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  1. The Power of Words

    Commentary by Rabbi Eliezer Diamond on July 18, 2014 in Jewish Practice

    Are words important? This is a question that bedevils us as human beings. It is largely the ability to speak that distinguishes us from the rest of the animal world. By speech, I do not mean the mere ability to communicate information; we know that other ...

    stasch - July 16, 2014

  2. Melody or Discord

    Commentary by Rabbi Samuel Barth on July 18, 2014 in Jewish Practice

    There is a parable that speaks of a village that once had a renowned orchestra that played beautiful music at set times in the presence of the king, bringing delight both to the musicians and their ruler, who rewarded the musicians generously for their ar ...

    stasch - July 16, 2014

  3. Piyyutim: Poetry of the Soul

    Commentary by Rabbi Samuel Barth on June 13, 2014 in Jewish Practice

    There is an exquisite irony that the same element of our liturgy—the traditional poems (piyyutim) within the siddur that are used in many of our services—is identified with both the greatest tedium and the most profound spiritual depths. We encounter Adon ...

    stasch - June 11, 2014

  4. Shema’: The “Secrets” of the Eyes

    Commentary by Rabbi Samuel Barth on June 6, 2014 in Jewish Practice

    Much of our liturgy and liturgical experience is verbal and analytic, based upon precisely what words we say and the meaning(s) found and embedded in those words. In these essays, we have also looked extensively at the way in which music, melody, and voca ...

    stasch - June 3, 2014

  5. Shema’ (Part 1)—What We Know and What We Don’t

    Commentary by Rabbi Samuel Barth on April 25, 2014 in Jewish Practice

    Ask almost any group of Jews to identify the most important Jewish “prayer” of all, and at the top of the list will almost certainly be the Shema’. Technically, it is not a prayer, for it is not addressed to God, but to the community of Israel. But that i ...

    stasch - May 5, 2014

  6. Time and Eternity in Shabbat Services (Part 1)

    Commentary by Rabbi Samuel Barth on March 11, 2014 in Jewish Practice

    I remember well a warning from one of my teachers in rabbinical school (for me, the Leo Baeck College in London). We were discussing Shabbat morning services, and the warning was to young(ish) rabbis and rabbinical students that if we “indulge ourselves t ...

    cldemesier - March 13, 2014

  7. On Doubt and Prayer (Part 4): “Soul” of Prayer

    Commentary by Rabbi Samuel Barth on February 19, 2014 in Jewish Practice

    In the preliminary section of the morning service, the siddur guides us through some of the most basic concepts of our existence. We ask each day, “ Mah anu? Meh chayeinu? ” (Who are we? What are our lives?), and I confess that I always wonder if the ques ...

    cldemesier - February 20, 2014

  8. On Doubt and Prayer (Part 2)

    Commentary by Rabbi Samuel Barth on January 29, 2014 in Jewish Practice

    Dan Savage offers a reflection on prayer that is both humorous and poignant, noting that, as a self-identified “lapsed Catholic,” he prays only when he feels his life is in danger (in planes and when driving with his partner), and then never follows up, m ...

    cldemesier - January 29, 2014

  9. The Tabernacle: Divinity and Practicality

    Commentary by Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz on January 29, 2014 in Jewish Practice

    Parashat Terumah opens dramatically with a building campaign. God commands Moses to solicit an array of colorful materials and gifts with an eye toward building a Tabernacle. It is this space that will contain the Presence of God in the midst of the peopl ...

    cldemesier - January 29, 2014

  10. On Doubt (Part 1)

    Commentary by Rabbi Samuel Barth on January 22, 2014 in Jewish Practice

    There are many texts found in the siddur that are not easily planted in our mouths, minds, hearts, and souls. For example, how might a person say with integrity, “My God, the soul You have given me is pure” (Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays, 4), while intel ...

    cldemesier - January 22, 2014