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September 3, 2015 | 19th Elul 5775
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Teaching Moments


  1. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-13

                If a "d'var Torah" is a thing, or word, about Torah (translation: a short explication or discussion about a Torah text), a "d'var t'filah" is a short explication or discussion about prayer.  Usually, the deliverer brings a comment or two about a particular bit of liturgy from an authority, and discussion ensues with the members of the group adding their own individual understandings or reactions.

                A d'var t'filah can enhance one's understanding of the keva (the external or explicit meaning) of the prayer and allow greater kavanah (the internal prayerfulness or feelings engendered) when praying the prayer. The members of the group understand more fully the origins or explicit meanings of a prayer, as well as a variety of feelings and reactions to that prayer. In my own experience, once you've had a good discussion about a prayer, you never pray it the same. Your mind and heart connect more fully.

    As for authorities, there are many, but I'll take the opportunity to plug one. I have enjoyed very much the series edited by Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman called My People's Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and widely available.

  2. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-13

                I have found B’chol L’vavcha by Harvey Fields very illuminating and thought provoking.

  3. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-13

                Another good resource for teaching t’filah is The Hadassah Guide to Jewish Prayer, "Pray Tell," published by Jewish Lights.

  4. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-14

                I would add that Torah Aura Production's Shema is For Real text is a wonderful resource. Though geared for teens, I use it in my adult prayer and liturgy classes.

  5. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-15

                In our small, primarily lay-led congregation, we rely heavily on our members to share the responsibility of leading services. Our Rituals Committee works closely with members who have never before conducted services or whose experience is still limited enough that they ask for additional support. The committee conducts a "Teaching Service" at least once each year, during which information about the background/history/source of our prayers and blessings is provided as we work our way through a Shabbat evening service. Also included is a description of the traditional choreography associated with our prayers, which some members choose to use and others do not. Differences between our Reform text and that found in traditional congregations is also briefly described.

    In addition, the committee holds an afternoon workshop at least once a year for those needing/wanting to learn how to conduct a worship service in our congregation. During that workshop, we discuss the similarities and differences of the various Erev Shabbat services found in the Gates of Prayer, and review the general order of the service. Depending on the general knowledge of those present, time may be spent teaching something about the origin or source of the text of our prayers and, again, the similarities and differences found between Reform and Orthodox worship experiences is briefly described. As we require that the family of each of our b'nei mitzvah students must be responsible for leading at least one Shabbat service prior to their child's Mitzvah Shabbat, it is those members who most frequently attend the workshop we offer.


    (approx. 50 families)
  6. Jan 2005 Digest 2005-16

                I recommend a book I, personally, have found quite helpful:

    Arthur Rosenberg's Jewish Liturgy as a Spiritual System: A Prayer by Prayer Explanation of the Nature and Meaning of Jewish Worship, published by Aronson.

    I'm afraid I'm not very well spoken about these things, but I do know that the book was both influential, and helpful to me.


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