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<span>Exploring the Siddur</span>

Exploring the Siddur

Tefillah (prayer) is, without a doubt, one of the greatest gifts given to us. Three times a day we are formally given the opportunity to pour our hearts out to G-d and request anything of Him. Imagine, for a moment, that you are out of work and desperately looking for a job. You’ve found the perfect position and have sent in an application but haven’t heard back. As you take the subway, you sit down next to a random stranger and strike up a conversation. You tell him of your job plight and, lo and behold, he’s the CEO of the company you’ve been applying to! He promises to immediately speak to HR to grant you an interview. Prayer is like the conversation on that subway – we have the chance to speak to the CEO of the world, who can grant us exactly what we need!

Yet, despite this great power, prayer for many has become rote. It’s hard to blame anyone – any activity done constantly has the danger of becoming too familiar. What can we do to fight against this? There are numerous things one can do but one of the most important is working to understand the words we say. If we can attach meaning and a deeper understanding of the words we recite, we can bring feeling and excitement back to prayer.

This class will attempt to do that. We will take a closer look at the words and phrases we pray and try to pull out meaningful insights. We will begin with Shemoneh Esrai, taking a look at the introductory phrase and moving on from there. While it may not be chronologically correct to begin there, the Shemoneh Esrai is the seminal prayer of our service and is a natural starting point. Should things go well, we’ll move on to other parts of the service.

Please reach out with any questions, comments, or suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Ben Goldberg is an attorney and freelance writer. He has previously served as the student head of Orthodox religious life for Hillel at the University of Maryland, where he also led a Tefillah chaburah (Prayer Study Group). He previously studied at Yeshiva Lev HaTorah in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.

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