Prayer in the Midst of Bullets and Bombs

Decades ago, Yehuda Amichai wrote about the diameter of a bomb — thirty centimeters, with circles of pain outward from its center. (English here). Similarly, every bullet leaves pain in circles rippling outward. We also know that kindness has a ripple effect, and many people think prayer works this way, too. The 20th Century rabbi […]

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Stumbling Blocks Before Us All (Beyond 24)

“Do not put a stumbling-block before the blind.” This commandment prohibits anything that “gives the means, or prepares the way for wrong,” according to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (see Carmi Wisemon’s essay at My Jewish Learning). There are so many ways in which language can “give the means, or prepare the way for wrong.” And […]

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Prayers on the Makeshift (Beyond 23)

In his masterpiece of prose poetry, Chicago: City on the Make, Nelson Algren wrote: …All the creeds that persecution harassed out of Europe find sanctuary on this [Chicago] ground, where no racial prejudice is permitted to stand up. We insist that it go at a fast crawl, the long way around. The Negro is not […]

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“Only to the whole world” (Beyond 22)

Is the call “No Justice, No Peace” a threat or a prayer? “encapsulation of the lex talionis, an eye for an eye,” as Pat Buchanan says? a a statement of fact? This commentary on the Sim Shalom, the closing blessing and prayer for peace, at the end of the Amidah [Standing Prayer] discusses the Barcheinu […]

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Heavy Heart in Hand (Beyond 21)

A story is the easiest, and, I hope, clearest, way for me to convey this thought to open the week of Netzach [“eternity,” also leadership] in the omer journey away from oppression. (apologies for length) At this morning’s worship service, Temple Micah‘s Rabbi Zemel pointed participants’ attention to the following note, a kavanah [focusing intention] […]

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Juxtaposing Redemption and Prayer

Once, Rav Beruna “juxtaposed redemption and prayer” — i.e., managed his morning prayers in such a way that he completed the Redemption [“Mi Chamocha“] blessing, following the morning Shema, and moved on to the Amidah [Standing Prayer] just exactly at sunrise — and laughter [and joy] did not cease from his mouth for the entire […]

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“You Didn’t Build That” Ben Zoma Style

“How hard did the first person have to struggle to toil before he could eat a piece of bread: he seeded, plowed, reaped…But I arise in the morning and find all these foods ready for me….How hard did Adam toil before he could put on a garment…How many skilled craftsmen are industrious and rise early […]

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A Mountain Called Zion…

“Our hearts beat with certainty that there is a day and an hour, and a mountain called Zion…” These messianic words startled me when the congregation was asked to recite this unfamiliar passage the other day: The good in us will win… …. Our hearts beat with certainty that there is a day and an […]

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You Can’t Spend What You Ain’t Got: Eikev Prayer Links

In this portion, Moses presents the People with a jumble of sentiments — from sweeping promises to dire threats — which found their way into prominent roles in our prayers. And, while biblical context often has little to do with the use the siddur makes of the bible’s language, our prayers do reflect this portion’s […]

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