationship. The Book of Job is the best example. The Jewish people, too, when it suffers unjustly, may speak its anguish to God -- directly, clearly, even forcefully. This is part of God's covenant with God's people. Psalm 44 is the best example, though there are other such searing passages. [46] Rabbinic tradition preferred indirection in this matter, leaving prayers for mercy and occasional poetic references to Psalm 44 and other protest passages, but excluding direct protest. In the post-shoah period, the task of expressing the anger of the Jewish people toward God on the subject of the shoah has been left largely to poets who did not write liturgy. [47] Only one attempt has been made in the post-shoah period to bring the mode of open protest back into Jewish prayer, in a rabbinic style if not in a rabbinic mode. [48]

As you contemplate the inhumanity and degradation of the shoah and as you meditate on the sheer injustice of it, especially the one and one-half million children, and as you try to bring those thoughts with you into the presence of God, you will discover protest as a form of prayer. As you hold the irreducible reality of the shoah and the undeniable presence of God in your consciousness, you will discover the strength to criticize God, to God's Face. Not as an act of light-headed judgement, nor as an act of hubris. But as an act of truth. You will discover dispute as worship, as an act done not for oneself or one's own righteousness but as an act done on behalf of the Jewish people, of God, and of the integrity of the covenant that binds them together.

Do not be afraid to say "God is good to all and God's tender mercies are over all God's works" and to think "Lord, is this true of You? Was it true in Poland during the extermination of Your people?" Do not be afraid to say "Our Father, our King, we have sinned before You" and to think "But not enough to merit what You have allowed to happen to us." Do not be afraid to say, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" and to think "You were not the shepherd of Your people in Auschwitz; why!" Some omit the following biblical verse from the liturgy; others say it silently; still others say it loudly, defiantly: "I was young and now I am older, and I have not seen a righteous person abandoned or the children of such a person seeking bread." [49] Actually, it is very frightening to pray a protest prayer but, as the first story in this book shows, it is better to be frightened and to pray an honest prayer than to recite the liturgy with a mind full of suppressed consciousness.

If you use protest prayer, you must remember that it can never be one's sole form of prayer. It is one tack into the wind; it is one way of moving forward. There is another, without which you will not be able to advance. That is the way of thankfulness and joy. Whoever would use a prayer of protest must alternate it with a prayer of thankfulness and joy. Otherwise one will go astray, as a sailboat which remains on only one tack will lose its ability to move toward its goal. [50]

* * * * * * *

To be sure, no one can use all these meditative techniques all the time. One would never be able to pray in a synagogue or have services at a family table if one tried to do all of this, always. Still, the life of the spirit grows slowly. Pick the one or two that seem most important to you and do those. Slowly, you will be able to add others and, you may even reach the point where your own meditations spring forth. "The work is not yours to complete, but you may not avoid it either." [51]

It is also true that prayer must be keva´ ; it must be regular. This means that, even without meditation, reciting the liturgy has value. It means that, even without the personalization of kavvana, nusah ha-tefilla is efficacious. God wants us to pray and, so, praying -- even mindless praying -- is important. This is good to know because, no matter how diligent one is in one's kavvana, there are times when one simply cannot muster the energy it takes to summon up proper kavvana. It is, therefore, legitimate to relax and just let the nusah ha-tefilla unroll before you. It is okay to just "participate" in the service. You will return to the deeper levels of prayer because they are true in a very deep sense. The truth of God's being and person stands opposite us in prayer, and the truth of our own being and person stands opposite God in worship. We return to these moments and, when we cannot be in that place, we come to God's community and add our voice to those of others who also have come to join in prayer.

A CONCLUDING STORY [52]

"Lord of the universe, prayed Levi Yitzhak before the sounding of the shofar on Rosh ha-Shana, "You have commanded us, 'A day of sounding of the shofar there shall be for you' (Nu. 29:1). And because of this commandment in Your Torah, we, Your children, sound a hundred shofar blasts each Rosh ha-Shana, and thousands upon thousands of Jews have sounded these hundred blasts for many centuries.

"Now, these thousands upon thousands of Jews, Your loyal children, cry out and pray and beseech You, and have pleaded for these many centuries, for You to sound but one blast for our freedom on Your great shofar. Still you have not blown it."

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[*] This is chapter three of a forthcoming book, Drop in on God. Details on the book will be posted as soon as available.

[1] There is a phrase inserted by the rabbis between the first and second lines. In the holy temple, the ineffable Name of God was recited at this point and the insertion -- "Blessed be the Name of the Glory of God's kingdom for ever and ever" -- was used as a refrain whenever the ineffable Name was mentioned. After the destruction of the temple, the rabbis forbade saying the ineffable Name and, eventually, its pronunciation was lost; hence, our ignorance of the proper pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, the four-lettered consonantal Name of God (usually translated "Lord" and sometimes rendered by Christians as "Yahweh"). The insertion has, however, remained as a reminder of the former use of the Name.

[2] There used to be only 18 prayers but the rabbis added a nineteenth. The name "the Eighteen," however, remained. Further, often the Shabbat and holiday Amida, which does not have eighteen benedictions, is referred to as the Shemoneh Esreh.

[3] The word "nature" is neutral; it takes no stance on the origin of reality. By contrast, the word "creation" takes a theological position that "nature" is created by God. For the religious person, therefore, there is no such thing as "nature"; there is only "creation."

[4] On the kedusha, see elsewhere in Drop in on God.

[5] The word "nusah" alone is used to indicate the musical mode in which the service is chanted. This varies according to the occasion and from community to community.

[6] On the Ashrei, its structure and ways to pray it, see elsewhere in Drop in on God..

[7] For this reason, some have speculated that the analogy of Jesus' crucifixion, which took place in the late afternoon, should be to the tamid as a type of atonement offering and not to the Passover lamb which had no dimension of atonement.

[8] The table of contents for several traditional and modern Siddurim are nicely arranged at <http://www.jtsa.edu/melton/ courses/siddur>.

[9] On this, see elsewhere in Drop in on God.

[10] For Jews, it is possible but forbidden to image God in the form and shape of the god of another religion. Hence, while it is possible to call up an image of Jesus or of the cross, or the Buddha or a Hindu god or goddess, it is forbidden for Jews to do so. If this happens to you, do not be upset. Just push the image gently from your mind.

[11] In traditional Hebrew, "to read" is "to recite." This is because the text is sacred and when we recite it, we are really reading it, and vice-versa: to read a text in the full sense is to recite it, that is, to pray it.

[12] I am indebted to Reb Zalman Schachter for this meditation.

[13] This visual-aural dissonance is taught so early that traditional Jews do not even notice it. In fact, in more traditional circles, there is a further dissonance in that the word "Adonay," being itself a name of God, is not pronounced except in actual prayer. So, one sees "YHVH," internally hears "Adonay" but, in non-prayer contexts, actually says "Hashem" ("the Name").

[14] Shulhan Arukh, Hilkhot Keri'at Sh'ma, 61:1-2.

[15] Mishna Berura, ad loc., citing the Tur who is citing Rav Amram Ga'on, and then the Prisha.

[16] Ibid.

[17] For more on fear and awe, see chapter four of Drop in on God.

[18] Shulhan Arukh, Hilkhot Keri'at Sh'ma, 61:5-6.

[19] The commentators, ad loc, note that, in moving the head in the four directions, one must begin by bending the head eastward (i.e., forward) and then move in a circle to the right. One may not move forward-backward and then right-left because that would result in "the ways of the Amorites," i.e., in appearing to make a cross, which is certainly forbidden. For much the same reason -- that is, in order not to leave the implication that there might be more than one true divine force -- one may not repeat the Sh'ma twice ( Ibid., 61:9) and certainly not three times as I have heard it done in some Reform synagogues in America.

[20] On the kedusha, see elsewhere in Drop in on God..

[21] Another way of praying these three introductory paragraphs: The first prayer dealing with God in Jewish history establishes an intimate familial relationship with God. The second prayer dealing with God is creation broadens our awareness outward to the universe. And the third prayer dealing with God's awesome holiness moves us yet further out to God's transcendence.

[22] Zohar, Genesis, Lekh Lekha (1:94b), egalitarian language added.

[23] On the types of sin and forgivenss, see elsewhere in Drop in on God..

[24] This was the point where I inserted prayers for the Iranian Jews who were on trial in 2000.

[25] God, of course, also heals non-Jews though God is praised for God's action among God's people.

[26] In the winter: "Grant rain and dew."

[27] Lit., "horn."

[28] There are four prayers that are "political": redemption (4), just government (8), destruction of evil (9), and just reward (10). There are also four prayers that are "messianic": ingathering (7), rebuilding of Jerusalem (11), return of the Davidic king (12), and return of the temple sacrificial system (it would be 14 if it were in the petitional section). Because, in Judaism, the political and the messianic are closely related, all these petitions are really messianic in tone. In fact, the "messianic era" includes them all. However, since the "political" prayers could be answered without the coming of the messiah, they could be considered as separate. I think this is the reason that are not grouped together.

[29] During the public repetition of the Amida, the cantor recites this text but the congregation recites a different version which begins as follows: "We acknowledge You -- that You are Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, the God of all flesh, our Maker, the Maker of the creation."

[30] For more on this, see elsewhere in Drop in on God..

[31] Sefardim also recite Bar'khu at the very end of the service.

[32] "Blesséd" (Hebrew, barukh ) is an adjective. It describes a state of being, a quality of existence, as explained in the next paragraphs. "Blessed" (Hebrew, mevorakh ) is a present tense passive participle. It describes an action -- being the recipient of a blessing. In this section only, I have used two slightly different spellings to distingish these meanings, following the Hebrew text.

[33] For more on this mirroring, see elsewhere in Drop in on God..

[34] In the medieval period, supplemental liturgical poems were composed which use the stichs of Ashrei as a refrain. Some of these can be found in the traditional Rosh ha-Shana and Yom Kippur prayerbooks.

[35] Adapted from D. Blumenthal, "Psalm 145: A Liturgical Reading," Hesed Ve-Emet: Studies in Honor of Ernest S. Frerichs, ed. J. Magness and S. Gitin, 13-35; available in clearer, web-designed form on my website, "Praying Ashrei," <http://www.emory.edu/ UDR/BLUMENTHAL> where the text and commentaries, as well as all footnotes and charts, are in hypertext.

[36] In the web version of this material, I have drawn up colored charts and charts with lines that show the linkage of the various words and roots. To use these charts meditatively, envision the multiple typefaces or, draw the colored lines, as you recite Ashrei.

[37] In the web version, I have "woven" this prayer. The second Hebrew version presented there is a picture of what the final product might look like. It is, however, only a shadow of the inner image in this kind of prayer.

[38] There is no way to depict these more complex suggestions in a two-dimensional format. The web-designed version of this will, someday, have animations for the tapestry and the sphere .

[39] M. Buber, Good and Evil (New York, Scribners: 1953).

[40] The mark (´) indicates the accented syllable; the mark (^) indicates a secondary accent.

[41] To preserve the egalitarian language, I have used the neutral "the." Using the gendered "His" or "Her" is also acceptable.

[42] On this, see elsewhere in Drop in on God..

[43] There used to be a nonliturgical, personal confession, recited to God and / or the community, but it is no longer used.

[44] See elsewhere in Drop in on God, for the various kinds of sins and forgiveness.

[45] Exodus Rabba, 43:4

[46] D. Blumenthal, Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest (Louisville, KY, Westminster / John Knox: 1993) was written on this basis. Christian scholars call these passages "laments" (see W. Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy [Minneapolis, Fortress Press: 1997]).

[47] See A. Laytner, Arguing With God: A Jewish Tradition (Northvale, NJ, Jason Aronson: 1990) -- reviewed by me in Modern Judaism (Febraury 1992) 105-10 -- especially chapter 8 for the secular poetry.

[48] See Facing, chapter 18.

[49] Ps. 37:25 used in the Birkat ha-Mazon (Grace after Meals), at the end.

[50] On the alternate use of types of worship, see Facing, chapter 5, and see D. Blumenthal, "Confronting the Character of God," God in the Fray: A Tribute to Walter Brueggemann, ed. T. Linafelt and T. Beal (Minneapolis, Fortress Press: 1998) 38-51; also available on my website.

[51] Talmud, Pirkei Avot 2:16.

[52] S. Dresner, The World of a Hasidic Master (New York, Shapolsky: 1986), 80, cited in D. Blumenthal, God at the Center (San Francisco, Harper and Row: 1988; reprinted Northvale, NY, Jason Aronson: 1994) xx.

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