Article Discussion: Jewish Spirituality Resource Guide: Synagogue Services

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This topic has 2 voices, contains 2 replies, and was last updated by  Sara Davies 1162 days ago.

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April 4, 2010 at 8:09 pm #4500

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Click here to read the article: Jewish Spirituality Resource Guide: Synagogue Services

April 18, 2010 at 5:15 pm #4549

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It’s fabulous, rich, precise, helpful, illuminating!
A couple of comments:
1) I’m wondering to what extent the question of Jewish spirituality is linked to the question of Jewish theology – you speak of spirituality as having to do with God, with our relation to or belief in God, and for me at any rate, but probably not for me alone, those two questions are separable, and spiritual experiences aren’t necessarily experiences of connection to God (for me, they’re pretty much never that, being almost physically unable to believe in God in the usual sense of that p hrase).
2) You talk very well about music in the set service, but if I’m following you rightly, you’re mostly talking about niggunim rather than about nusach. For me – again, I’m only setting out these points in relation to my own experience – meaning is added to the set prayers even by the nusach with which we pray them, the way we explore a recitation formula, what it feels like to move from one formula to the next etc.
3) You call the changes made to Hebrew liturgy “small.” For me at any rate, the changes you describe – very well, very precisely – aren’t at all small. (I say that especially after experiencing a service in which the matriarchs were named exactly once, and omitted on every other occasion by every davener but me . . .).
Again, yasher koach, congratulations, this is terrific and important!

August 16, 2011 at 5:57 pm #6029

Sara Davies

As I understand it, Jewish theology says that everything comes from God, and God owns everything, including us. It also says God loves us unconditionally, requires nothing from us, and that the commandments are for our benefit, not for His. Thus, He guides us to live our best lives, and to be our best selves. We strengthen our ability to be at our best by listening to Him. We connect with God and enhance our relationship with Him by making loving and ethical and pro-social choices, by acting from our better inclinations, as well as through ritual. We are not supposed to have a blind faith in God, but to come to know God exists through our own intellectual investigation. (For those who would cite Maimonides’ 13 principles of faith, remember he was controversial in his own time for proposing these dogmata. In Duties of the Heart, 11th century Spanish rabbi Bachya Ibn Paquda provides a logical argument for the existence of God. He further explains that the “duties of the heart” – the ethical commandments – such as to love one’s fellow – are as binding as the ritual commandments, and that ethical behavior is the underpinning of ritual and Torah learning, without which one is simply going through the motions.

Obviously, one can live an ethical life without belief in God, but I think it’s more difficult. Living a good life is, I believe, what defines spirituality.

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