Tefillah Tips - Summer Reading

This is the time of year that the bookstores are full and email advertisements come regularly to address our summer reading needs. “Have you read that one?” and “You can borrow my copy after I am through.” are the phrases you hear people saying to each other these days. I would like to suggest some additional summer reading – our Siddur- Prayer Book. Summer is the perfect time to work on and improve our Tefillah-Prayer.

Everyone has his or her own particular challenges when it comes to prayer. Some have difficulty praying in Hebrew. Others have been rattling off daily prayers since childhood and still do not have a proper understanding of what they are saying. All of us could improve in one way or another in our Tefillah this summer.

So choose a prayer or a section of a prayer that you would like to understand better. Then learn the translation and additional commentaries available to you. You may jot down a note or two in your siddur to remind you of the insights you want to remember. Finally – (very important!) practice reciting your newly understood Tefillah. It is not easy to incorporate the meanings and insights while reciting prayers along with the synagogue service unless it is well rehearsed.

Think of the best books you ever read – how much of them do you actually remember? Do you reread these books on a regular basis – usually not. Well there are millions of Jews, myself included, that review and recite the Siddur every day, and certain prayers two and three times a day. These prayers are so central to our lives that the Kuzari likens our three prayers of the day to meals for our soul similar to the three meals we physically eat.

So treat yourself to a not so easy but very rewarding read amidst your summer plans. I am certain that you will be pleased with the results; and it will stick with you for years to come.

Rabbi Ephraim Epstein