Beyond Body and Soul: Expanding Morning Prayers

I have heard it said, frequently from the bima of Temple Micah (Washington, DC), that a proliferation of words doesn’t always aid prayer. Rabbi Danny Zemel has often said that his own preference would be to choose just a few words on which to focus at any prayer service. I understand this perspective and do sometimes find a day’s worth of prayer in just a few words…

Ribon kol hamaasim [Source of all Creation]
Adon kol han’shamot [Sovereign of all souls]…
Mishkan T’filah (Shabbat Morning I), p.196

…to take just one example.

But I confess that I love words. Lots and lots of them. I am particularly fond of the psalms and of the “Nishmat” prayers which immediately precede the official call to worship on Shabbat and Festival mornings. I miss them when they’re not around.

Nishmat” does appear in Mishkan T’filah, but Temple Micah often skips this. Psalms are generally pretty scarce in the “new” (2007) prayerbook’s morning service, and we usually sing only Psalm 150. So, I carry an extra siddur and quietly add my favorite psalms, as well as the opening and closing prayers for Psukei d’Zimrah [songs of praise, i.e., “Baruch She’amar” through “Nishmat“].

For the most part, I just hope this is not too distracting to others, and I try to keep my finger on the “right” page in case a visitor needs orientation. However, there are times when this practice creates some interesting juxtapositions, one of which I share here.
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[One Hundred Thirty-]Six Degrees of Separation: Devarim Prayer Links

The mighty kings Og and Sihon — mentioned in Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:4, with more detail in chapter 3 — were defeated while the Israelites were still in the wilderness (Numbers/Bamidbar 20, 21). But Og and Sihon provide a direct connection to several prayers as well as to contemporary debate about what, more generally, is a “morally uplifting offering” in prayer.

The kings are also linked to midrashim on Genesis and Exodus, and, less directly, to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and an array of texts through the years. In fact, a brief exploration of Og and Sihon suggests that, as hypothesized about world population, any given Jewish text is no more than six degrees of separation from any other.
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