Adam’s Fingernails

Let’s digress from our relentless march through the morning prayer book. This week let’s visit a well-known Jewish custom for Havdalah, the ritual that ends Shabbat, the most beautiful moment in Jewish practice. Let’s look at our fingernails. At Havdalah we light candles and recite four blessings, including בורא מאורי האש/borei me’orei ha’esh, “Blessed are… Read more »

Carrying Egypt with Us

אמת ויציב/Emet V’yatziv [“true and enduring”], the blessing following the Shema is very ancient. According to Mishna Tamid 5.1, this prayer – or at least the kernel that developed into our version – was part of the very brief liturgy the priests recited each morning during Temple times, long before our prayer book evolved. The… Read more »

Nothing But You

אין א’להים זולתך/Ein Elohim, Zulatekha, “there is none, God, but You.” Mystical Judaism intuits that the One God is present everywhere, fully, at all times, in all existence. לית אתר פנוי מניה/let atar panuy minei, says the Holy Zohar [Tikkun 70, 122b], “there is no place void of God.” Following this intuition brings a soul… Read more »

Davening with Our Ancestors

 אתה הוא א’להינו וא’להי אבותינו, מלכנו מלך אבותינו, גואלנו גואל אבותינו For You are our God, and God of our ancestors – our ruler, and ruler of our ancestors – our redeemer, and redeemer of our ancestors. Deep prayer can often feel like a sacred solitary experience, a lone person confronting God. We properly treasure… Read more »

Every Bone in Your Body

Jewish sages are sometimes called sofrim, literally “scribes.” However, the same word, lispor, means “to count.” So, in addition to loving words, they also liked math, finding meaning in important mythic numbers, like 7s, 49s, 613s and others. They hunted for cool numerologies or gematriot¸ assigning numerical values to Hebrew letters. And they loved to… Read more »