With All My Heart

The Jewish art of prayer and spiritual experience

Instructor: Rabbi Aryeh Weinstein 

More than half (55%) of Americans say they pray every day, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, while 21% say they pray weekly or monthly. But what is the purpose of prayer? Can we cause G‑d to change His mind? Is He in need of incessant praise? This course aims to make prayer more personally meaningful by addressing some of the philosophical, emotional, and practical barriers that make it difficult to pray. And by examining the history of how the Jewish prayers developed, as well as the meaning of the most notable prayers, participants will become more comfortable with tapping into Jewish prayer as a means of connection to their heritage.

Click here to register, or email rw@jewishcenter.info or call 215.497.9925.


LESSON ONE
THE POINT AND PERSONALIZATION OF PRAYER
We have degrees to earn, bills to pay, and diapers to change. Amid the
rapids of life, many feel that prayer simply does not earn itself a timeslot.
Others find speaking to an unseen being too ethereal for realistic
consideration. Some have it all, and see no need for appeals to the heavens.
Others need and believe, but are bored or turned-off by the liturgy,
the congregational elements, or the ritualistic nuances of formal
prayers; they simply do not find it meaningful.
This lesson explores the ultimate purpose of prayer, which is to foster
a deep and meaningful connection with G‑d, and it demonstrates the
ways in which prayer facilitates this remarkable goal. Prayer emerges as
beneficial for all people—spiritual seekers or otherwise, and those with
or without particular requests. The lesson also provides tips on personalizing
the liturgy for a deeper, more meaningful experience.
 
LESSON TWO
PRAYING FOR PRACTICAL RESULTS
Prayer is commonly seen as synonymous with petitioning G‑d for
things we need or desire. This raises a storm of questions: If we believe
that G‑d determines precisely what we should have, is it not insolent or
heretical to ask G‑d for something different? And why should G‑d pay
attention to our appeals for alterations to the divine plan? Do we even
have the power to influence that plan?
This lesson dives into the illuminating wisdom of Jewish mysticism
to discover how prayer works. It delineates a complex process through
which G‑d interacts with the world and its inhabitants—including a
method of overriding that system to influence its practical outcome. Key
to this endeavor is praying with the appropriate approach and frame of
mind, which are also explored in this lesson. In addition, we discover
that the apparently self-serving act of praying for our needs is pivotal to
fostering an intimate relationship with G‑d.
 
 
LESSON THREE
A LADDER TO HEAVEN: THE STRUCTURE AND 
FUNCTION OF THE PRAYER BOOK
Stereotypically, Jews lovingly open a prayer book and instantly sway
into the heavens—words flowing, emotions soaring, faces radiant and
relaxed. In reality, many stare in dismay at a confusing jumble of verses
without detecting rhyme or reason to the structure of the prayers. Some
do not bother to open it to begin with, preferring to be guided by their
own hearts rather than one-size-fits-all printed texts.
This lesson explores the history, function, structure, and goals of the
Jewish prayer book. Viewed as a critical tool in building a relationship
with G‑d, the prayer book must bow to the dynamics of any genuine relationship:
It demands time and patience, and unavoidably, the process
is gradual. It is structured as a ladder, leading from distant to close, from
distracted to united, and from hard ground to the soft outpouring of the
soul. The prayer book is designed as a step-by-step guide to real conversation
and genuine bonding with G‑d. This lesson discusses the first two
steps of this process, and offers a fresh appreciation of the world around
us.
 
LESSON FOUR
THE SHEMA: REACHING BEYOND CREATION
There are moments when spontaneous wonder evokes a sense of connection
with G‑d. It may be the birth of a child, a splendid sunrise, a
landscape, or the intricate marvels of G‑d’s world unveiled by modern
science. All of these, however, are akin to grasping at G‑d’s hand that is
present within the confines of our universe. But is G‑d not greater than
the universe? Is there not more to G‑d than His voluntary service as the
Creator? And if we assume that G‑d is infinitely beyond Creation, can a
miniscule mortal dare to claim a meaningful relationship with G‑d?
This lesson transforms these questions into a springboard into the
heart of the next stage of Jewish prayers, climbing beyond G‑d-the-Creator
to explore deeper aspects of G‑d’s Self. The tool for this heightened
awareness is the celebrated Shema prayer and its preparatory liturgy.
We ponder the concept of a G‑d who utterly transcends the universe
while paradoxically remaining intimately involved and accessible. The
lesson’s profound insights empower our relationship with G‑d with new
understanding and enthusiasm, inspiring us to venture beyond the confines
of our own inner universes.
 
 
LESSON FIVE
THE AMIDAH: SYNTHESIZING DIVINITY AND MATERIALITY
It is widely assumed that we must choose between spirituality and
self-refinement, and swimming further into a murky sea of materialism.
If we choose the more ascetic option, then a brief examination of our
prayer book is a cause for dismay; it contains bewildering dissonance:
Prayer is supposed to foster spiritual refinement and a soulful bond
with the Divine. But our prayers are replete with pleading for materialistic
needs—money, health, success, and the like. The paradox seems
inescapable.
This lesson examines the frontlines of the dissonance: the extensive
Amidah prayer. The Amidah sits squarely at the pinnacle of the service,
representing the peak of angelic holiness—the ultimate connection
point with G‑d. Its content, conversely, reads like a lists of material demands.
The lesson compels us to reconsider all we knew or assumed
about the relationship between spirituality, G‑d, and our tangible
needs. This seeming contradiction gives way to a brilliant appreciation
of prayer, G‑d, and our purpose on planet Earth.
 
LESSON SIX
IT TAKES A VILLAGE: THE DYNAMICS OF COMMUNAL PRAYER
It may be thrice daily or twice annually. Often, depending on how frequently
a Jewish individual prays, so are the number of visits to a synagogue.
Judaism’s prioritization of communal prayer is perplexing: If
prayer is to provide individual hearts and souls with a voice to communicate
personally to G‑d, to facilitate contemplation and reflection, to
enhance the ability to sense G‑d’s presence in our personal lives, and to
advance a relationship with the Divine, then private settings seem more
appropriate than clustered halls.
This lesson scrutinizes the function of communal prayer, identifying
critical elements missing from praying solo, thus making group praying
indispensable to achieving our ultimate goals in prayer. It also examines
practical approaches for balancing the profoundly personal aspects of
prayer with the critical communal elements, allowing a worshipper the
best of both approaches.

 

 

Happiness

For Men and Women
A six week course on Mondays Beginning:
May 6, 2019
7:30-9:00pm 
At the Glazier Jewish Center | 25 N State Street, Newtown 
Fee: $99
Bring a new friend and both receive 15% discount!