Tefillah Tuesday: Shema in All Languages

“Hear, O Israel.” There are two aspects to the mitzvah of the Keriat Shema. First, we are supposed to recite it, morning and night. That’s what keriah means: recite this Torah passage aloud. And, we are supposed to absorb its message. That’s what shema means: we are called upon to hear. Jewish tradition has always insisted on interpreting the Torah in precise… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Unfinished Monotheism

ה’ אחד. God is One. The central affirmation of Jewish faith: that within all the world’s flaws and brokenness, there lies is an incipient perfection and wholeness. That beyond the chaos, there is cosmos. That the One God is the paradigm of goodness, order, meaning and purpose. That is what keeps me going as an… Read more »

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 »