Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer

Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer

by Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi
     
 

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Experience the living taste of prayer in your heart, the deep and gentle glow of prayer in your soul.

"Many who live their lives as Jews, even many who pray every day, live on a wrapped and refrigerated version of prayer. We go to synagogue dutifully enough. We rise when we should rise, sit when we should sit. We read and sing

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Overview

Experience the living taste of prayer in your heart, the deep and gentle glow of prayer in your soul.

"Many who live their lives as Jews, even many who pray every day, live on a wrapped and refrigerated version of prayer. We go to synagogue dutifully enough. We rise when we should rise, sit when we should sit. We read and sing along with the cantor and answer 'Amen' in all the right places. We may even rattle through the prayers with ease. We sacrifice vitality for shelf-life, and the neshomeh, the Jewish soul, can taste the difference."
—from the Introduction

This fresh approach to prayer is for all who wish to appreciate the power of prayer's poetry and song, jump into its ceremonies and rituals, and join the age-old conversation that Jews have had with God. Reb Zalman, one of the most important Jewish spiritual teachers in contemporary American Judaism, offers you new ways to pray, new channels for communicating with God and new opportunities to open your heart to God’s response.

With rare warmth and authenticity, Reb Zalman shows you:

  • How prayer can engage not just spirit, but mind, heart and body
  • Meditations that open the door to kavanah, the focus or intention with which we pray
  • How to understand the underlying "deep structure" of our prayer services
  • How to find and feel at home in a synagogue
  • How to sing and lead niggunim, the simple, wordless tunes that Jews sing to get closer to God
  • and more

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Nowhere has [Reb Zalman's] contribution to Judaism been greater than in teaching people how to daven—how to pray and reach out to God. In this book, he brings together a lifetime of insights and practical exercises that can open up any heart, as they have opened up mine."
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author, Jewish Literacy and A Code of Jewish Ethics

"Opens the siddur to our hearts and imaginations, freeing us to connect to all that is greater than our small selves with joy, heartbreak and freedom. This book helps us all—believer or not, Jewish or not—to be the people we yearn to be."
Rabbi Rachel Cowan, senior fellow, Institute for Jewish Spirituality

“[This] is Reb Zalman at his deeply inspiring and spiritual best! [This book] will transform you, inviting you—no, compelling you—to go deeper and deeper into the very heart and soul of life!”
Rabbi Irwin Kula, co-editor, The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices: CLAL's Guide to Everyday & Holiday Rituals & Blessings; president, CLAL—The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

“This marvelous book is like having Reb Zalman say, 'Sit with me a while and I’ll tell you a few stories. You’ll transform your prayers into lovers’ trysts with God.’ Who wouldn’t want that?”
Sylvia Boorstein, author, That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist

“Opens the gates of prayer. Through every word of this wise, loving and playful book, you will be blessed by Reb Zalman’s integrity, humility and unbounded joy. By graciously embracing the totality of body, heart, mind and soul, and by being so very real, he sends us each to our own encounter.”
Rabbi Shefa Gold, author, The Magic of Hebrew Chant Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love

“An adventure of heart, mind and soul ... let the Grand Master of the High Art of Davenology guide you through the inner landscapes of Jewish prayer. Whether you are a skilled davener or new to this path, you will find insight and wisdom beyond anything you have yet encountered!”
Rabbi Marcia Prager, author, The Path of Blessing: Experiencing the Energy and Abundance of the Divine

“It is an extraordinary and rare gift to receive the wisdom of a master of prayer, a gadol hador, who shares his deep practical insights, gathered during a lifetime of learning, practice, daring experimentation and concern for the spiritual relevance of the Jewish spiritual tradition for our generation. This soulful book is precious for those of us who seek to ever deepen our connection with God.”
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun

“A treasure trove of beautiful, wise, useful and generous spiritual teachings from a great and beloved master of Jewish learning and prayer. The stories of Reb Zalman’s long and blessed life, too, are a useful and beautiful resource.”
Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg, Institute for Jewish Spirituality

“Rabbi Zalman has blended mysticism, scholarship and sechel into a unique and down-to-earth book for those who want to make Judaism their personal spiritual path. A book for anyone who wants to practice Judaism as a living religion.”
Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, author, Kitchen Table Wisdom

“Zalman’s teachings have inspired a generation of Jews, encouraging an open-hearted, open-minded Judaism. I count myself as one of his students, and commend [his work] to seekers of meaning and joy.”
Anita Diamant, author, The Red Tent

“This is a book of courage. Zalman understands the heart of his reader.”
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, author, Conscience: The Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobey and other books

“What he has to say about work, marriage, divorce, the pace of life in our modern world, and how to cope with a myriad of problems we human beings face addresses all of humankind.
Joshu Sasaki Roshi

The Jewish Eye - Israel Drazin

This book is about "Davening," the Yiddish word for prayer.

Even people who insist that prayer is an intellectual process rather than an emotional, spiritual and religious experience, as demonstrated by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi in this book, will enjoy reading his book. Also, even non-Jews will enjoy and benefit from the rabbi's views. Why?

First, the book is a delight to read. The rabbi tells stories on virtually every page, about himself, Chabad Chasidim and clever and thought provoking parables. Among many other things, the rabbi tells about kavanah, praying with focus, intention and meaning. He shows how to pray from the heart, rather than from the mind. Celebrating the Sabbath or holiday with kavanah, for example, gives the day a richer meaning.

He speaks also about the niggun, the melody, the wordless prayer, tunes Hasidim sing to get closer to God. Some have words and some do not. He tells how he used a niggun to get in the mood for prayer and how once he came so close to God by singing a niggun that he felt no need to continue with the formal prayers.

He tells about the mystical notion of God and how prayer fits into this notion. He gives readers "a traveler's guide" through the prayers, during which he describes many prayers and shows readers their inner meaning. He also tells how people can feel "at home in Shul," what they should do to feel what they are experiencing and how to get the most out of the experience.

Spirituality & Practice

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is the father of the neo-Hasidic Jewish Renewal movement and one of the foremost authorities on Kabbalah and Hasidism. He is professor emeritus at Temple University and the author of many books including Wrapped in a Holy Flame: Teachings and Tales of the Hasidic Masters and A Heart Afire: Stories and Teachings of the Early Hasidic Masters. Joel Segel has edited many books on spirituality and is co-author with Reb Zalman of Jewish With Feeling.

"True prayer is a bursting forth of the soul to God," writes Reb Zalman in this creative primer on the many ways Jews can open their hearts to God and experience pleasure, ecstasy, and mystery similar to "a lover's tryst with something alive, immediate, and true." He uses the word davening as a shorthand for this kind of exhilarating prayer. The Jewish devotional life begins with kavanah, a focus that keeps distractions at bay. Next is the firm resolve of intention and then the hope for meaning. Reb Zalman counsels us:

"I like to say that humans are theotropic beings, that we are meant to grow toward God, to follow where God takes us. Not that we are always in harmony with that ideal way. But if we get a little bit more subtle and spiritually cleaned up, then we will get to the place where we, like the needle on a compass, will naturally swing around to align ourselves with our inner core of kavanah."

Reb Zalman hits high stride with his commentary on niggun, which he describes as a wordless prayer, a song of the heavenly spheres, and a soundtrack to a Jewish movie. The Hasidic way of life is impossible to imagine without this form of prayer. The author believes that niggun delivers Jews to a place of en-chant-ment and provides an outlet for their acute longing for connection with God.

Next comes davening in the four worlds of action, formation, creation and emanation, followed by a chapter on a potpourri of ways to give God praise and adoration. The goal of all these prayers, rituals and meditations is made clear:

"We strive to make our prayers a vessel for our own experience—and yet, at the same time, to transcend all that heart and mind can grasp. We aim to be most truly ourselves, to stand in our fullness before the living God."

Davening closes with material on being at home in the shul (the synagogue experience), a look at blessings, and an overview of prolonged prayer.

Jewish Media Review

Here is another treasure by the master of the generation, Reb Zalman, as those who know and love him call him. In the Introduction he writes:

"Many who live their lives as Jews, even many who pray every day, live on a wrapped and refrigerated version of prayer. We go to synagogue dutifully enough. We rise when we should rise, sit when we should sit. We read and sing along with the cantor and answer 'Amen' in all the right places. We may even rattle through the prayers with ease. We sacrifice vitality for shelf-life, and the neshomeh, the Jewish soul, can taste the difference."

This fresh approach to prayer is for all who wish to appreciate the power of prayer's poetry and song, jump into its ceremonies and rituals, and join the age-old conversation that Jews have had with God. Reb Zalman, one of the most important Jewish spiritual teachers in contemporary American Judaism, offers you new ways to pray, new channels for communicating with God and new opportunities to open your heart to God’s response. With rare warmth and authenticity, Reb Zalm

  • How prayer can engage not just spirit, but mind, heart and body
  • Meditations that open the door to kavanah, the focus or intention with which we pray
  • How to understand the underlying "deep structure" of our prayer services
  • How to find and feel at home in a synagogue
  • How to sing and lead niggunim, the simple, wordless tunes that Jews sing to get closer to God and morean shows you:

Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi, the inspiration of the Jewish Renewal movement, is widely recognized as one of the most important Jewish spiritual teachers of our time. Professor emeritus at Temple University, he is the co-author of Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer and author of First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit: Reb Zalman’s Guide to Recapturing Intimacy & Ecstasy in Your Relationship with God(Jewish Lights), From Age-ing to Sage-ing and Wrapped in Holy Flame, among other books.

Joel Segel, editor of many books on spirituality, is coauthor (with Reb Zalman) of Jewish with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781580236270
Publisher:
Jewish Lights Publishing
Publication date:
10/01/2012
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
283,698
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi (z"l), the inspiration of the Jewish Renewal movement, is widely recognized as one of the most important Jewish spiritual teachers of our time. Professor at Temple University, he authored many books including Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer, winner of the National Jewish Book Award; First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit: Reb Zalman's Guide to Recapturing the Intimacy & Ecstasy in Your Relationship with God (both Jewish Lights); From Age-ing to Sage-ing and Wrapped in a Holy Flame.

Joel Segel, editor of many books on spirituality, is coauthor (with Reb Zalman) of Jewish with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice and Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer.

Lawrence Kushner, author, lecturer and spiritual leader, is regarded as one of the most creative religious thinkers and writers in America. A commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, he has focused us on spiritual renewal with wisdom and humor. Through his books and lectures, people of every faith and background have found inspiration and new strength for spiritual search and growth. It has been said that some spiritual leaders blend religion and psychology to help us walk better on the ground, but Lawrence Kushner draws on the wisdom of the mystics to help us dance better on the ceiling.

Kushner’s acclaimed books include I’m God; You’re Not: Observations on Organized Religion & Other Disguises of the Ego; Honey from the Rock: An Easy Introduction to Jewish Mysticism; Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary; The Book of Letters: A Mystical Hebrew Alphabet; Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians; and In God’s Hands, an inspiring fable for children, with Gary Schmidt (all Jewish Lights).

Kushner served as rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Massachusetts, for almost thirty years; he is currently the Emanu-El scholar at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, and an adjunct faculty member at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. He is fascinated by graphic design and computers (designing most of his Jewish Lights books). He enjoys Mozart, hanging around sailboats, and making his granddaughters giggle.

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