Title: Mean What You Pray; A Practical Guide to Prayer
By Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt
As thinking and believing Jews, the topic of tefillah is frequently on our mind. Thus, it is always a good time to read, “Mean What You Pray; A Practical Guide to Prayer” by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt.
In this slim and very readable book, Rabbi Rosenblatt gives over his personal hashkafos on prayer, specifically regarding the brachos of Shemoneh Esrei. Rabbi Rosenblatt bases much of his understanding on the teachings of his Rebbi, Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, of Aish HaTorah. The author’s goal is “to make prayer more accessible for those who are challenged by it, and for those who are not, increase their ability to access the power of prayer.”
Reading the book feels very much like sitting with a wise, friendly mentor, patiently offering you his hard-earned insights into prayer. This is not a word by word, transliterated Biur Tefillah book and certainly not a book of halacha – although it contains elements of each of these. Rather, it’s a guide to understanding what prayer is at its essence. With relatable, even colloquial language, Rabbi Rosenblatt addresses the thinking person’s questions about prayer. What are we doing when we pray? What makes us think that G-d wants to hear us? How do we make our best case? How do we dare presume to make any case at all?
One of the best parts of this book is that along with the footnoted, scholarly answers, the author provides practical suggestions for different portions of prayer. He utilizes visualization and imagery, and his suggestions are easy to understand and implement. He urges the reader to work on developing the feeling one should experience at various points in prayer rather than merely acting out the mechanics. Some of the topics he addresses include: What is the significance of the many different names of G-d in different places? What are the various forms of prayer and when should each be used? Why do we bow? What is kavana and why is it necessary? Can we change Hashem’s plan by praying? Should we even try?
Without an understanding of the significance of our tefillot, many people find themselves frustrated. Some will spend their time in shul, merely mouthing the words and counting pages as they anticipate the end of each prayer session. But this is written for the serious Jew, who recognizes that “to pray is to communicate with the Infinite.” For those seeking to utilize prayer as a means of relating to G-d, this book will serve as a valuable guide to actualizing prayer’s greatest potential.
And who wouldn’t want help doing that?