Tefillah Tuesday: God of Self and Ancestors

The Bible’s most common poetic maneuver is “parallelism,” in which a pair of phrases linked together for poetic affect. Often the two phrases are synonymous, repeating the same idea [e.g. Amos 5.24: “Let justice flow like water, righteousness like a mighty stream”]; others are antithetical, drawing a contrast [e.g. Proverbs 10.7: “May the memory of… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Hiddur Mitzvah

The final major element in Pesukei d’Zimra is שירת הים, the “Song of the Sea” [Shirat Hayam] from Exodus 15, which Moses and the Israelites sang upon escaping Egypt for good, when “they saw Egypt dead on the sea shore.” The simplest semantic meaning of this line is that they saw a great mass of… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: The King’s Throne

A central verse in Jewish liturgy comes from Psalm 22.4: ואתה קדוש יושב תהלות ישראל, “And you, Holy One, are enthroned upon Israel’s praises.” That is, God is not just Melekh Ha’Olam automatically. As a medieval saying goes, אין מלך בלא עם, “There is no king without a people.” Only a community of worship can… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Ani v’Ho

I will interrupt my progress through the morning prayers to reflect on the unusual Sukkot liturgy known as Hoshanot, which we chant while marching around the synagogue holding Lulav and Etrog. Depending on your mood, these prayers can feel either fun and funky or just bizarre. Jews have been doing this parade since Temple times,… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Perfume

כל הנשמה תהלל י’ה! Let every breath praise the Lord! For the third message in a row – with a couple more to come – here is another interpretation of this last verse in the book of Psalms. The Talmud legislates that we say blessings of gratitude and celebration whenever we experience sensory and physical… Read more »