Jewish Prayers and Liturgy 101

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jewish liturgy quizThe machzor (a special prayer book for festivals, usually referring to the High Holiday prayer book) is like an incredibly expanded Siddur, filled with special liturgical poetry and Biblical readings appropriate to Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). The machzor contains some of the most memorable texts from Jewish liturgy, including the prayer Avinu Malkenu (Our Father, Our King), Kol Nidrei (the annulment of vows preceding Yom Kippur), and the confession of sins arranged as alphabetical acrostics (Ashamnu and Al Het).


The Haggadah is the text that is used during the Passover seder (ritual meal held on the first night of Passover in Israel and most Diaspora liberal communities, and on the first two nights among traditionalist Diaspora Jews). The Haggadah includes the choreography and text for a ritual retelling of the story of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Although there is a traditional text for the Haggadah, new versions come out every year, some of which have new commentaries and new art, and some which present variations on the traditional text.

Personal Prayers

Although Judaism wants people to engage God regularly through structured prayer services, it is likely that a majority of the most sincere and intense prayers have been expressed spontaneously by individuals. Occasionally, those personal prayers have been recorded for other individuals. Personal prayers, from the Bible and rabbinic literature to prayers written by women in the middle ages (techinot) and the prayers of Hasidic rabbis, can be remarkably moving, both in how they reflect the particular concerns of the individual and in how they capture and express universal needs and desires.

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