AJL Review of Why We Pray What We Pray

by Ellen Share

Freundel, Barry
Why We Pray What We Pray: The Remarkable History of Jewish Prayer
Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2010
313 pp. $27.95 (9789655240344)

In the six chapters of Why We Pray What We Pray, Rabbi Freundel gives historical analysis and background information on these prayers: Keriyat Shema, Nishmat, Birkat ha-Hodesh, Anim Zemirot, Aleinu and Kaddish. You can read the entire book, but each chapter stands alone. In the introduction, the author writes, “The approach of this book is scholarly and not anecdotal.” It is different from many books on prayers in that it gives detailed information on the biblical, Talmudic and other sacred sources. Rabbi Freundel, who serves as an Orthodox rabbi and professor of religion, gathered the material that he has taught at a university level and distilled it into book form, providing the Orthodox view. Lines of prayers are given in Hebrew and English and footnotes are provided. This is a valuable source of information for the scholar and anyone seeking to understand prayer. The book could be of practical use and help answer questions of the rabbi, cantor, prayer leader, gabbai, and worshipper.

Freundel addresses such questions as how many months should mourners recite the Mourners Kaddish, who should recite the prayer, should the mourner stand during the prayer, and hiring someone to recite for the deceased.

The book is an outstanding contribution to the history of prayer and is recommended for rabbis, Torah scholars, Orthodox synagogue libraries, and special libraries with Judaica collections.

The original article from the AJL Reviews on page 20 can be found here.

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