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November 08, 1991 - Image 71

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-11-08

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NOV. 8, 1991

A Toast
To Jewish Living

Stand Up, Sit Down, Pray: Following The Shabbat Service


When I was a little boy, my
parents took me to a cousin's bar
mitzvah. I'm pretty sure that it
wasn't my first worship service, but
it was the first time that I tried to
follow along in the prayer book. All
that Hebrew and all those "upon
thy this" and "upon thy that" had
me thoroughly confused. It seemed
a jumbled mess. It was a very
intimidating moment and made the
synagogue drop at least 10 spots on
my all-time top-40 list of places I felt
comfortable. It took a long time (and
a summer at a Jewish camp) for me
to overcome that prayer-anxiety.
Several times in the Torah, we
are told that people were created in
God's image. We are also told in
Vayikra (Leviticus) 19.1 to "be a holy
people, for I, Adonai, your God, am
holy." For many Jews, this is often
taken to mean that we should do
the kinds of things that God does,
to try.to come as close to God as
we mere mortals are able. Now
holiness is hard stuff to fathom —
especially in America at the cusp of
the 21st century. We don't seem to
talk much about these things
The prayer service is a journey.
It is a guide to doing the kinds of
things that God does. Prayer —
especially in the context of a service
— is a vehicle for trying to come as
close to God as we mere mortals
are able. It is a journey through
Jewish history — we trace all the
ways our ancestors have related to
God in hopes of making our own
connections. Some scholars have
described the journey as climbing a
There are three basic types of
prayer: Praise, Petition and
Praise: Prayers in which we say
how terrific we think God is, and
why. We praise God because
we think that God is awesome,

Continued on Page L-2

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