January 2017

Open my lips that my mouth may speak Your praise.” This is the overture to the Amidah we recite during Shabbat services. The Amidah is one of the core sections of worship. The rabbis of the Talmud referred to the Amidah as just t’fillah, “prayer.” During the Shabbat morning services, the Amidah is recited twice, once before the Torah service and again in the Musaf service. Both times we sing parts of the Amidah together or responsively, along with parts that are just done silently. It’s quite complicated. So how then do we meaningfully “open our mouths” to pray the Amidah?

The Ritual Committee and I are excited to introduce a new Shabbat morning teaching program in January that focuses explicitly on the Amidah. We will discuss questions such as: what does the Amidah actually mean? What are the various body motions done in the Amidah? Is the kedusha the most important part of the Amidah? Are there other verses or words we can recite in the Amidah that are more relevant to our 21st century thinking? Over the years, many people have asked me these questions. We’ve discussed some during Adult Education or a service here or there, but never during a dedicated Shabbat service..

What is different about this program is that it will take place within the Shabbat morning service. The three scheduled dates are January 7th, the 21st and 28th. Instead of just reciting the Amidah as usual, I, along with members of the Ritual Committee will deconstruct the Amidah service during the Amidah part of the worship service. It is an opportunity to learn what the Amidah is all about and how to do all the body motions. Lastly, we also use some of the magnificent readings on the left side of Siddur Lev Shalem to pray as our Amidah. Our goal is to enlighten our kehillah about the importance and beauty of the Amidah, while making it fully accessible to everyone.

Over the next few months, we also look at other prayers of the Shabbat morning service and deconstruct them, too. These sessions will happen when there’s not a previously planned simcha or other synagogue program. Please mark the 7th, 21st and 28th of January to be at TBS. Learn about the Amidah so you can fully “open your mouths and speak of God’s praise.”

Rabbi, Dr. Larry Bazer