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by Tzadikguy

The spies you sent returned with a devastating report that the Promise Land appears impregnable. The people began to doubt and lose faith in the One who promised the Land..

The once magnificent and Holy Temple where you could draw close to HaShem; where you could become ritually pure; the place that you would visit a few times year; the place that had become a part of your walk…was destroyed..

The horrid memory of the destruction of the first temple was partially being replaced with the presence of the incredible and monumental second Holy Temple. Things were great. You were just beginning to slightly forget about the demolition of first Temple when catastrophe struck..The second Holy Temple you came to love…was destroyed..

You had a little house. You had a family. You had an occupation. You were happy in England. The year was 1290 CE and things were going well. As you approached a particular day of the year you began feeling uneasy. Then your worst fear was proclaimed and enforced throughout England..Every Jew was expelled from the country..

At least this time you were given four months to completely evacuate..Just when you were settling in, feeling welcome, and making money you heard the devastating and dreadful news of the edict of expulsion from Spain in 1492 CE. Where were you to go? Where could you escape the horrific plague of persecution that was spreading like an airborne disease?

What could possibly be worse than having such saddening, disastrous events happen to your people? Having them all happen…on the exact same day. That day is today. Tisha B’ Av [The ninth of Av].Each event pushed further and further into a debilitating wound. No other people in history have ever experienced the persecution, the horror, and the destruction the Jewish people have endured. On such a solemn day as this we should mourn with Israel. We should remember the tragedies and pray. During the weekday shacharit and minchah prayers we find a few extra paragraphs for fast days in the Siddur. I encourage you to at the very least look at the words the Jewish people are praying and pray yourself. Here are some ideas for participating in the fast of Tisha B’ Av:

  • The fast begins at sundown July 19 and ends sundown July 20.
  • It is customary to read the book of Lamentations. Get a group together and alternate reading Lamentations out loud. Upon completion, discuss the book and the relation to Tisha B’ Av.
  • Read a few articles about Tisha B’ Av. Become familiar with the history, the customs, and the traditions of the Jewish people. Click here for a great blog post about Tisha B’ Av.
  • Prepare an easy and fun way to break the fast at sundown on July 20. A get-together with friends and food is always a great option.
  • If you are working take the opportunity to pray minchah and the extra paragraphs on your lunch break. You will not be eating anyway.
  • Write a thank you letter to an Israeli soldier.
  • Gift a tangible or financial gift to an individual or organization in Israel. I recommend EFRAT but there are many great charities in Israel.
  • Write a post or a journal entry about your experience on Tisha B’ Av or record ideas and suggestions of activities, articles, books, websites, etc.
  • Finally, at the end of the fast focus on the anticipation of future joy found in Zechariah 8:19 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace.”

May you all have a Tzom Kal [Easy Fast] and be a light to the nations.

Shalom

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by torahgirl & tzadikguy

Prayer has been defined as “the service of the heart” or “in the heart,” as opposed to the service that was performed in the Temple, which consisted basically of the offering of sacrifices. The service of prayer is many faceted. In it we address ourselves to G-d. We may turn to Him in petition, addressing our needs to Him, and needs can be of many sorts. To pray for peace is to ask for our needs as much as is asking for food, rain, or prosperity.

Entering Jewish Prayer: A Guide to Personal Devotion and the Worship Service by Reuven Hammer

We begin the morning Shacharit service with the Morning Blessings. The most famous of them is Modeh Ani: “I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion – abundant is your faithfulness!” These blessings are designed to be recited when you first wake up and get out of bed.

The second part of Shacharit is called Pesukei d’Zimrah, which means Verses of Praise. The Siddur explains “the sages taught that one should set forth the praises of G-d before making requests of Him… by focusing on G-d’s glory all around us, we prepare ourselves for the Shema and Shemoneh Esrei,, when we accept Him as our King and pray for the needs of the Jewish people.” The Pesukei d’Zimrah starts with the beautiful blessing “Blessed is He Who spoke…” It is made up of Psalms and other Scripture passages which prepare our hearts for the reverent worship of Shemoneh Esrei.

The third part of Shacharit is the Blessings of the Shema and the Shema itself. These blessings “express G-d’s mastery over nature, pray for intellectual and moral attainment through the study of Torah, and describe G-d’s role in the flow of history.” Traditionally the Shema is recited twice a day, morning and evening.

Finally, we’re ready for the Shemoneh Esrei, the “eighteen benedictions.” The Talmud calls Shemoneh Esrei “The Prayer,” because this is where we express our needs and ask Hashem to fulfill them. Tradition says the Shemoneh Esrei was instituted by the Patriarchs. It is one of the most important prayers in the Siddur. It’s also called the Amidah or Standing Prayer, because we rise and take three steps forward to recognize that we are approaching the King. The Siddur instructs us to “recite it with quiet devotion and without any interruption, verbal or otherwise.” The Shemoneh Esrei illustrates yirah HaShem (fear of G-d) and ahavat HaShem (love of G-d). We show fear for HaShem by physical actions during the prayer such as stepping forward to symbolize entering His presence and bending the knees while bowing to acknowledge His sovereignty. We do these things to concentrate intently on what is being read and to physically demonstrate our reverence for Him. We show love for HaShem by humbly praying the words and blessings in this beautiful prayer with the intent to honor Him with our obedience.

Learning about prayer – understanding the liturgy, the history of the Siddur (daily prayerbook), the structure of the service, and its themes – is a way of helping us to enter the world of Jewish tradition. The Siddur is the best possible introduction into that world. It brings us face to face with Judaism’s struggle for an understanding of G-d, humanity, and the world. Mastery of the Siddur is the key both to the ability to worship as a Jew and to the understanding of the meaning of Judaism. Once we possess it, new vistas open before us.

Entering Jewish Prayer: A Guide to Personal Devotion and the Worship Service by Reuven Hammer

Our purpose here on earth is to draw closer to HaShem and if prayer is the first thing we do each day, then the rest of the day is more centered around our purpose. When is the last time you began your day with prayer?
Challenge yourself to pray Shacharit every morning for one week. This challenge will express the physical and mental change that comes from starting your day with the right attitude toward HaShem and others. We recommend starting with the Modeh Ani, thanking HaShem for the gift of a new day, then prepare your heart by reading a few Psalms from the Pesukei d’Zimrah, and finish by standing to enter HaShem’s presence and recite the Shemoneh Esrei. Try it for a week! If you’re already familiar with weekday Shacharit prayers but don’t do them every day, make a special effort for 7 days in a row and see how it goes.

Resources:

Artscroll Complete Siddur page numbers
Morning Blessings: page 3
Blessings of the Shema: page 85
Shemoneh Esrei: page 99

Follow-up Questions
Have you had more of an awareness of HaShem?
Have you learned more about HaShem and His Torah?
Have you referred to Torah in conversation more often than usual this week?
Have you prayed more throughout the day?
Have other people noticed a change in your attitude/behavior?

Torahgirl’s post on Candlelighters

by tzadikguy

The Master of the Universe granted me the privilege to arise this morning alive and well, and if you are reading this post then it is safe to say you were also granted the same privilege. An action as simple as waking up every morning is an amazing gift from HaShem that most people take for granted. How do you handle such a wonderful gift? Do you become infuriated with the alarm clock? Immediately turn on the radio, record player, or television? Do you go right to your computer? Sadly, these are just a few examples of morning activities that have become routine in our culture and society. How can we expect to spend the remainder of our day serving HaShem, if we begin by participating in worldly affairs? Thankfully there is a solution to this dilemma that is found in the Siddur {the book of traditional prayers and blessings}! The solution comes in the form of a short blessing that is traditionally sung or recited “Before getting off the bed or commencing any other conversation or activity” The blessing is as follows:

I thank you, living and eternal King, for returning my soul within me in compassion, great is your faithfulness.

Modeh ani l’faneykha, melekh chai vekayam, she-hechezarta bi nishmati bechemlah, rabbah emunatekha.

What a great way to commence each day! So many incredible things are included within this small prayer. First we are “thanking” Him for allowing us to wake by returning our soul to us. The reason for the wording of this section is that the act of sleeping places our bodies in a state nearer to death than any other time in our lives. When we are asleep we are helpless, vulnerable, and subject to our surroundings. We should pray before bed for HaShem’s protection and shelter, and upon arising to thank Him for His faithfulness. Secondly, we refer to HaShem as the “living and eternal King” which gives us a chance to demonstrate our respect and reverence for Him. He is alive, He is eternal, and He is our King. These facts are indisputable. Also included in this prayer is the verbal acknowledgment that HaShem is faithful and compassionate. Therefore we should also be faithful daily in our righteousness.

9Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;…” Deuteronomy 7:9

Let’s begin our day by thanking our King and focusing on Him. As it is said in the Sh’ma:

18 Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. ” Deuteronomy 11:18-19

To print a Modeh Ani {Blessing Upon Arising} study card, click here.

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