Prayer by Rote: Is Prayer Really That Simple?

December 24, 2013

by Rabbi Yaakov KlassJewishPrayerWeb1

The Rambam, in his opening chapter to the laws of tefillah (Hilchot Tefillah 1:1), states the following: “It is a positive command to pray every day, as it states in Exodus 23:25: ‘Va’avadetem eit Hashem Elokeichem… – You shall serve Hashem your G-d…’ ” We have learned, as transmitted by tradition, that this avodah is prayer, as it states in Deuteronomy 11:13: “U’le’avdo b’chol levavchem… – to serve Him with all your heart…” Our sages (Ta’anit 2a) offer this explanation: “What is [meant by] service of the heart? This is prayer. And the number of [daily] prayers is not Biblically commanded, nor is their form [text]. And [lastly] prayer has no Biblically-set time.”

Rambam sets forth no less than 15 chapters specifically devoted to the topic of prayer. He includes its laws in numerous other chapters in his magnum opus work, the Yad Hachazakah. The Tur, the Mechaber and the Rema devote no less than 45 simanim to this topic. Notwithstanding, many of our present day practices will not be found in their works. Yet, as these are ingrained in our prayer service, we question why and where. That is, many of these practices seem to have no reason and no obvious source.

Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen is an erudite scholar and long-serving pulpit rabbi in numerous positions in the U.S. and Australia, a prolific author of seven books on halacha, and a longtime halacha columnist for The Jewish Press. He set about to resolve these dilemmas with the publication of his most recent work, Jewish Prayer: The Right Way, Resolving Halachic Dilemmas.

In this volume Rabbi Cohen navigates the Read the rest of this entry »