A Guide to Jewish Prayer

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Overview

One of the world's most famous and respected rabbis has given us the one guide we need to practice Jewish prayer and understand the prayer book.

From the origins and meaning of prayer to a step-by-step explanation of the daily services to the reason you're not supposed to chat with your friends during the service, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz answers many of the questions likely to arise about Jewish prayer.  Here are chapters on daily prayer; Sabbath prayer; prayer services ...

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Overview

One of the world's most famous and respected rabbis has given us the one guide we need to practice Jewish prayer and understand the prayer book.

From the origins and meaning of prayer to a step-by-step explanation of the daily services to the reason you're not supposed to chat with your friends during the service, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz answers many of the questions likely to arise about Jewish prayer.  Here are chapters on daily prayer; Sabbath prayer; prayer services for the holidays; the yearly cycle of synagogue Bible readings; the history and make-up of the synagogue; the different prayer rites for Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Yemenites, and other cultural/geographic groupings; the role of the rabbi and the cantor in the synagogue; and the role of music in the service.

The book also contains a glossary, a bibliography, and biographical sketches of the rabbis who were instrumental in creating and ordering the prayers through the ages.

Rabbi Steinsaltz's guide is an essential volume both for the newcomer to Jewish prayer and for those who have been engaged in prayer for years.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Our Review
Don't Forget Your Prayers
In the Jewish tradition, the Siddur, or Book of Prayers, is a vital collection of religious text, ranking next in importance to the Bible. Yet it is also largely undervalued, which is why Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, a respected scholar best known for his English translation of the Talmud, feels it necessary to fill a gap. "No book is closer to the heart of the Jew than the Siddur, and none has such profound influence," says Steinsaltz, who has brought together an engaging overview of Jewish prayer -- its history and meaning -- to prove his point.

If history and law are the foundations of Judaism, prayer acts as the glue that holds hold it together. Jewish prayer, Steinsaltz tells us, is essentially communal -- "Its structure, contents and wording are geared to the needs, hopes and sense of gratitude of the community," he writes -- although the communal aspect is not meant to negate the importance of the individual. With the destruction of the Temple in 587 B.C.E., the nature of Judaism began to change. Some of the Psalms originally sung by an enthusiastic group of worshipers on their way to services in the great Temple are now recited by Jews the world over. However, as Judaism transformed itself through the ages, the prayers, too, evolved. Unlike the unchanging Bible, there is no one Siddur. Just as there are various styles of Judaism, each Jewish sect (and that number is growing!) collects its own combination of prayers, although much of the basic content is the same for all.

"Tradition!," the answer that placated Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof," no longer satisfies; people want to know more about what brings them to participate in their faith. This book blends history with theological explanations, providing interesting background for many of the liturgical aspects (there is even a chapter on the music of prayer). This contribution to Jewish scholarship will be appreciated both by readers engaging in Jewish prayer for the first time and by longtime practitioners. A Guide to Jewish Prayer addresses the basic need for meaning that sits at the heart of contemporary discussions about maintaining and transforming ritual practices. It should be read by anyone looking to learn about what it means to practice Judaism through prayer, as told by a respected teacher who is also a clear, enjoyable writer.

Royce Froehlich is an audio engineer by trade and a drummer by inclination> He is currently completing a dual degree in divinity and social work at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. In his spare time he is working on a Ph.D. in communications at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

From the Publisher
No book is closer to the heart of the Jew than the Siddur; none has had such a profound influence [or been] so uniquely able to penetrate to the very depths of the soul.

For generations, the Siddur was the first book the Jewish child learned to read, and through the struggle to grasp the combinations of letters, he repeated and learned to recite its phrases by heart. This bond with the prayer book engendered a great intimacy between the Jew and the Siddur in both the emotional and intellectual spheres. But the bond is not only a primary, intimate one; it is an ongoing, lifelong process. While other books are used only as study texts which, once mastered, need not be read again, or are reread only after a long period, the Siddur accompanies the Jew throughout life. . . .

No other Jewish book contains the entirety of Judaism.  The Siddur is like a garland, intertwining all the strands of  Judaism and encompassing all fields of Jewish creativity in all their variegated forms. It includes sections that reflect the fundamentals of Jewish faith, and those relating to the field of  religious law. . . . [It] contains sections of exalted poetry, and matters of ritual procedure. There are prayers that deal with the most intimate details of individual needs and problems, supplications reflecting the sorrows and aspirations of the nation, and prayers that touch upon the entire cosmos.
—From A Guide to Jewish Prayer

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Steinsaltz, one of this era's most influential rabbis (Simple Words), turns his attention to prayer, marrying straightforward how-to tips with reflections on the nature and meaning of Jewish prayer. The book opens with a discussion of individual versus communal prayer, with Steinsaltz explaining that although Jewish prayer heavily emphasizes community, there is a place in Judaism for individual prayer. Communal prayer expresses the needs and hopes of the entire nation of Israel, but individuals can and should still pray alone, with or without liturgy, in times of personal need. He also tackles gender. Men and women, he explains, are both obligated to pray (although women are not legally obligated to participate in the thrice-daily minyan). Steinsaltz offers a concise history of the Jewish prayer book, tracing the development of prayers from the Second Temple period to 20th-century prayers commemorating the Holocaust and Israeli Independence Day. In the book's valuable how-to section, he carefully examines weekdays, Sabbaths and holidays, explaining which prayers are said when and why. He introduces readers to "prayer accessories" such as the tallith (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries). The book concludes with a rousing discussion of Jewish music and its relation to prayer traditions. This guide will help both novices and experienced Jews to deepen their understanding of prayer. One caution: it is decidedly Orthodox in outlook. Non-Orthodox readers will find much of interest, but they will not find discussions of, for example, feminist language for God. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Rabbi Steinsaltz is rightly regarded with some awe as the editor and translator of Random House's 22-volume edition of the Talmud. This new volume, a thorough guide to Jewish prayer, should only enhance his reputation. Steinsaltz is not a radical or even a liberal; some readers will note that he ably describes the traditions that separate women from men in prayer without recommending any change therein. Yet his guide is the most intelligent and complete resource on Jewish prayer--and perhaps on Judaism itself--directed at an English-speaking audience in many years. The Guide addresses the history and nature of Jewish prayer, prayer in every major and minor festival, and the role of the synagogue, music, and accessories in prayer. Highly recommended for the Jewish and non-Jewish reader alike. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805211474
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 954,314
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is internationally renowned as the author of a landmark commentary on the Talmud, twenty-two volumes of which have been published in English by Random House.  He is also the author of many books of Jewish thought, among them The Thirteen-Petalled Rose and, most recently, Simple Words.  Rabbi Steinsaltz lectures throughout the world and has been a resident scholar at both Yale University and the Institute for Advanced Study.  He lives in Israel with his family.

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Read an Excerpt

No book is closer to the heart of the Jew than the Siddur; none has had such a profound influence [or been] so uniquely able to penetrate to the very depth of the soul.

For generations, the Siddur was the first book the Jewish child learned to read, and through the struggle to grasp the combinations of letters, he repeated and learned to recite its phrases by heart. This bond with the prayer book engendered a great intimacy between the Jew and the Siddur in both the emotional and intellectual spheres. But the bond is not only a primary, intimate one; its an ongoing, lifelong process. While other books are used only as study texts which, once mastered, need not be read again, or are reread only after a long period, the Siddur accompanies the Jew throughout life. . . .

No other Jewish book contains the entirety of Judaism. The Siddur is like a garland, intertwining all the strands of Judaism and encompassing all fields of Jewish creativity in all their variegrated forms. It includes sections that reflect the fundamentals of Jewish faith, and those relating to the field of religious law. . . .[It] contains sections of exalted poetry, and matters of ritual procedure. There are prayers that deal with the most intimate details of individual needs and problems, supplications reflecting the sorrows and aspirations of the nation, and prayers that touch upon the entire cosmos.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xvii
Part 1 Prayer
Chapter 1. The Prayer Book 3
Chapter 2. The Essence of Prayer 8
Chapter 3. Individual and Communal Prayer 14
Chapter 4. Men and Women 26
Chapter 5. Kavvanah 34
Part 2 History
Chapter 6. The History of the Siddur 47
Chapter 7. Prayer Rites 62
Part 3 The Order of Prayer Services
Chapter 8. Weekday Prayer Services 83
Chapter 9. Shabbat 104
Chapter 10. Festivals 146
Chapter 11. Days of Awe 177
Chapter 12. Special Days 213
Chapter 13. Torah Readings 253
Part 4 The Synagogue and Communal Prayer
Chapter 14. The Synagogue 285
Chapter 15. The Shaliah Tzibbur 318
Chapter 16. Prayer Accessories 332
Chapter 17. The Music of Prayer 370
Appendices
Glossary of Terms 387
Biographies 410
Bibliographical Notes 415
The Jewish Months and the Festivals and Special Days That Occur in Each of Them 419
Index 420
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  • Posted November 15, 2009

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    Great Book

    Rabbi Steinsaltz is an authority without equal.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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