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Discussions on Prayer

A Journey Through the Siddur

We spend much time each day reciting the words of the siddur. Join us to enhance your prayers and become more proficient in understanding and mastering the prayer liturgy. This comprehensive series on Tefillah explores the special meaning embedded in the text of our prayers—elucidating, step by step, the words, structure, and progression of the siddur.

32:17
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 1
This class examines the importance of prayer, its biblical and historical origins, and the Jewish view on material requests. We conclude with explaining the first prayer upon waking in the morning.
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30:18
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 2
In this lesson we look at the rationale for us blessing G-d in general and specifically in the morning, why Hebrew is the preferred language for prayer, and the layers of meaning to the ritual hand washing in the morning.
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28:44
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 3
In this lesson we take a closer look at the standard wording of all blessings and also offer an additional reason for the ritual of morning hand-washing. Next, follows a fascinating discussion on the blessing of ‘Asher Yatzar”, which describes the wonders of the human body.
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31:59
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 4
In this lesson we probe the deeper meaning of the blessing ‘Elokay Neshamah’, which acknowledges and thanks G-d for granting us life and a divine soul. We then proceed to explore the subsequent morning blessings of gratitude.
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30:56
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 5
In this lesson we examine the succession of morning blessings, which express our thanksgiving for many special gifts we’re granted on a daily basis. We also don’t shy away from openly discussing the more controversial blessings at the end.
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30:45
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 6
In this lesson we discuss the final touch in the series of morning blessings, which includes the supplementary prayer beseeching G-d to alleviate our challenges in life. We continue with the blessings for the gift of Torah.
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29:44
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 7
In this lesson we explore the importance to prepare ourselves before we begin to pray, and why it’s necessary to verbally express our prayers. We preface the introductory prayers with a commitment to love our fellow Jew, which is followed by words of ‘Ma Tovu’ (the impact of a shul).
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30:01
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 8
In this lesson we take a look at the famous Adon Olam prayer, which describes G-d’s absolute sovereignty. Next, we reflect on the covenant and special merit of our patriarch, and specifically the Binding of Isaac.
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31:43
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 9
Prior to the formal prayer service, we recite the minor Shema prayers declaring G-d’s oneness. We proceed to state Torah passages related to the Temple service, both the animal and incense offerings—and engage in minimal Torah study.
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30:43
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 10
The very beginning of the formal prayer service starts with ‘Hodu’, a prayer of song and praise. Rabbi Kaplan presents a general outline of the structure and sections of Tefillah, which provides insight into why we begin specifically with Hodu.
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31:20
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 11
In this lesson we learn verse by verse the profound meaning embedded in this first prayer of praise, known as Hodu. We also uncover some deeper mystical messages contained in these verses.
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26:01
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 12
Together with the daily burnt offering in the Holy Temple, King David established verses of praise to be sung both at morning and afternoon. In this lesson we continue with these verses of the Hodu prayer and get a taste of the main themes of this section (up until Baruch She'amar).
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31:22
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 13
The second section of prayer is called Pesukei D’zimra, or Verses of Song, primarily comprised of Psalms praising G-d in creation. We begin with the blessing of Baruch She’amar describing how G-d created the world through speech and the attribute of kingship.
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30:50
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 14
As we begin our many praises of G-d in creation, we first establish some important principles in the Psalm Mizmor LeTodah, like G-d’s transcendent providence within nature. We then move on to explain the main ideas conveyed in the 21 verses of Yehi Ch’vod.
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32:26
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 15
The famous prayer called Ashrei is the central psalm in the section of Pesukei D’Zimrah (verses of praise). Learn the significance of this special prayer.
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30:59
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 16
The popular Ashrei prayer is arranged according to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In this lesson we proceed to uncover the deeper meaning of the verses.
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29:34
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 17
The primary focus of the Ashrei prayer is the verse in which we acknowledge and request that G-d provide sustenance to all living beings. In this lesson we peel away at the layers of meaning in the central theme of Ashrei.
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31:28
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 18
The series of five Hallelukah chapters from the end of the book of Psalms form this section of Verses of Praise (Pesukaei D’zimrah). In this chapter we begin with personalizing our praise of G-d, and express our complete trust and faith.
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29:17
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 19
Now, we approach the psalm ‘Halelukah Ki Tov’ in which we extol and praise G-d’s providence both for the Jewish people and the world at large. This Halelukah is the 147th psalm from Tehillim.
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29:56
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 20
In the chapter ‘Halelukah, Halilu’, which is the 148th psalm from Tehillim, we detail the extraordinary praise to G-d from all facets of creation, and conclude with the central role of His people.
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29:03
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 21
In the psalm ‘Halelukah Shiru LaShem’ we look to the future when we’ll sing to G-d in a new form of song that is an expression of sensing G-d’s presence and rejoicing in His joy. And through our words extolling G-d, we banish the negative forces of the world. This Halelukah is the 149th psalm from Tehillim.
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28:44
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 22
Now we reach the apex and culmination of the series of Halelukahs, which states that G-d is transcends and is beyond all the descriptions of praise we attribute to Him. This Halelukah is the 150th psalm from Tehillim.
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30:09
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 23
After concluding the six Halelukah chapters from Psalms, which are at the heart of Pesukei d’Zimjrah (the prayer section of praise), we recite verses that invoke blessing to serve as a demarcation. Learn how praise and blessing – though closely related – vastly differ.
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31:54
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 24
The prayer of ‘Vayevarech David’ serves as a transition from the six Halelukah chapters to the Song of the Sea. This part of prayer is packed with many foundational concepts of the Kabbalah, including the notion of the seven divine emotional powers.
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30:41
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 25
The song the Jews sang at the splitting of the sea was our first prayer as a people, which illustrates the special connection between prayer and song. Learn the context, the broad themes, and inner insights for the prayers of this song.
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29:27
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 26
The prayer of Yishtabach is the concluding blessing of the section of Pesukei D’Zimrah (verses of praise). Learn the significance of the 13 or 15 expressions of praise recited in this blessing.
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2:54
Join us as we begin new classes on the section of Shema and its blessings in this series on prayer, and explore the inner meaning of these foundational prayers.
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27:21
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 27
The third section of prayer consists of the Shema and its preceding and following blessings. They correspond to the third rung on the ladder of prayer—the realm of intelligence, which is higher than the previous two rungs of action and emotion.
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32:43
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 28
The first blessing of the Shema begins with the notion of forming light and creating darkness (day and night). Also described is the uniquely divine nature of creation and the need for the continuous creative force.
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29:41
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 29
In this lesson we continue in the first blessing of the Shema and cover the first paragraph, which begins with the words ‘Hameir LaAretz. We examine the multifaceted nature of creation that emanates from G-d’s attributes, whilst He himself transcends it all.
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28:48
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 30
In this lesson we probe further the first blessing of the Shema, discussing the praise of the heavenly beings like the sun and moon, and how the administering angels above correlate with directing the animal within.
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30:08
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 31
In the blessings of the Shema we describe in great detail the lofty nature and divine service of the heavenly angels. In this lesson we explore three reasons why we focus in these prayers on the angels’ sanctifying G-d.
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30:17
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 32
We recite in our prayers the angels’ sanctification of G-d. However, the angels first ask permission from one another and accept the yoke of heaven prior to sanctifying G-d. What is the meaning of the sanctification (holy, holy, holy…)?
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29:20
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 33
There are two general classes of heavenly angels, one intellectual and the other emotional. In this lesson we discuss the distinction in the sanctification of G-d recited by these two categories of angels, and how this influences our declaration as well. We then proceed to conclude the first blessing of the Shema.
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30:37
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 34
The second blessing of the Shema begins with the words Ahavat Olam (an everlasting love), and highlights the special love G-d displays towards the Jew, which in turn arouses a love from the Jew to G-d.
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30:25
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 35
The central prayer of Shema Yisrael (Hear O Israel . . . G-d Is One) begins with the essential statement of Jewish faith, wherein we proclaim our absolute belief in one unified G-d. Discover profound insight into how the Shema stands at the epicenter of our existence and ultimately encapsulates our historic experience at Sinai.
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30:23
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 36
In this class we learn the deeper meaning of the verse “Shema Yisroel” (Hear O’ Israel), in which we bear witness to the oneness of G-d.
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29:39
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 37
In the first paragraph of the Shema (v’Ahavta), after submitting to G-d’s sovereignty, we accept the yoke of His commandments. This begins with the instruction to love G-d, which motivates and energizes the performance of mitzvahs. This class also addresses the famous question of how G-d can expect us to love Him on command.
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28:45
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 38
The second paragraph of the Shema (v’hayah) restates and expands on elements of the first paragraph, but in markedly different form. Also, the Torah informs us of the ‘reward and punishment’ for mitzvah observance, warning us not to abandon them.
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30:14
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 39
The third section of the Shema contains the mitzvah of tzitzit, which serves as a reminder for our commitment to all of G-d’s mitzvahs, and not fall astray to our eyes and hearts temptations. It concludes with the remembrance of the exodus from Egypt.
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29:30
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 40
The blessing following the Shema is an uninterrupted continuation, wherein we affirm the absolute truth of the Shema with fifteen different expressions. We validate the fulfillment of G-d’s promises of the past and declare our confidence in His salvation for the future—immediately prior to asking for our needs in the Amidah prayer.
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30:22
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 41
The silent prayer called the Amidah, also known as the “Shemoneh Esrei” (eighteen blessings), is the climax and highest rung on the ladder of prayer. Discover the significance and broader context of the Amidah, and why it contains 18 blessings.
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29:56
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 42
The Amidah prayer begins with three blessings of praise that correspond to the three Patriarchs. The first blessing focuses on the special merit and quality of Abraham.
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28:55
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 43
The second blessing of the Amidah corresponds to Yitzchak—the second patriarch, and focuses on G-d’s attribute of severity and might. We praise the Almighty for His power to grant life and for the resurrection of the dead.
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30:50
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 44
The third blessing of the Amidah corresponds to Jacob and extolls the awesome sanctity of G-d and His name. In the fourth blessing we ask for knowledge—this is the beginning of the next part of the Amidah, which are requests for our needs.
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30:16
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 45
The middle blessings of the Amidah consist of personal requests for our spiritual and physical needs. In this class we gain insight into the fifth to eighth blessings, which we ask G-d to return us, forgive us, redeem us, and grant us good health.
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28:35
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 46
The intermediary blessings of the Amidah can be divided into two categories, individual requests and communal requests. In this class we examine the ninth to eleventh blessings, which are personal requests for prosperity and livelihood, and then collective requests for redemption.
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30:20
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 47
An additional nineteenth blessing – asking G-d to reject those who corrupt our faith – was later inserted into the Amidah (as the 12th blessing). The blessing to uplift the righteous follows, and next are two blessings praying for the coming of Moshiach and redemption. The final intermediate blessing (the 16th) is the culmination of it all—requesting G-d to accept and listen to our prayers.
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29:00
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 48
The final three blessings of the Amidah are centered on the theme of thanksgiving and acknowledgement to G-d. In this lesson we reach the conclusion of the Shemoneh Esrei.
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29:21
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 49
Following the culmination of the Amidah, we proceed to recite the prayers of supplication, which include confession of sins and asking for forgiveness, the “thirteen attributes of mercy”, and “falling on our faces” in submission with verses of supplication.
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29:15
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 50
Following the Amidah and the confessional prayers, we conclude with a number of additional prayers to supplement the service. We recite the prayer of Ashrei again, Psalm 20, the Sanctification of G-d, Song of the Day, and Ein Kelokeinu.
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29:43
Discussions on Prayer, Lesson 51
The popular prayer of ‘Aleinu’ – the final prayer – conveys the fundamental values of Judaism. Firstly, praise for being a unique people with a unique mission, the unique unity of G-d, and the hope for the time when G-d’s presence will be fully realized in the world.
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We spend much time each day reciting the words of the siddur. Join us to enhance your prayers and become more proficient in understanding and mastering the prayer liturgy. This comprehensive series on Tefillah explores the special meaning embedded in the text of our prayers—elucidating, step by step, the words, structure, and progression of the siddur.
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