I can’t believe that we are already done with the History and Text part of our series! This past week was our last class meeting until March 11. We talked about Zionism and the foundation of the State of Israel, and agreed that an hour was not enough time to do justice to the subject. One online resource I forgot to mention is the Virtual Israel Experience available through the Jewish Virtual Library. If you are planning a trip to Israel, or want to stimulate your memories of Israel, it’s a wonderful resource on the Land.
You voted on where to give your Tzedakah Fund for this term, and chose the Tenement Museum in New York City. Sarah gave us a rapid (but very succinct!) description of the museum, and you are sending over $100 to support their programming. I have linked to their website, because even if you can’t go to the museum this month, their website is full of interesting materials about life among the Jewish immigrants to NYC in the early part of the 20th century.
Where to from here? The last segment of our class is more tachlis [Hebrew and Yiddish for “practical stuff”] about Jewish prayer, specifically the kind of prayer that Jews do as a community. The service can be rather sterile or baffling if you don’t understand the logic of it, so we’re going to start at the beginning talking about prayer (Why pray? Why repeat the same words every week? etc.) and then look at the services, and at the “God” to whom those prayers are addressed. My goal is to give you a basic familiarity with the service, and to help you find your way to a meaningful prayer experience. As with everything else in Jewish life, there are many opinions!
In the meantime, I invite you to think over some questions:
1. Do you ever pray? Have you ever prayed?
2. When you prayed, what were you doing? Have you prayed in different ways?
3. Were you comfortable? Uncomfortable? Bored? Excited? Dutiful? Annoyed? Angry? Ecstatic? Calm? Distracted? Confused? Something else?
4. What do you think you OUGHT to be doing and/or feeling when you pray?
5. What was the best prayer experience of your life? The worst?
I am not going to put anyone “on the spot” in class with these questions. We aren’t going to discuss them directly in class. If you keep them in mind, though, they will give you a personal context for the material we’ll be covering, and I think you’ll be able to get more out of the class.
I look forward to seeing you again on March 11!
— Rabbi Adar