Tefillah Tuesday: Body and Soul

Judaism is a perpetual “low-grade” meditation. A “low-grade” fever is not acute, but has a steady, global effect on us. Similarly, Judaism has scant tradition of extended acute meditations, withdrawing from the world for days on end. But it is saturated with reminders and exercises for creating a global God-consciousness to carry with you all… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Who Did Not Make Me a Woman

“Blessed are You, God, King of the Cosmos, who did not make me a woman.” This may be the most infamous – to us liberals – passages in the classical Siddur. I would never say it, and even some modern Orthodox rabbis refuse to say it (or say it in an embarrassed undertone). Our Conservative… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Personal Prayer in the Public Space

Good prayer is an interior experience, meditatively sinking into heart, mind, and soul. All religions prize this inwardness, through various traditions of hermitage and retreat. In Judaism, one word for spirituality is פנימיות, or “interiority.” A term for meditation is התבודדות, or “aloneness.” So why don’t Jews pray alone? Why do we prize gathering in… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: The Physical Graffiti of Tefillin

Heschel famously summed up the difference between the spiritual life of modern, Westernized Jews and their pre-modern (whenever and wherever they lived) forebears: “To Kabbalah and Hasidism the primary problem was how to pray; to the modern movements, the primary problem was what to say.” [Quest for God, 83]. In Heschel’s view, we shouldn’t worry… Read more »