Why We Pray What We Pray

The Remarkable History of Jewish Prayer

By Barry Freundel

Format: Hardcover

ISBN: 13: 978-965-524-034-4


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by Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel
Hardcover, 313 pages
ISBN 13: 978-965-524-034-4
publication: 2010
Why We Pray What We Pray details the various factors that influenced six important Jewish prayers and shaped how and when Jews recite them. This book shows that each prayer (Shema, Nishmat, Birkat HaHodesh, Anim Zemirot, Aleinu and Kaddish) has a complex history of which contemporary worshippers are mostly unaware. When we learn about the factors and forces that shaped these prayers and Jewish liturgy in general, our appreciation of what Jewish worship is all about becomes that much more profound. Why We Pray What We Pray also sets forth important moments in Jewish history with depth and detail.
About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel is the author of Contemporary Orthodox Judaism's Response to Modernity (Ktav) and the Rabbi of Congregation Kesher Israel at the Georgetown Synagogue located in downtown Washington DC. Rabbi Freundel serves as vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and chair of its Geirus Policies and Standards Committee, where he helped create and administer the RCA's network of North American conversion courts. He is also Associate Professor of Religion at Towson University and Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University. Rabbi Freundel is married to Sharon Freundel, the director of Hebrew and Judaic studies at a Jewish day school in Washington DC and a registered nurse, and they have three children.
Praise for Why We Pray What We Pray:
"There is hardly a Jew who does not at some time in his life hold a Jewish prayer book, a siddur, in his hands. [It] is the Jewish religious text in widest circulation, surpassing even the Hebrew Bible.' My revered father-in-law, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, z"l, wrote these words in 1980 in the preface to his book, To Pray as a Jew. Yet few people understand the beauty behind the words and their meaning, and fewer still know the rich history of each prayer. In his book, Rabbi Freundel has provided an authoritative, detailed and descriptive history for some of the most important and majestic prayers contained in the Jewish prayer book. The book is a must-read for everyone who wishes to understand both the content and history of the prayers they recite. Why We Pray What We Pray belongs in every Jewish home and library!"
- Harry Peters, an attorney practicing law in New York City, is the chairperson of the Adult Education Committee for the Young Israel of Hillcrest in Queens, NY
"Barry Freundel's studies of the Jewish liturgy are quite unique: they are a guide to understanding and to practice. A scholar and a rabbi, he has an uncommon talent for combining textual and historical erudition with an immense sensitivity to the experience of prayer. He deploys his immense learning with great skill, and again and again casts new light upon some of Judaism's most familiar words. Above all, this book is animated by a profound and admirable commitment to the thoughtfulness of religious faith. If you have ever wondered what iyun tefilah is, it is this."
- Leon Wieseltier, author of Kaddish
"This is a scholarly book of impressive depth and originality that should intrigue and enlighten a large readership. Laymen (like myself) may know much of the prayer book by heart, yet have no clue to its underlying history and concepts. Rabbi Freundel turns a familiar liturgy into a palimpsest of emergent Jewish thought down the generations."
- Herman Wouk, author of The Language God Talks, This Is My God, and The Caine Mutiny