Tefillah Tuesday: Covering Your Eyes

This week let’s continue with the theme of common gestures that enhance Jewish worship, and make davening more than reciting words, and more like a choreographed ritual dance. Synagogue goers are familiar with the practice of covering one’s eyes while reciting the first line of Shema. Where does this come from? The commonly cited source… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Movement of Shema

Worship comes not only in words, but also in the choreographed dance of our bodies during prayer. Reciting Shema is no exception: Jews have engaged in a number of physical gestures to express the meaning of this passage. What posture should one assume during Keriat Shema? The earliest rabbinic sages disputed. The school of Shammai… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Imagining Jacob

When davening the Shema, it is important to reflect that you are not addressing God. Hear O, Israel, we say. This is not a conventional prayer from earth to heaven. It is a social, human moment, addressed to … whom? Israel. The simple meaning of this phrase is that we exhort each other, reminding our… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Buzzing Bee

Davening Shema in public, you’ve probably noticed people making certain small but distinctive verbal gestures. When saying Adonai echad, people often pound on that final dalet, so that it sounds like this: echad-DUH. And toward the end of the third paragraph of the Shema, people stress the letter zayin in the word tizkeru, so that it sounds like this: tiZZZ-keru. Both of these pronunciation… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Beyond and Within

שמע ישראל ה’ א’להינו ה’ אחד The core of Jewish worship – which we recite twice daily, when we lie down and when we rise up – is Shema Israel, proclaiming that God is One, Adonai Echad. But what does that really mean after all? When Shema appears in the Torah [Deut 6.4], echad is used adverbially. Moshe is probably telling… Read more »