Tefillah Tuesday: Upon Your Heart

Place these words of mine upon your heart and upon your soul. As I noted last week, the first two paragraphs of the Shema come from Deuteronomy, which has its own distinctive spiritual orientation. Most of the Torah explains how a Jew should behave, while Deuteronomy provides Judaism’s classical emphasis on how we think. Devarim… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: God’s Voice

The book of Deuteronomy, as a literary composition, is portrayed as Moses’ long final speech, his own farewell. This book has its own unique religious vision and vocabulary. When you are familiar with its rhetoric and spiritual concerns, you can recognize Deuteronomy instantly, and would never confuse it for Genesis or Leviticus. In today’s Tefillah… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Reward and Punishment

The second “paragraph” of the Shema [והיה אם שמוע, Deuteronomy 11.13-21] repeats the themes of the first section – loving and heeding [literally: “hearing”] God and teaching to the Torah to future generations – and uses the same vocabulary, of inscribing the Torah on our doorposts and upon our heads and arms. This second paragraph… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: א’ל מלא רחמים

On this week of the horrifying massacre at Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, I will devote this Tefillah Tuesday post to א’ל מלא רחמים/El Malei Rachamim, the Ashkenazi memorial prayer, to honor those who were murdered: Joyce Feinberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein,… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: The Yoke of Heaven

The recitation of קריאת שמע/Keriat Shema is built from three bible passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the Shema+Ve’ahavta itself; Deuteronomy 11: 13-21, which begins והיה אם שמוע/Vehaya im shamoa; and Numbers 15:37-41, which includes the command of wearing tzitzit and the memorial of the Exodus. Why do the texts come in this order? According to Mishna Berakhot… Read more »