Tefillah Tuesday: Let Every Breath Praise the Lord

כל הנשמה תהלל י’ה! Let every breath praise the Lord! Everyone loves the climactic 150th chapter of Psalms, an orchestra and ballet of praise [Praise God with Shofar blasts … with harp and lyre … with drums and dance]. This week and for a few subsequent posts, I will offer some comments on this beloved… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Completing Hallel

Said R. Yose: “May my portion be among those who complete Hallel every day!” Is that so? For it is taught: “one who completes Hallel every day blasphemes and mocks!” R. Yose was referring to Pesukei d’Zimra. [Talmud Shabbat 118b]. The Siddur’s introductory selection of praises post-dates the Talmud, which remains the authoritative mine from… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: New Songs

Psalm 149 comes next in P’sukei d’Zimra, and begins with a challenging line: שירו לה’ שיר חדש, or “sing a new song to God.” Daily daveners know that it often feels like there is nothing “new” at all about our prayers. Praying from our siddurim is an exercise in relentless repetition: the identical words, day… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Above and Below

Psalm 148 presents a harmonious chorus of heaven and earth. “Praise God from the heavens!” begins the first section, summoning praises from angels and celestial bodies. Then at mid-point the poem pivots: “Praise God from the earth!” inviting terrestrial creation to join the song. When I daven this soaring lyric, I meditate on the intersection… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Broken Hearted

The Lord heals the broken-hearted, and binds up their wounds [Psalms 147.3]. The God of Israel, as displayed in the Bible, can be thunderously grand, demanding justice, punishing pharaohs, speaking in earthquakes and storms, laying waste to cities, moving empires around. And sometimes the Biblical God is a tender healer, whose arm goes around the… Read more »