Category Archives: Omer

Omer Learning 2019: Day 30 | Siddur Q & A: Why do some people take steps …

Today is 30 days, which is 4 weeks and 2 days of the Omer

Instructions for counting the omer are found on our Omer Overview Page. You can find the specific blessing for today at chabad.org.

We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.

Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by Laura N..

Why do some people take steps forward and back before starting the amidah?

The Amidah is the core of every Jewish worship service. The word “Amidah,” means “standing” and refers to a series of blessings recited while standing. Sometimes the Amidah is recited out loud and sometimes silently.

Walking into a synagogue, it is easy to tell when the congregation is saying the Amidah. Immediately before reciting the Amidah, there is a tradition of taking three steps backward and then forward again to symbolize entering into God’s presence. The idea is to step into a place of prayer, even though you haven’t moved far (if at all) from your original spot.

According to the Mishna B’rura 123:13, the correct way to take these steps is as follows: “take a small stride with [the] left foot, then take a large stride with [the] right foot, then take a stride with [the] left foot in a manner that [will ensure the] feet are adjacent.” This sounds like a dance step! In practice, people take the steps in a way that is comfortable for them.

Omer Learning 2019: Day 29 | Siddur Q & A: Are there prayers that ideally…

Today is 29 days, which is 4 weeks and 1 day of the Omer

Instructions for counting the omer are found on our Omer Overview Page. You can find the specific blessing for today at chabad.org.

We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.

Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by Rabbi Bass.

Are there prayers that ideally, I’d sing along with hazzan? Are there any prayers where I should strive to be quiet and let the hazzan have a solo?

Singing along with the shaliah/shlichat tzibur is encouraged most of the time!

One of the times that we should be silent and let the Shaliach/shlichat tzibur sing on their own is during the mussaf Amidah.

The morning, afternoon and evening Amidah for every single day of the year are seen as parallels to the three daily communal sacrifices brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. On Shabbat, Festivals, and Rosh Hodesh, an additional sacrifice (mussaf) was brought. Since that was not the regular communal sacrifice, we interpret the mussaf Amidah as an individual prayer, and therefore it would be great to allow the shaliah/shlichat tzibur to have a solo. In any case, it is always advisable to allow the leader of the prayer to set the nussach (melody) and pace of the prayers.

Omer Learning 2019: Day 28 | Siddur Q & A: Why do we kiss the fringes of …

Today is 28 days, which is 4 weeks of the Omer

Instructions for counting the omer are found on our Omer Overview Page. You can find the specific blessing for today at chabad.org.

We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.

Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by Joel P..

Why do we kiss the fringes of the tallit when saying the shema?

The Shema does instruct us to “love God with all your heart” and it would seem appropriate when this prayer references specifically one of the physical manifestations of our religion, “the fringes on the corners of the garments”, touching or even kissing that object.

But kissing as a demonstration of respect, as in kissing the ring of your Lord and Master, seems more historically appropriate. Particularly since the joys of face to face kissing (kissing for love) was not evident in the middle east or Europe until the 3rd century BC. (It is believed to have been brought back from the far East by Alexander the Greek. There are no references in Egyptian, Babylonian or Assyrian writings or art- almost nothing in Greek).

Formal references to the detailed rules about how to handle the tallit – including when to kiss the fringes and which hand to hold them in- seem to date from the 16th century CE, although they codify a practise that may have been around for a while.

Looked at from a historical vantage, another explanation for the attention paid to the fringes during this prayer (including gathering them in your hand while saying the Shema) makes sense to me. The prayer explicitly commands “you shall have the fringe so that when you LOOK upon it, you will remember to do all the commands of the Lord”. But it seems likely fringes were originally something that you wore at all times on your garment as a sign and a reminder -as today all Chasidic and most Orthodox Jews, do. If you wear fringes all the time, fringes become as routine or boring as socks.

Bringing the fringe up to your eyes – explicitly following the instruction to “LOOK” at them as special, seems a perfectly logical, even essential, corrolary to the prayer. And at that point, kissing the fringes as a sign of love, respect and recognition of their importance as a commandment and reminder seems almost inevitable. For an alternative, less appropriate way to demonstrate that you really are “looking”, see this classic Chevy Chase video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqNwo2NpmGY

Learn More

You can learn more at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_akKKf2o3I

Omer Learning 2019: Day 27 | Siddur Q & A: Why do we cover our eyes durin…

Today is 27 days, which is 3 weeks and 6 days of the Omer

Instructions for counting the omer are found on our Omer Overview Page. You can find the specific blessing for today at chabad.org.

We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.

Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by Harris L..

Why do we cover our eyes during the Shema?

The meaning of the Shema goes way beyond the belief in only one G‑d. “Hashem Echad” declares that there is no existence outside of G‑d. Our world, and everything inside it, is created from G‑d’s speech at every given moment. (To learn more about that, please read Juice and What is G‑d?) For a few moments every morning, we close our eyes and live this reality. Our breakfast, our shirt, our job . . . behind all the packaging, it’s all essentially G‑dliness.

We then open our eyes and see a very different-looking place in front of us.

But we can make it past this. For we have been reminded.
And this reality remains with us until evening, when it will be time for our next charge, the nighttime Shema.

Learn More

You can learn more at:

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1047775/jewish/Why-Do-We-Cover-Our-Eyes-for-Shema.htm

Omer Learning 2019: Day 26 | Siddur Q & A: Is the melody for the Shema an…

Today is 26 days, which is 3 weeks and 5 days of the Omer

Instructions for counting the omer are found on our Omer Overview Page. You can find the specific blessing for today at chabad.org.

We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.

Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by Adam C..

Is the melody for the Shema ancient, recent, or what?

A number of the well-known melodies for prayers in the siddur were composed by Solomon Sulzer, a cantor in Vienna, Austria who lived from 1804 to 1890. This includes the melody for the Shema that most synagogues use today. He also composed the melody for Aleinu that we are most familiar with. Fun fact: Sulzer served as the cantor of his synagogue for 55 years!

Omer Learning 2019: Day 25 | Siddur Q & A: Why is Ashrei recited twice du…

Today is 25 days, which is 3 weeks and 4 days of the Omer

Instructions for counting the omer are found on our Omer Overview Page. You can find the specific blessing for today at chabad.org.

We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.

Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by Rachel J..

Why is Ashrei recited twice during the morning/Shacharit service?

Although it is easy to find information about why Ashrei should be recited three times a day (see the Talmud, Brachot 4B and the promise of a place in the world to come/Olam Habah), it is not so easy to find anything authoritative as to why it’s recited twice during Shacharit (and once during Mincha; why not once in the morning and twice during Mincha?).

One theory found on the OU website, says the sages wanted to marry Ashrei with the kedusha, which is why where there is a kedusha, there will be an Ashrei preceding it. There are two kedusha prayers in Shacharit, ergo two Ashreis. (And there is no kedusha in Maariv and no Ashrei then, either.)

In Artscroll Siddur, there is a footnote by Ashrei that suggests is it the ideal prayer to serve as a transition between the height of spiritual connection that is reached during Shacharit and the remainder of our normal, pedestrian day. For that reason, it is recited twice in the morning prayers.

Omer Learning 2019: Day 24 | Siddur Q & A: When a siddur falls on the gro…

Today is 24 days, which is 3 weeks and 3 days of the Omer

Instructions for counting the omer are found on our Omer Overview Page. You can find the specific blessing for today at chabad.org.

We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.

Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by Elisa R..

When a siddur falls on the ground we pick it up and kiss it. Where does this tradition come from? When did it start?

From Aish HaTorah: “When picking up a sacred book which has fallen to the ground, it is customary to kiss it as a sign of love and respect for God’s teachings. For the same reason, it is customary to kiss a sacred book when closing it and putting it away. It is likewise customary to kiss one’s tefillin when putting them on and taking them off.”

Learn More

You can learn more at:

https://www.aish.com/jl/b/bb/48937512.html

Omer Learning 2019: Day 23 | Siddur Q & A: The Torah talks extensively ab…

Today is 23 days, which is 3 weeks and 2 days of the Omer

Instructions for counting the omer are found on our Omer Overview Page. You can find the specific blessing for today at chabad.org.

We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.

Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by The Internet.

The Torah talks extensively about sacrifices and priests–does it ever talk about the kind of services we have today?

“”The biblical narrative that exemplifies for the rabbis the kavvanah with which their own liturgy ought to be prayed occurs in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. Surprisingly, this paradigmatic prayer is articulated by a woman. Hannah, a pilgrim at the Shilo sanctuary, prays there silently and desperately for a child. The High Priest Eli scolds her, mistaking her voiceless prayer for the ravings of a drunk. “No my lord,” she replies. “I am a tormented woman. I have drunk no wine or other strong drink, but I have been pouring out my heart to God.”

Reproved, Eli blesses her. God answers Hannah’s prayer and she becomes the mother of the prophet Samuel.

Why Hannah?
It is this story that the rabbis of the Talmud select to illustrate the laws of the Amidah, which they call ha-tefillah, “the Prayer.” But why this story? Why should Hannah be acclaimed as the originator of prayer when she is not the first character in the Bible either to entreat or to thank God? It is because only the Hannah narrative addresses the particular concerns of the rabbis about the nature and authenticity of rabbinic prayer.

This narrative is the only instance recorded in the Bible in which a private individual prays in a sanctuary where sacrifices are offered. As such, it affirms for rabbinic Judaism its own continuity with tradition, the continuity between prayer and sacrifice, ritual word and ritual deed, between the synagogue liturgies and the ancient rites of Tabernacle and Temple.

In the person of Hannah confronting the High Priest Eli, moreover, rabbinic Judaism confronts the Judaism of the Temple cult. To the imagined priestly challenge “Do you call this unprecedented behavior worship? Isn’t this sacrilege?” rabbinic Judaism responds with its exegesis on Hannah’s defiant “No, my lord.””

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hannahs-prayer/

Omer Learning 2019: Day 22 | Siddur Q & A: What’s the most surprising pra…

Today is 22 days, which is 3 weeks and 1 day of the Omer

Instructions for counting the omer are found on our Omer Overview Page. You can find the specific blessing for today at chabad.org.

We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.

Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by The Internet.

What’s the most surprising prayer in the Siddur?

This is of course subjective, but I think the ‘prayer for our country’ has to be among the most unusual inclusions in the siddur. By that, I don’t mean the specific text we read–there’s nothing alarming about this blessing. What I’m referring to is the variations on this prayer that have been included throughout our history.

Imaging opening up your siddur and finding a prayer for the wellbeing of a Roman Emperor, ‘Lord King Fernando’ (who would expel the Jews from Spain!) or even the Pope!

“”I always assumed that [the prayer for our country] was a recent addition- we said something somewhat different at the Conservative synagogue that we also attended, also in English.

In fact, the origin of the prayer for the welfare of the government is biblical. It was following the first exile, as we sat by the waters of Babylon that the Prophet Jeremiah conveyed to us the following:

“So said the L-rd of Hosts… seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you, and pray to Hashem on its behalf, for in its prosperity you shall prosper.”

This was after 586 BCE. Not 200 years later Ezra recorded that in the rebuilt Second Temple it was the practice to offer sacrifices and prayers for the lives of Emperor Darius I of Persia and his children. Some six hundred years after that the Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) touches on the subject in Chapter 3, Part 2:

“Rabbi Chanina, the deputy Kohen Gadol says: ‘Pray for the welfare of the government, because if people did not fear it, a person would swallow his fellow alive.”

What makes this Talmudic reference all the more remarkable is that Chanina lived in the days of Nero- a ruler whose name has become synonymous with tyranny- and he heralded a long tradition of Jews praying for rulers for whom they didn’t particularly care.

In the Dead Sea Scrolls, archeologists found the oldest known prayer for the welfare of the government, this one by the community of Qumran praying in 130~ BCE for the Hasmonean King Yonatan, the nephew of Judah Maccabee.

While working his way through the Cairo Geniza in 1898, Rabbi Solomon Schecter found the following prayer:

“In Your Name oh Merciful, And we pray for the life of our lord, the great king, the prince of the sons of Kedar, our master and lord, the Imam, the Commander of the Faithful, and for his sons, the royal family, and all persons of his entourage who serve the king out of love and wage war for him against his enemies. May G-d- may he be praised- help them and help us; may he subdue their foes and ours; and may he fill their hearts kindness towards us and towards all his people, the house of Israel, and let us say; Amen.”

Dating from the early 11th century, this prayer would have been used to bless the Fatimid Caliph and ruler of Egypt, Abū ʿAlī Manṣūr- the 16th Imam of the Ismaili branch of Shia Islam, and a major figure in that religion. Another surviving prayer from Worms, Germany from the same time period blesses the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II.””

Read more: https://www.ou.org/life/news/blessing-czar-pray-president/

Learn More

You can learn more at:

https://www.beureihatefila.com/files/2012-11-09_Tefila_Newsletter_Supplement.pdf

Omer Learning 2019: Day 21 | Siddur Q & A: Help, I’m not sure when I shou…

Today is 21 days, which is 3 weeks of the Omer

Instructions for counting the omer are found on our Omer Overview Page. You can find the specific blessing for today at chabad.org.

We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.

Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by The Internet.

Help, I’m not sure when I should be standing and when I should be seated. Any general guidance you can offer?

“”In Jewish prayer, as in life, standing for something symbolizes a greater level of respect. Just as people stand to greet visiting dignitaries or the president, we stand during some prayers to indicate a greater level of respect and intention. The centerpiece of any Jewish prayer service is the Amidah, a prayer whose very name means “standing.” So, of course we stand during the standing prayer.

We also stand for Barekhu, Aleinu, Hallel, and as a general rule, one should stand any time that the Ark is open. It is customary to stand as the Torah is being paraded to and from the table where it is read, and when it is being held up and wrapped at the end of the Torah service. Mourners stand when they recite Kaddish. In most Orthodox and some Conservative communities the custom is for non-mourners to also stand for the other Kaddishes in the service (half Kaddish, full Kaddish, and rabbis’ Kaddish). Other Conservative communities and Reform communities tend to remain seated for Kaddishes. Some Reform communities stand for the Shema.

Now, what should you do when some people stand for a Kaddish? How do you decide if you’re one of the people who stands? Judaism values the custom of the community. So, if you don’t know what to do, look and see what the majority of the other congregants are doing. In the words of 9th century rabbi Natronia Gaon, “When they stand, stand; and when they sit, sit; and don’t appear different from the entire congregation.” If most are standing, the respectful thing to do is to stand. If most are sitting, take a seat. If it’s relatively evenly divided, do whichever you’d prefer, but be consistent — if you stand for one Kaddish, stand for them all.””

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ask-the-expert-standing-in-shul/