Journals Higher Education



Published: 25 October 2007

414 Pages | 9 photographs

ISBN: 9781904113720

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Bookseller Code (06)

Undercurrents of Jewish Prayer

Jeremy Schonfield

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization in association with Liverpool University Press

Traditional Jews encounter the prayer-book-the Siddur-more often in their daily lives than any other text, yet it is mysteriously absent from their otherwise nearly comprehensive curriculum of study. In addition, they tend to recite it mantrically, more for its sound than its meaning. The neglect of meaning is so complete that no edition of the prayer-book has yet appeared with a comprehensive range of commentaries. The present work, the first to examine this paradox, explains it as a reluctance to engage with the intellectual and emotional questions that lie just beneath the surface of the text. An analysis of the opening sequences of the daily ritual reveals that the prayer-book, far from representing one side of a deferential dialogue with an attentive deity, actually challenges God to allow access to the revelation on which human safety depends and to keep his side of the covenant. Confronting the chaotic unpredictability of the human condition, this undercurrent of protest allows Jews to question why God's urgently needed intervention seems absent. Anger at this apparent absence is qualified only by gratitude at being alive.

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