Satirizing God

On the eve of Purim, let us digress from the prayer book to the Bible’s sex farce, the book of Esther. “A zany laugh-riot,” rave the critics. “A naughty evening of colorful costumes and off-color jokes.” “I laughed, I cried” say shul-goers. “It was better than Katz.”   How did this book make it into the… Read more »

Standing at the Burning Bush

א’להי אברהם א’להי יצחק וא’להי יעקב/ Elohei Avraham, Elohei Yitzhak v’Elohei Yaakov/“God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob.”  Davening is immeasurably enhanced by knowing the Bible. So much of the Jewish prayer book is built from quotations or allusions the Tanakh. If you know the right passage and detect the reference, the experience of davening the words becomes so much stronger.   Imagine you’re an actor playing Hamlet,… Read more »

Ancestors and the Amidah

The central element of worship in any service is the Amidah, literally “the standing,” which the Sages simply called “prayer,” par excellence. All other elements of a morning service up until the Amidah – “dawn blessings,” “verses of song,” the ritual recitation of biblical passages in the Shema and blessings that accompany them – these… Read more »

ברום עולם מושביך

ברום עולם מושביך ומשפטיך וצדקתך עד אפסי ארץ/ B’rum olam moshavekha, u’mishpatekha v’tzidkat’kha ad afsei aretz. “Your abode is the heights of the cosmos, and Your statutes and righteousness reach the ends of the earth.” When I daven this phrase from the blessing following the Shema, I find myself meditating on natural law. Philosophers of… Read more »

Sunrise of Redemption

As I discussed two weeks ago here on Tefillah Tuesdays, the blessing following Shema is devoted to the theme of the redemption – paradigmatically, the liberation of Israelite slaves from Egypt. The blessing concludes with two key lines from the song upon crossing the Red Sea: מי כמוך/mi kamokha, “who is like You,” and ה’… Read more »