Tefillah Tuesday: Full Vessels

It’s Tuesday again, and the autumn holidays are passed, so it’s time for Tefillah Tuesday, once again. Let’s turn to the second “paragraph” of the Shema, Deuteronomy 11:13-20, which begins: והיה אם שמוע תשמעו אל מצוותי/ve’haya im shamo’a tishme’u, “now, if you will indeed heed my commandments …” This verse employs a common Biblical Hebrew… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: כל מאדך

The third modifier in the first line of the ואהבת/ve’ahavta is בכל מאדך/bekhol me’odekha, that you should love God with … what exactly? In biblical as in modern Hebrew, מאד/me’od, typically is an adverb meaning very or exceedingly. This Shema passage from Deuteronomy 6 is a very rare case – there is only one other, 2 Kings 23:25 – where it takes a pronomial suffix and refers to a person’s capacity for “muchness.” Hence the King James version, and all… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: בכל נפשך

Contemporary American Jews reject martyrdom. If you asked me to imagine a martyr I would probably think of a shahid, a Hamas suicide bomber, or a tortured Christian saint, whose eager pursuit of suffering seems creepy and masochistic. Judaism is a life-affirming religion and mistrusts any impulse to venerate death. We hold that “these are the mitzvot… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Both Your Hearts

And you shall love the Lord your God with both your hearts … The Hebrew word heart is usually לב/lev, a simple two-letter combination. But – as in the first verse of the ואהבת/ ve’ahavta – this word can also appear in a slightly different form, with a doubled letter bet. Our profession of faith does not read בכל לבך/bekhol libbekha, love God “with… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Nobody is Perfick, Part Two

Continuing the theme of the previous Tefillah Tuesday post: shibbush [“error”] happens. There will always mistakes, shortcomings, distraction, and extraneous thoughts in davening. Nobody is perfick. Today, we’ll turn to Chazal, the Talmudic-era sages, for a reflection on that age-old problem of davening while not knowing Hebrew very well. While scholars through the ages – as well… Read more »