Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blogging Elul Day 18: Pray

People expect a Jewish prayer book to express what a Jew should believe about God, Israel and the Torah, and about the meaning of human life and the destiny of mankind. We must not disappoint them in that expectation. But unless we eliminate from the traditional text statements of beliefs that are untenableand of desires which we do not or should not cherish, we mislead the simple and alienate the sophisticated.

Kaplan viewed prayer as an expression of dogma: say what you mean, and mean what you say. But the great theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel, writing in the same period as Kaplan, pointed out the difficulties with Kaplan's proposed solution of radical editing: "True, the text of the prayer book presents difficulties to many people. But the crisis of prayer is not a problem of the text. It is a problem of the soul. The Siddur must not be used as a scapegoat. A revision of the prayer book will not solve the crisis of prayer. What we need is a revision of the soul, a new heart rather than a new text.... What we need is a sympathetic prayer book exegesis." Although Heschel never fully articulated what a "sympathetic prayer book exegesis" might look like, I want to offer one possibility grounded in the most basic Rabbinic prayer in the siddur: the Amidah.
-Rabbi Elie Kaufner, Empowered Judaism

No comments:

Post a Comment