web analytics
April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Shemoneh Esrei’

Guests Or Residents? Women In Our Shuls

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

A few weeks ago I was completing the silent amidah at the morning minyan I attend in my local shul. Suddenly, a cold breeze shot through the room. I headed back to the door of the bet midrash where we pray and saw that a young observant woman I know had propped the door slightly ajar in order to hear the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei and the reading of the Torah.

The women’s section right next to the door was being used by several men. One man who had come late was putting on his tefillin while another man was taking his off; one man was praying intensely while another was wandering around, possibly looking for a sefer on the shelves in the back.

The young woman, too shy or intimated to ask them to leave the area, simply stood in the cold drafty hall, bundled up against the elements, trying to hear the chazzan and the tefillah. The door to the women’s section has a sign politely asking men not to pray in or walk through the women’s section as it is reserved for women. But like so many other rules of etiquette in shul, this one was being ignored. I quickly motioned to the men to exit the women’s section; after they noticed my gesticulations they slowly did.

The phenomenon of men praying or simply donning their tefillin in the women’s section is one we have all seen repeated countless times in our shuls and batei midrash here and in Israel. It is a practice that needs to stop, the sooner the better.

Men praying or passing through the women’s section, even if there are no women there at the moment, bespeaks (not explicitly, of course) an attitude that devalues the place of women in the synagogue. It subtly indicates the sense (again not deliberately) that women have no real place or space in the synagogue. They are there, the message resounds, at the indulgence of men.

Whatever one’s views on the hot button issues of the role of women and ritual in the shul, it should be a sine qua non that a space be always set aside for the women who attend shul during the week and that this space should be sacrosanct. Women should feel they have their very own space. No woman should have to ask a man to move out of the women’s section or wait for a sympathetic soul to notice her discomfort and push the men to leave.

A person seeking to connect with God should never be made to feel like a guest in the house of God, especially in her own shul.

This attitude is also reflected in the context of some of the Mincha minyanim that take place in offices in the midtown and financial districts of large cities. Many of these ubiquitous minaynim resist making accommodations for the small but growing number of observant women who would also like to pray with a minyan either on a daily or occasional basis. In some there is resistance to set up a mechitza, while in others, even ones that meet in shuls with women’s sections, many men, especially the latecomers, simply appropriate for themselves the space of the women’s section to spread out as they engage in prayer.

This issue is not the most urgent one on our communal plate at the moment, but it is so easy to rectify.

Our history reflects the reality that men, even those steeped in piety, often failed to appreciate women’s desire to experience and engage in tefillah.

We need look no further than the high priest Eli, who spoke harshly to Hannah, mother of Samuel the prophet, because he initially misunderstood what she was doing when he saw her engaged in prayer. But ultimately, as the Talmud teaches us, Hannah came to be considered the mother of prayer.

It is from Hannah’s sincere desire to pray and from her deeply felt prayers that we derive many of the laws of tefillah found in our halachic texts. It behooves us to ensure that all our shuls and minyanim are truly batei knesset where all of Knesset Yisrael – the Jewish people – can feel at home and at peace.

Title: Shemoneh Esrei: The Depth And Beauty Of Our Daily Tefillah

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Shemoneh Esrei: The Depth And Beauty Of Our Daily TefillahBy Rabbi Zev LeffTargum Press

 

Rabbi Leff’s Shemoneh Esrei is a magnum opus on the central prayer of our davening. This all-encompassing tome is a work that has been 20 years in the making – refined and redefined as various series of shiurim and subsequently weekly newspaper articles. Rabbi Leff graciously answered the call to have his brilliant insights made into a book. The polished gems of Torah thought reflected herein transmit the deep essence of prayer with purity and clarity.

While the book appears to be a bit daunting – it’s 546 pages long – it is written in a user-friendly fashion. It is both erudite and straightforward and the ideas presented are clearly organized to make them easy to grasp despite their esoteric and scholarly nature. Focusing on the heart of our daily tefil-lah, Rabbi Leff speaks to our hearts and minds about our service to Hashem. As the book analyzes each of the berachos in Shemoneh Esrei, it explores the depths of the themes in our lives, our faith and our service to G d.

Woven expertly into the fabric of the book are a wealth of sources from the Gemara and classic Jewish texts. Shemoneh Esrei presents the laws of the various brachas within the prayer, their meaning and their implications as well as the underlying themes of prayer to our lives as believing Jews. Rabbi Leff elucidates how each aspect of the prayer connects to every facet of our daily personal and na-tional existence.

With our hectic and often stressful lives, praying is something we often do by rote, many times, unfortunately, lacking the right kavannah. Reading Shemoneh Esrei will undoubtedly instill in the reader a new awareness of the impact, power and meaning of the words we utter in prayer. This new understanding will help us to imbue our service of the heart with greater clarity, devotion and sincerity.

May all our prayers be answered for the good and may Rabbi Leff be blessed with many more years in which to inspire us, till 120!

This book is a must for every Jewish home.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/10/06

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories by e-mail to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.

To all women, men or children who feel that they are at the end of their ropes, please consider joining a support group, or forming one.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to help agunot, please send your tax deductible contribution to The Jewish Press Foundation.

Checks must be clearly specified to help agunot. Please make sure to include that information if that is the purpose of your contribution, because this is just one of the many worthwhile causes helped by this foundation.

**********

Dear Rachel,

This is in response to the column of January 13 that featured a letter from a Jewish male subway rider regarding girls/women davening on the train.

Some time ago, on a weekday morning, I met up with an old friend on the train. It was crowded and we stood schmoozing side by side – when she suddenly declared that it was getting late and she still needed to daven. To my utter dismay, right there she took three steps back and three steps forward, bowing (before the Ribono Shel Olam, I suppose – though it could have been to the passenger sitting directly in front of her) and began to daven Shemoneh Esrei, while holding onto the overhead bar. I was floored by this unseemly display of “piety.” Whom was she trying to impress – or implore, for that matter? In my humble opinion, she succeeded at neither.

Davening is certainly commendable, but there’s a right time and place for everything. I didn’t hang around long enough to see what would happen if the seated passenger needed to get off the train while the “weirdo” ahead of him was swaying and bowing. Would a polite “excuse me, ma’am” have elicited a side step by my friend (conceivably in the process of uttering the blessing of Atah chonen l’adam daas – You bestow wisdom upon man)? Would she have then murmured “uh, excuse me, G-d, I’ll be right back.”?

I was taught way back when that Shemoneh Esrei is an especially exalted tefillah that calls for absolute concentration and no interruption. In fact, one who is not praying (but is in proximity of one who is in the midst of the amidah prayer) is to keep it down to below a whisper in the presence of such sacred communication with G-d.

Rachel, you were right on (as usual) in your assessment. Mechanically recited prayers and half-baked pleas don’t carry much weight. Furthermore, women have more leeway time-wise – and can beseech Hashem in their own words at just about any time.

Like many frum girls, I too allot time for davening. But if I can’t manage to complete my morning prayers at home before leaving for work, I utilize my coffee break to do so.

Dear Female (and Male) Straphangers,

Last week’s column featured four letters, all from female readers, who took issue with the opinion of Unimpressed Male Onlooker and my response to his letter. (Male readers are mum on this one)

“Glad to be living in a land of Freedom of Religion” takes note of both “Jew and Gentile praying on buses and subways.” To be sure, “Unimpressed” made the point of stating that “reciting psalms in an unassuming manner is one thing – to set oneself up to be the center of unsolicited attention is quite another.” Dear readers, pray tell, how would you react if a member of the Muslim sect unrolled a rug in the aisle of a subway car and fell upon it – in full view of fellow riders – in a passionate fit of prayer? I venture to guess that the thought that would run through your mind as you make a dash for the nearest exit door would be, “Why doesn’t he go to his Mosque to pray?”

“The Subway’s fine for me” talked of our prayers “purifying the [subway] surroundings” Is she suggesting that we ask female riders of varied denominations to cover up their untznius’dik anatomy (in the summertime)? Does she propose muzzling the rowdy young riders whose yackety-yak is peppered with choice four-letter words? How would she deal with the pungent odor of a cheeseburger and fries being munched on by a fellow passenger? Would she tell him to bag it till she completes her prayers? One’s prayers can “purify” an open-air environment, or a hotel room/lobby/ auditorium that are, at minimum, clean of discernible impurity. Even in our own homes, we are not permitted to utter as much as a blessing where an open door leads to a lavatory facility.

“Dismayed” cites the well-known episode of Dovid Hamelech dancing before the “Holy Ark with great kavanah and emotion.” I am hard-pressed to decipher a correlation between the subway car and, l’havdil, the Holy Ark. As for the devotion and stature of King David, does our reader imply having reached the level of Dovid Hamelech’s lofty heights? Woe unto me . . . I confess that even in the confines of my own private quarters, I constantly struggle to keep extraneous mundane thoughts from invading my conscience as I attempt to focus upon the holy task at hand.

“Dismayed” ends her letter with, “So, what takes priority – the idle thoughts of man, or honoring Hashem?” Precisely the point

As for “A very upset reader” who expresses her disappointment in my view of women davening, perhaps I failed to clarify that there is nothing improper in saying tehillim or otherwise praying quietly to oneself, while not getting in anyone’s way – whereas making a show of praying with total abandon is not part of our repertoire and is certainly unbecoming of a Jewish girl/woman. As for the appropriateness of the environment and the concentration factor, the limited space allotted to this column precludes delving into detail of these essential elements as pertain to tefillah. I take the liberty of referring readers to a recently published book authored by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman entitled, Praying With Fire. This excellent guide to “Igniting the Power of Your Tefillah” is thoroughly researched and liberally documented with references.

In closing, I quote an excerpt from Rabbi Kleinman’s text. “If the right location can enhance prayer, it makes sense that, in equal measure, the wrong location can harm it. Thus, one should not pray in a place where concentration will be difficult” (Chapter 6:Strategy 12:page 217).

Thank you all for taking the time to share your views.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-10/2006/03/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: