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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

What Is and Isn’t Wrong with Prayer

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

The way most of us pray today is very different to the way it was originally intended. What goes on in most Jewish “houses of prayer” of whatever community, denomination, sect, or form is usually far from an exciting, uplifting spiritual experience.

According to Maimonides (Laws of Prayer Chapter 1:11), it remains a Torah obligation to relate to the Almighty every day and in one’s own way, regardless of what may or may not happen in a synagogue. The Hebrew “to pray” is Lehitpallel, which literally means “to express oneself”. How many people do? We tend to rely entirely on what other people have said. Yet the formal prayers we have were initially only intended to be a menu of suggested ideas for those who could not find the words themselves.

There is a dichotomy between personal, private prayer and public communal prayer. Their functions are entirely different. The Torah ideal remains that individuals should find spontaneous, subjective, and personal ways of connecting with how they understand the Divine presence. This is what is called “Deveykut”, actually engaging with God. This can rarely be done in a crowded synagogue surrounded by others who often have no interest in such activity. It cannot be done while a cantor performs, and most of all it cannot be done “on command”. Sometimes for a moment, such as Kol Nidrei, this effect can be achieved. But it rarely survives long. Only in a very few situations, such as those yeshivot with a strong tradition of prayer, does one experience extended concentration and excitement. For the average Jew living in no such rarified situation, synagogues in general simply do not offer this experience of the Divine. The Great Synagogue in Alexandria, where flags were waved to let distant parts of the building know when to say Amen (TB Sukah 21b), cannot possibly have been a place of personal engagement with Heaven.

The services we have nowadays perform very different functions. They are primarily to give us a sense of community and to actually get people together in ways that most religious obligations do not. Judaism makes demands on us both as individuals and as members of the community of Israel. Personal prayer remained personal. Yet over time personal prayers and petitions were incorporated into the “prayer” format, for convenience.

Herded into claustrophobic, foul ghettos, under Christianity and Islam, most Jews wanted to escape the overcrowded hovels they often shared with animals. The synagogue was the only large and airy building in the community where one could go to chat and study as well as pray. One needed to come and leave together for safety. That was where they wanted to be and to spend as much time as possible. No wonder the services got longer and longer.

The prevailing culture was also one in which any educated persons expressed themselves in poetry. Hence the great payyatanim, who spread under Islam from Israel to Spain to Northern Europe and churned out religious poetry in formal structures and conventions that were incorporated into services but no longer resonate with most of us.

The great mystic Rabbi Yitzhak Luria was responsible for introducing songs, for walking out into the fields, praying on the hills of Safed. The attempt to experience God moved from man-made structures to nature and back. The existential aspect of prayer, its singing and ecstasy as much as its communal aspect, influenced the great Chasidic reformation. But then like all revolutions, over time it lost its iconoclasm and creativity and sank back into formality. Still to this day in many Chasidic courts you will hear singing and ecstatic prayer that would be unimaginable in most synagogues in the West.

Jewish-Muslim Altercation Leads to Temple Mount Shutdown

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was closed to visitors on Sunday, after a fight had reportedly broken out between Jewish visitors and Muslim worshipers.

According to JTA, citing Israeli media, Jews visiting the site Sunday morning reportedly began singing Hanukkah songs and praying. In response a group of Muslim worshipers attacked them.

But the Tazpit News Agency reported that three groups of foreign tourists were permitted to enter the temple Mount compound, while 36 Jews were stopped at the entrance. And another group of some 300 tourists were stopped as well.

Isaac Lampert, a reporter for Tazpit, who is getting married tonight, was in line waiting to enter the Temple Mount and was among the Jews police were blocking. Lampert commented that it was a shame to have Israeli police prevent Jews from entering the site of the very Temple the Maccabees purified and re-opened more than 2,000 years ago.

Two Jews and two Muslims were arrested at the site Sunday.

Jews generally are not permitted to pray or bring any ritual objects to the Temple Mount, which is considered Judaism’s holiest site, in order to avoid confrontation with Muslim worshipers at the Al-Aksa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The site is overseen by the Muslim Wakf, the Muslim religious administration charged with managing the Temple Mount site.

The Temple Mount was closed to non-Muslim visitors during this year’s Sukkot holiday over fears that Muslims would be incited to violence by the crowds.

Days later on Oct. 14, the Temple Mount was shut down to visitors after police removed 10 Jewish men for praying and singing. The men were detained after praying and bowing on the Temple Mount, then singing “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, waving an Israeli flag and dancing.

About an hour before the incident, police detained three other Jewish men for questioning after they prayed and bowed during a tour of the Temple Mount.

 

Both JTA and Tazpit contributed to this report.

I’m a Feminist and the Women of the Wall Don’t Represent Me

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Ha’aretz reported that a group of activists from the Women of the Wall organization are opposed to an Israeli governmental proposal to permit Reform Jewish congregants to have their own area to pray, independent from where both Orthodox Jewish men and women pray. In other words, these activists rejected a compromise proposal that designates an area of the Kotel where they are permitted to pray as they desire, in order to insist that Orthodox Jewish men and women be forced to conduct their prayers surrounded by individuals who don’t respect their religious customs.

As a modern orthodox Jewish feminist, I am outraged by the behavior of these activists, who dirt the name of feminism by their actions. Just as Reform Jews feel that they should have the right to pray as they are used to at one of the holiest sites in the Jewish religion, Orthodox Jews feel the exact same way. Furthermore, while Reform Jews are religiously permitted to pray in accordance with the Orthodox tradition, Orthodox Jews aren’t permitted to pray in a Reform manner, since their prayer services must follow a certain format according to Jewish law.

Even though nothing bars a Reform Jew from praying at the Kotel in an Orthodox manner, the Israeli government was respectful enough to offer Reform Jews their own location at one of the holiest sites in Judaism in order to pray as they please, without disturbing others. But instead of jumping on the opportunity and saying thank you to the Israeli government, activists from the Women of the Wall organization aren’t content. Why? Because the compromise proposal permits Orthodox Jews to continue praying as they have for thousands of years and this bothers them. While they demand religious toleration from others, they refuse to give others the same favor in return.

While Women of the Wall claims that it is not egalitarian to pray in an Orthodox manner, I would like to remind them that Jews have been praying for thousands of years a certain way and changing the religion is not in the hands of men. We cannot decide in the place of G-d what is Jewish law, based upon modern trends. Even if we don’t understand everything in Judaism, G-d always makes things a certain way for a reason and humans should never question G-d.

Nevertheless, Judaism remains to be one of the most egalitarian religions today, as women are believed to be at a spiritually higher level than men and countless Jewish women have held prominent positions both in the Tanakh and throughout Jewish history. Moses granted Jewish women the right to inherit at a time when women having such rights were unheard of. Even if one doesn’t desire to obey Jewish law due to ones own Reform belief system, the bare minimum that one should be able to do is to respect others that wish to and to do as one likes in a location that won’t disturb others.

I also would like to point out to these individuals that there are many more pressing issues facing feminists today than whether or not Jewish women will be able to wear a Tallit like the men and host a so-called “egalitarian” prayer service at the Kotel. I call upon any one who believes that having “egalitarian” prayer services at the Kotel is the most pressing issue facing women today to take a look at the world that we live in.

Women are getting raped en masse in Syria, either by government forces or by Islamist rebels as part of their sexual jihad. Around 50 percent of Yemen’s brides are under the age of 18. The UN stated that over 5,000 women are murdered each year in honor crimes. 2,500 brides in India are burnt to death each year, primarily due to dissatisfaction over the dowry. One young Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, was almost murdered by the Pakistani Taliban for insisting on young girls in her country having the right to have an education. Around 125,000,000 girls in Africa and the Middle East are victims of female genital mutilation.

Closer to home, hundreds of young underage Jewish girls are seduced by Arab men each year. Many of these cases evolve into abduction, rape, and abusive marriages. This problem is especially acute in Southern Israel, where sexual harassment by Bedouin men is a major issue. Furthermore, according to the OECD statistics, the Israeli police recorded 17.5 cases of rape within the country per 100,000 people within the Israeli population in 2012. There were only 9 OECD members who had worst statistics than these in regards to rape, one of them naturally being the United States. Recently, Jerusalem Online News reported that only two female mayors were elected to serve in the 2013 municipal elections. This means that out of all of the Israeli municipalities, there are only 4 female mayors in the entire country.

Temple Mount Reopened to Jews and Arab Soccer Game Halted (+ Video)

Monday, October 21st, 2013

After the Temple Mount was closed to Jews for almost a week, the Israeli police permitted Jewish access to the holy site on Sunday.

The police closed the site after a group of Jews had the audacity to pray ‘Shema Yisrael’ out loud and then pulled out an Israeli flag.

Dozens of Jews went up to the Temple Mount on Sunday.

In what is an unusual response, after the Jewish visitors complained to the police about the Arabs playing soccer on the Temple Mount, which is both illegal and disrespectful, the police actually confiscated the ball, and stopped the game. At best, the Arabs simply ignore the police, and at worst, the the police simply let the soccer games continue unabated, despite the court order forbidding this disrespect on the Judaism’s holiest site.

Source: The Temple Mount Blog

This Man is NOT Praying

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

As the Israeli police and Islamic Waqf have forbidden Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, it is obvious that this man is NOT praying. No sir. No reason to arrest him at all.

He is simply standing in quiet contemplation.

Police Detain Four Jews for ‘Bowing in Prayer at Temple Mount

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Four Israeli Jewish teenagers were detained by police Wednesday for bowing down at the Temple Mount, an act that seen as a prayer and which is prohibited by the Muslim Waqf, the Muslim religious administration that is authorized by Israel to manage the holy site.

A rabbi also visiting the site told Israel National News that the four did not bow down

‘Caged Women’ – Never Happened

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

The Women of the Wall proved today that it’s not about the prayer, but about the politics.

While they were praying, they were also busy sending out tweets from the official Women of the Wall account (I guess they have some Kavana issues).

a horrible feeling. what a shanda to encage women at the kotel

what a frustrating, painful feeling. women in a cage at the Kotel.

When I heard, “women in a cage,” I rushed to check out the photos.

With a turn of phrase like that, I knew what I was expecting to see. Needless to say, I was disappointed, when it turned out to be nothing even close…

Let’s see what’s really going on.

Here they are at the main Kotel itself, being allowed to pray according to nearly any alternative lifestyle demands they have been promoting — with direct access to the wall at the plaza, so they can also touch the same section of the wall as everyone else can while they pray, and all the tourists can watch them.

WoWCage

Yet they are using SENSATIONALIST, exaggerated terminology, tweeting to the world that they were put in cages.

Put in cages!

At first I thought it was just them being whiny, but, you know what? It’s just straight out lying.

As you can see from their own photo, that it is not the case at all.

The women’s section has been divided by a standard police divider, so that part of the women’s section is designated for those women who want to pray in the traditional Jewish manner as they have been doing at the Kotel every day, and the other part dedicated to those who want to pray in their alternative fashion, wearing male accouterments, as they do once a month.

And since the Women of the Wall have been demanding to be allowed to pray at the main Kotel plaza in their non-traditional manner – and they were allowed to do so, this argument should pretty much be over.

But that obviously is not what the Women of the Wall want (that the argument should be over).

It’s not enough that they have forced their alternative method of prayer into the Kotel.

Here’s the truth of it, based on their own tweets.

They want to force their method of prayer onto to the other women at the Kotel too, including onto those who don’t want to pray that way – whether those women want it or not.

As part of their performance politics, the Women of the Wall are demanding that everyone else be subject to their methods of prayer, while they simultaneously prove that they won’t tolerate the way the other women (or men) at the Kotel want to hold their traditional prayers.

It’s a one way street for the Women of the Wall.

I am sure that within a month or two, they’ll get their way, too, and Orthodox (and non-Orthodox) women who want to pray undisturbed in the Jewish traditional manner will be made to feel very uncomfortable in their place of prayer.

And it won’t end there.

Because, as their tweets prove, this obviously isn’t about their wish to pray at the Kotel in a manner that deviates from tradition — after all, they’ve already won 95% of that (and I’m 100% convinced they’ll get permission to read from the Torah next month).

Next we’ll see petitions to the Supreme Court to completely remove the Mechitza, and allow egalitarian (mixed prayer) prayer groups.

How long until some IRAC-connected Reform rabbi demands to be allowed to play guitar on the Sabbath at the Kotel as he or she “traditionally” does in his or her Reform Temple?

This isn’t a battle about some women wanting to dress up as men like Yentyl and pray at the Kotel.

There’s no question that many of the backers of the Women of the Wall see the obliteration of Torah Judaism in public places in Israel as their ultimate goal.

The Kotel is just one of their battlefields, and the more SENSATIONAL they can make the battle sound, and the longer they can keep it going, the better it is for their camp.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/muqata/caged-heat-was-only-hot-air/2013/06/09/

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