Tefillah Tuesday: Letter Creation

נגילה ונשמחה בך, Nagila ve’nismeha bakh, Let us rejoice and delight in you. [Song of Songs 1.4]. Said Rabbi Yitzhak: “let us rejoice bakh [ב”ך] in the כ”ב, or 22 letters of the alphabet in which the Torah is written.” [Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabbah]. Many ancient Jewish texts – like the well-known Psalm 145, or… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Perpetual Creation

The first blessing before the morning Shema goes on to praise Hashem, “Who, in goodness, perpetually renews creation every day,” or ובטובו מחדש בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית, mehadesh bekhol yom tamid ma’aseh bereshit. As we have seen in previous week’s postings, this first blessing expresses wonder at morning light, and recognizes that darkness, too,… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Light and Darkness

Continuing the theme of last week’s post, in which I discussed the opening blessing before the Shema, which speaks of God as “creating all.” This is a euphemism, softening the Bible verse [Isaiah 45.7] that God makes both light and darkness, “makes peace and creates suffering,” or “creates well-being and woe.” The Talmud [Berakhot 11b]… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Yotzer Or

The three paragraphs of Shema Israel are nestled among liturgical blessings: one always recites two blessings before Shema, and afterwards, either one blessing each morning or two each evening. The first blessing before is an ode to the dawn’s light. Nowadays, our relationship to light is shaped by our easy access to electricity. We stay… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Perpetual Prayer

Prayer is not the same thing as liturgy. They are related, of course: the words in the prayer book are the form in which Jewish communities worship. But reciting the text of the siddur is not itself an act of prayer. Genuine tefillah is a turning toward God in love, awe, hope and gratitude, amplified… Read more »