The Way into Jewish Prayer
by Dr. Lawrence Hoffman, a rabbi and liturgical expert, offers an instructive and empathic orientation to the rewarding and perplexing experience of prayer. Throughout, Hoffman stresses that "Prayer is not simply a question of what Jews say to God. It is also about the God who is at the other end, listening." He begins with a survey of the many images of God--male and female, grand and humble--that have helped Jews throughout history to believe they are not alone. He moves on to consider the pragmatic, American question of how prayer works, arguing for the legitimacy of both fixed prayer and spontaneous prayer. Then Hoffman explains the prayerful symbolism of the synagogue in sharp detail, and the application of this symbolism in various Jewish traditions: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. Ultimately, Hoffman argues that all forms of Jewish prayer are geared toward finding the sacred in the ordinary. Prayer, he writes, is a way of making choices to "remain deeply human, warmly empathetic, on fire with courage, and alive with hope." --Michael Joseph Gross
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From Publishers Weekly
This book continues Jewish Lights' The Way Into... series, each volume designed to provide a basic introduction to Judaism by exploring one crucial Judaic concept. The expertise of the contributors is typified by Hoffman, who is a scholar, theologian, rabbi, teacher, lecturer and writer specializing in questions of Jewish liturgy. While his book is a primer on prayer, Hoffman demonstrates the close linkage among other aspects of Judaism. He begins by examining Jewish ideas about God, which leads to an exploration of the pattern and place of prayer. Portions of this research descend into various digressions, as when Hoffman discourses at length on the history, form, art and architecture of synagogues. A somewhat smaller diversion from his basic theme follows as Hoffman describes the denominations of Judaism, emphasizing their differences in regard to prayer. He concludes with a consideration of prayer ideas and blessings, again moving beyond prayer as he discusses theology, anthropology, cosmology, eschatology and the Jewish calendar. He offers a rather strained delineation of anthropology that bears little resemblance to its conventional definition. Most of the book is written simply and clearly, although Hoffman is overly fond of complicated tangents and sometimes crosses the line from explaining the value of prayer to preaching about it. Despite these limitations, this book, on the whole, is a useful explication of prayer in Jewish life. (Oct.)
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