The Great, Mighty, and Awesome God

הא’ל הגדול הגבור והנורא/ Ha’El HaGadol HaGibor ve’HaNorah As we’ve seen many times, our prayer book is built upon a pastiche of Biblical allusions and citations. The composers of our prayers, and presumably the davening communities they lived among, knew the Bible thoroughly. For those clued into the code, these allusions bestow tremendous richness to… Read more »

Adonay Sefatai Tiftach

אדנ’י שפתי תפתח ופי יגיד תהלתך/Adonay sefatai tiftach, u’fi yagid tehilatekha. “My Lord, open my lips and let my mouth declare Your praise.” [Psalm 51.17] The Amidah is preceded by this quotation from Psalms that amounts to a prayer for the power to pray. I will sing God’s praises, sure, but I need God to… Read more »

All My Bones

Last week I posted about standing physically still during the Amidah, as a technique for spiritual focus. As everyone knows, however, there is a long tradition of swaying back and forth – in Yiddish to shuckel – in prayer and study. Do these two techniques go together? To illustrate the tension, check out this Talmudic… Read more »

Standing Still

Our central prayer is known by the instructive term Amidah, or “standing.” This usage of Amidah as a noun, as opposed to a gerund, is post-Talmudic. The Sages called this liturgy simply תפילה/tefillah, or prayer par excellence. In the pithy phrasing of the Mishnah, they instructed about proper posture: “One only stands to pray in… Read more »

All You Need is Ahavah

“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;  the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing has come…  Arise, my love!” Song of Songs, 2:11-12  In these weeks leading to Passover, the verses from Shir haShirim, the Song of Songs, perfectly capture the awakening of nature and human spirit after a… Read more »