Me? We.

ראה נא בעניינו … רפאנו ה’ ונרפא /Re’eh na v’onyenu … refaenu Adonay ve’nay’rafeh. “Look upon our plight … heal us and we will be healed.” To appreciate the subtle artistry of our prayer book, start with the Bible. In almost every line, the classical siddur quotes, alludes to, or rephrases a Bible passage. Sometimes… Read more »

Small Redemptions

גואל ישראל/Go’el Israel. “Blessed are You … Who redeems the people of Israel.” The word ge’ulah, or redemption carries heavy symbolic weight in Judaism. When you call God “redeemer,” you’re drawn back in time to the ancient paradigm of redemption, the exodus from Egyptian slavery, and thrust forward to a messianic future, in which the… Read more »

Wake Up, Heart

חנון המרבה לסלוח/Hanun hamarbeh lisloah. “Blessed are You … Who forgives graciously and abundantly.” The Amidah’s next petition, after seeking the power of penitence, is for God’s forgiveness. The connection to the previous blessing is obvious: repentance begins a process that culminates in pardon. First teshuvah, then sliha. The Talmud [Megillah 17b] indicates this natural… Read more »

The Door Always Opens

השיבינו אבינו לתורתך … ברוך אתה ה’ הרוצה בתשובה/Hashivenu Avinu le’Toratekha … Barukh Atah Adonai, ha’rotzeh bi’teshuva. “Return us, O our parent, to Your Torah … Blessed are You Adonai, who desires repentance.” The Amidah’s second petitionary prayer is a request for repentance. Many commentators consider this to follow naturally from the first petition: after… Read more »

The Third Ocean

Abraham Joshua Heschel observed that for classical Jewish mystics, the spiritual challenge was “how to pray,” while for liberal Jews, the ideological problem was “what to say.” Teachers in the Reform and Conservative streams tended to interrogate the prayer book’s peshat, or semantic level, to discover what the liturgy said about God, Torah and the… Read more »