Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 1
INTRODUCTION: This semester we’ll be exploring some of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s teachings on Jewish prayer. I strongly recommend getting the book Worship of the Heart. For the first session we’ll look at the Rav’s grandfather, Reb Chaim Brisker’s well-known teaching on the meaning of kavvana (intention in prayer), which serves as a groundwork for much of what we’ll be learning over the next number of weeks. For anyone that would like a general intro to the Rav’s biography and thought, listen to THIS archived shiur.
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 2
REB CHAIM ON PRAYER: Thanks to all of you who have joined us for the new series on Rabbi Soloveitchik and Prayer. Next time we will get into the analysis of the Rav’s grandfather Reb Chaim zt”l, who examines the dual nature of kavvana. Please consider the questions I laid out at the end of the previous session – I’d be glad for your thoughts by email in advance. Attached is a chapter from Worship of the Heart, which I had suggested you get hold of. While I’m unlikely to get to it in the coming session, attached is a chapter on Shema and kavvana, but that should give you at least 2 weeks to read it yourselves. I neglected to mention the publication of the Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur, which is an English-Hebrew prayer book containing the Rav’s commentary anthologized on the prayers. I’m not likely to make direct use of it in our series, but bring it to your attention. Finally, here are links to some of things I mentioned last night:
My intro lecture to the Rav’s life and thought.
My essay on the Rav’s presentation of the Brisker Method.
R. Yonason Hughes’ book Understanding Reb Chaim.
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 4
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 7
MORE ON SHEMA VS. TEFILLAH: We’ll continue comparing Shema vs. Tefillah in this essay (from p. 97 and on). The pdf of Aryeh Kaplan’s “Jewish Meditation” is linked in the resources. Anyone interested in and needing a quick tutorial on Buber’s “I and Thou” should see THIS page and the links there.
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 9
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 10
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 12
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 14
OPENING STRUCTURE OF AMIDAH: I’m looking forward to resuming our study of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s teachings about prayer – we’ll be picking up in the middle of this essay starting from section starting on p. 163. You might be interested in THIS essay I wrote in the Jerusalem Post on Rav Soloveitchik and the 2013 elections for Israel’s Chief Rabbi.
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 16
PRAYER AND SURRENDER: Continuing from p. 168 in this essay on the real meaning of “sacrifice” and how it relates to prayer. Re: items mentioned last time – see attached for Berakhot 26b (should you need to review), and here’s the Tevya clip. The other essays I mentioned where the Rav expands on some of the themes we’ve been discussing – “Redemption, Prayer, Talmud Torah”; “Catharsis”; and “Majesty and Humility” can all be downloaded HERE. For those interested in doing further reading I recommend R Ziegler’s book, Majesty and Humility.
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 19
WHY PRAISE AND THANKS?: Continuing from p. 175 in this essay – why does petition prayer need to be “sandwiched” between praising God at the outset and thinking Him at the end? — Regarding the topic we’ve been discussing until now – the centrality of petitionary prayer, see: “Destiny, Freedom and the Logic of Petition” by R. Shalom Carmy. What is the purpose of petitionary prayer? Is it coherent to pray for that which God has already promised? How do we deal with the thorny issue of prayers which seem to go un-answered? Rabbi Carmy builds upon Rabbi Soloveitchik’s idea that petition enables us to realize our true needs. This starting point helps us understand the “prayer of destiny” where a person prays for something already divinely promised. When the avot and imahot (biblical patriarchs and matriarchs) prayed for children, they internalized the significance of offspring and of passing on the mesorah. Of course, the same applies to the “prayer of freedom” where a person prays without any prior guarantees. How does a person learn about the worth of a specific personal need if Hashem does not clearly answer the petition? Rabbi Carmy explains that a person must sometimes proceed without clear answers. There exists no “unambiguous formula” for existence. Hannah did not give up her desire for children nor did Avraham despair of losing Yitzhak on the way to the akedah. These goals retained their validity even as other religious duties called. In Rabbi Carmy’s words, “Life is not treated as a problem requiring a solution, but as a mystery summoning the individual to an encounter with God.” Tradition 24:2 (1989): 17-37 at this link: http://www.atid.org/resources/carmy/destiny.asp
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 21
Rabbi Jeffrey Saks is the founding director of ATID – The Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions in Jewish Education, in Jerusalem, and its WebYeshiva.org program. He is the Editor of the journal Tradition, Series Editor of The S.Y. Agnon Library at The Toby Press, and Director of Research at the Agnon House in Jerusalem. A three-time graduate of Yeshiva University (BA, MA, Semicha), Rabbi Saks has published widely on Jewish thought, education, and literature (see webyeshiva.org/rabbisaks).