Prayer in Judaism – Rabbinic

Although spontaneous individual prayer is found throughout Torah, communal prayer was not institutionalized until the Second Temple period. They were modeled after daily animal offerings. Often prayers involve request or petition, other times they praise God and His works. The Psalms series 120-134 begin with the superscription “A Song of Ascents” may have been sung by Levites as they ascended the steps of the Temple.
Other Psalms were likely written to be sung by Levites and worshippers in the temple courtyard. Prayer in rabbinic times evolved. The general order of the Amidah blessings – central prayer – was fixed but an order for each of the blessings were not yet drafted. Worship of the heart was interpreted by the Rabbis to mean prayer.The Amidah means “ standing prayer”. It begins by praising God and invokes the notion of the “merit of our ancestors.” The second blessing praises God’s power and includes power to resurrect the dead. The third blessing has Israel imitating the angelic choir and coronating God as King (Isaiah 6).

[Image]The middle section contains petitions of what redemption contains: the wisdom to know God’s will, and our changing our ways to reflect His will naturally ensues. Pain, suffering cease, there is economic prosperity, ingathering of exiles to Israel, justice flows, heretics are punished, the Temple will be rebuilt and the Messiah will come. The role of the Messiah comes at the end of the process because all of the work will have been done prior to his presence.

The final three blessings of the Amidah ask God to accept our prayer, thanks Him for our daily miracles and asking Him to bless us with peace, the hallmark of redemption. Regarding congregations of Reform Jews, there are changes to Rabbinic interpretation. The Reform rabbis teach that resurrection of the dead is to be understood as the quickening of all life. Their prayer books speak of a Messianic age, rejecting the notion of an individual Savior. They are also gender inclusive, speaking of patriarchs and matriarchs. Regarding praying for the re-establishing of animal sacrifice, Reform and Conservative prayers books modify that language. The melody for the sung Amidah is taught person to person, and all Hebrew prayers and blessings are sung a capella.
Hear more explanation and the first few blessings of the Amidah by Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg:  and as he describes and explains the movements performed during the Amidah prayer blessings.


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