In 5773 we developed a program, Divrei Tefillah (words of prayer). About twice a month during Shabbat services, a member of the Congregation explored a small piece of the liturgy, providing background into its history, explaining its place in the structure of the morning service, looking at some of the Hebrew words and their meaning, and providing some interpretation.
Divrei Tefillah began with an introduction to The Structure of the Shabbat Morning Service by Shirley Holbrook, who included some quotations from Abraham Joshua Heschel to motivate us in this program:
To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.
Prayer clarifies our hope and intentions. It helps us discover our true aspirations, the pangs we ignore, the longings we forget.
Prayer is an invitation to God to intervene in our lives, to let God's will prevail in our affairs; it is the opening of a window to God in our will, an effort to make God the Lord of our soul. We submit our interests to God's concern, and seek to be allied with what is ultimately right.
To worship God means to forget the self; an extremely difficult, though possible, act. What takes place in a moment of prayer may be described as a shift of the center of living—from self-consciousness to self-surrender.
Prayer is not a stratagem for occasional use, a refuge to resort to now and then. It is rather like an established residence for the innermost self. All things have a home: the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. A soul without prayer is a soul without a home.
- November 10 – The Structure of the Shabbat Morning Service – Shirley Holbrook
- November 17 – Ashrei – Rabbi Rebecca Milder
- December 1 – Barkhu: Meaning and Movement – Stephanie Friedman
- December 15 – The Sh’ma – David Feuer
- January 19 – Kryiat Sh’ma – Howard Shuman
- February 9 – Misheberach Prayers – Cathy Bowers
- February 16 – Kaddish – Douglas Kelner
- February 23 – The Prayer for the Country – Sara Segal Loevy
- March 2 – The First Page of the Amidah – Rabbi Jordan Bendat-‑Appell
- March 16 – The Kedusha – Marshall Steinbaum
- April 6 – The Middle of the Amidah, special for Shabbat – Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg
- April 20 – The Ending of the Amidah – Shirley Holbrook
- May 4 – The Torah Service: Before the Reading – Margo Criscuola
- May 18 – The End of the Torah Service – Andrey and Marina Kuznetsov
The need to maintain the flow of services prevented speakers from going deeply into material. If you would like to pursue these topics, some resources follow. Or, if you’d like to explore further in a study group, the Adult Education Committee can help you organize one.
- Books from the Abbell Library
- the Or Chadash Siddur (the annotated version of our regular Siddur Sim Shalom)
- My People's Prayer Book (excellent English translation, commentaries from many points of view, including history and halacha)
- the Artscroll Siddur (traditional, Orthodox, with clear notes)
- Prayers and Blessings and Jewish Liturgy from Judaism 101, written, without corporate or organization backing, from an Orthodox perspective by a traditional, observant Jew raised nominally Reform
- My Jewish Learning, which calls itself the leading transdenominational website of Jewish information and education, geared toward adults; also home to four active blogs and an Ask-the-Expert column
- Wikipedia has a lot of information, too.