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Worship of the Heart

Essays on Jewish Prayer

By Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

Edited by Shalom Carmy

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"Prayer, indeed, is the symbolic portrayal of a range of experiences that form the ecstatic state of mind. Is such an exalted experience something in which every human being may share; or is it confined to the religious genius - a curious and unique type of personality who is capable of attaining this ecstatic state of mind, of rapture and unification, a personality who rejects what seems clearly, logically and tangibly to be the natural order, for the sake of tending a reality which is beyond one's grasp? Is prayer only for the mystic? We, in contrast to the mystic, are all physically and mentally children of this external concrete world and therefore, if this be true, cannot make the leap from the sensuous and real into the transcendent and absolute....


"What then does avodah she-ba-lev mean for us, with our unmystical bent of mind that tends toward the real and practical? Can we achieve the kavvanah of tefillah in our ordinary modest way though we are not able to embark upon the great and strange adventure of the spirit? Of course the answer must be formulated in the affirmative, for otherwise tefillah would be the exclusive privilege of the imaginative genius, the mystic, and, as such, would be denied to ordinary man.Such an assertion would contradict the very essence of the Halakhah, which is an exoteric discipline to be practiced by the philosopher and simpleton, the poet and the dull person alike."


~ Excerpted from Worship of the Heart


The biblical command to serve God "with all your heart" is interpreted by Jewish tradition to refer to prayer. The Rav here explores the crucial interface between living religious experience and halakhic norms --the hallmark of his work. He analyzes the Amidah, the Shema, and other biblical and liturgical texts, and also considers the tension between human dependence and exaltation, the ethical and the aesthetic, the presence and absence of God, and the yearning for stability and the desire for change.


~ Excerpted from Worship of the Heart

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Additional Info

Additional Info

Format Hardcover
SKU ktav1762
Series Number 02
Publisher Ktav Publishing House