Pray

Pre-Modern Synagogue Architecture and Interior Design

Synagogues share certain functional interior furnishings, but there is no architectural design or artistic style that characterizes a synagogue.

Reinterpreting Tefillin

Some interpretations of the meaning of tefillin have faded, and others have been invented to take their place.

Respect in the Synagogue

Rabbinic restrictions on behavior in the synagogue reveal continuing tension between ordinary Jews' sense of being at home and at ease there, and the desire of rabbis to set it apart as a sacred place.

Rashi and Rabbenu Tam: Two Sets of Tefillin

Evidence from Qumran shows that the medieval debate about the order of biblical passages in tefillin has ancient roots.  

Tefillin: Spiritual Significance

The details of this precept, using powerful symbols of allegiance to divine law and of membership in the Jewish religious community, have been subject to many interpretations.

Enhancing the Amidah

A selection of piyyutim from the Rosh Hashanah Amidah

Ashrei: Psalm 145

The internal and external structure of this carefully-crafted Psalm serves to reinforce its theme of praising God as the caring, divine ruler of all creation.

Praying with Tears

Comment from the Zohar on Psalm 100 about praying with tears.

Dramatizing the Torah

The Torah reading in most synagogues is inaccessible, the author says, and needs to be "livened up" through the use of drama and performance art.

National Redemption

The blessings that conclude the Amidah's center section emphasize God's redemption of Israel.

The Blessings Around the Shema

The structure of these three blessings reflects the historical progress from creation to revelation to redemption.

Shema as a Love Story

The three paragraphs of the Shema can be interpreted allegorically by connecting each of the three paragraphs to a different stage of a growing, loving relationship.