A Guide to Jewish Prayer

Adin Steinsaltz, Author, Altie Karper, Editor, Adin Even-Israel, Author
Adin Steinsaltz, Author, Altie Karper, Editor, Adin Even-Israel, Author Schocken Books Inc $28.5 (464p) ISBN 978-0-8052-4174-7
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-8052-1147-4
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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.)
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