Praying Anew: Unlocking Meaning in the Words of the Siddur
The Jewish prayerbook is a collage of texts that reflect our deepest emotions, longings and experiences. But sometimes it takes some work to unlock this meaning. Together with the Orange County Community Scholar Program, interpret the texts of our prayers, uncovering new insights and learning a method of understanding the prayerbook in a new way.
Session 1: New Ways to Understand the Siddur: The Literary Method of Interpretation
Explore the literary approach to Jewish liturgy using the case study of the first paragraph of the Amidah. Our prayers quote or reference biblical sources all the time. By comparing the text of the prayer to the sources it draws from, you can unlock new meanings for the prayer book. Why do we say “”the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob””? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to say “”God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob””? Why do we call God “”great, mighty, and awesome””? Why not more adjectives? Why those? What do they mean?
Session 2: Resurrection Revisited: A Closer Look at the Blessing of Giving Life to the Dead
In this session, we will open up the second blessing of the Amidah – said in all formal Jewish prayer services – to explore different possibilities of meaning. Which biblical and midrashic texts stand behind this blessing, and how can they open up our field of vision around this controversial prayer?
Session 3: The Mourners Kaddish: A New Interpretation
Join me as we explore the essence of the kaddish, perhaps the most misunderstood prayer in Judaism. We will move on an interpretive journey that has implications for all prayers we say. Along the way, encounter the power of the Kaddish, a poignant depiction of God’s relationship with us, and what people can offer the Divine.
Session 4: The Non-Cognitive Aspects of Prayer
What are the parts of the prayer experience which are not encapsulated by the words of the siddur/prayerbook? In what ways are the words designed to conjure up an experience which isn’t contained within the plain meanings of the words? How does the volume of prayer change the experience? This is a journey beyond the words of the siddur and into a more holistic prayer experience.
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