Source texts on Jewish Prayer and Spirituality, compiled by Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

דומיה
Silence

לְךָ דֻמִיָּה תְהִלָּה אֱלֹהִים בְּצִיּוֹן וּלְךָ יְשֻׁלַּם נֶדֶר: (תהלים סה:ב)‏
To You silence is praise, God in Zion.[1]Psalms 65.2-3.

אֵין עוֹמְדִים לְהִתְפַּלֵּל, אֶלָּא מִתּוֹךְ כֹּבֶד רֹאשׁ.‏
חֲסִידִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים הָיוּ שׁוֹהִים שָׁעָה אַחַת – וּמִתְפַּלְלִים, כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּכַוְּנוּ אֶת לִבָּם לַמָּקוֹם.‏
אֲפִלּוּ הַמֶּלֶךְ שׁוֹאֵל בִּשְׁלוֹמוֹ – לֹא יְשִׁיבֶנּוּ;‏
וַאֲפִלּוּ נָחָשׁ כָּרוּךְ עַל עֲקֵבוֹ – לֹא יַפְסִיק:‏ (משנה ברכות ה׳ א)
One should not stand up le-hitpalel to pray unless they are in a serious frame of mind. The first Hasidim would wait one hour before praying in order sheh-yichavnu to direct their hearts to their father in heaven. Even if the king asks about his well-being he would not respond. Even if a snake coils around his heel he would not stop.[2]Mishnah Berachot 5.1

Forget for one hour all torot/ideologies and opinions, even our own Torah. Forget everything you ever read or heard, even forget what I said. Dispel from within anything that comes from without. Be alone with yourself and with nature. Pay attention to what’s happening in the depths of your neshama. Listen to what your pure “self ” is saying to you. Then I won’t have to speak a lot…for then we will be of one heart., even if we disagree on some point. We won’t have to travel on the same path to be near one another. Everyone going on their own path, not a small path. The stars in heaven are not bound to one another by ropes or cables, yet the bonds between them are stronger than any actual ropes or cables in the world. –A.D. Gordon

נשמה-נשימה
Breath-Spirit

וַיִּיצֶר ה׳ אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם עָפָר מִן הָאֲדָמָה
וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים וַיְהִי הָאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה: (בראשית ב:ז‏)
Adonai God formed the human from the dust of the earth and He puffed into his nostrils the neshama of life and he became a living being.[3]Genesis 2.7

כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ הַלְלוּ־יָהּ : (תהלים קנ:ו)
Every neshamah breath-spirit praises Yah – Hallelu-Yah![4]Psalms 150.6

חמישה שמות נקראו לה: נפש, רוח, נשמה, חיה, יחידה: [….] הדא הוא דכתיב (משלי כ:כז): “נר ה׳ נשמת אדם”. ר׳ ביסני ור׳ אחא ור׳ יוחנן בשם ר׳ מאיר אומרים: הנשמה הזאת ממלאת את כל הגוף, ובשעה שאדם ישן, היא עולה ושואבת לו חיים מלמעלן.‏

ר׳ לוי בשם ר׳ חנינא אומר: על כל נשימה ונשימה שאדם נושם צריך לקלס לבוראו. מאי טעמא? “כל הנשמה תהלל יה” (תהלים קנ:ו) – כֹּל הַנשימָה תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ הַלְלוּיָהּ.‏ (בראשית רבה יד ט)

[“The lamp of YHVH is the soul of Adam.”[5]Proverbs 20:27] Rebi Bisnai, Rebi Acha and Rebi Yohanan said in the name of Rebi Meir: The neshama fills the body. When one sleeps she ascends and draws ḥayim for it from above.

R. Levi said in the name of R. Haninah: With every neshima that one breathes one should praise the creator. For it says: Kol haneshama – which should be understood as kol haneshima Every breath praise God.[6]Psalms 150[7]Bereshit Rabah 14.9.


ניגון
Music

שִׁירוּ לה׳ שִׁיר חָדָשׁ (ישעיהו מב:י, תהלים לג:ג, תהלים צו:א, תהלים צח:א, תהלים קמט:א)‏
Sing a new song to Adonai![8]Isaiah 42.10, Psalms 33, 66, 88 and 149.

תָּאנָא, שִׁירָה מָשִׁיךְ בִּרְכָאן מֵעֵילָּא לְתַתָּא, עַד דְּיִשְׁתַּכְּחוּן בִּרְכָאן בְּכֻלְּהוּ עָלְמִין. (אמר רבי יוסי אינון ישראל למימר שירתא, שלימתא שירה דכליל כל שאר שירין הדא הוא דכתיב, (ישעיה יב) ואמרתם ביום ההוא הודו לה׳ קראו בשמו הודיעו בעמים עלילותיו).‏ (זוהר פרשת וילך, דף רפ״ו ע״א)
Song draws blessing from above to below until it is found in all worlds.[9]Zohar Va-Yelekh

דברים
Words

יִהְיוּ לְרָצוֹן אִמְרֵי פִי וְהֶגְיוֹן לִבִּי לְפָנֶיךָ ה׳ צוּרִי וְגֹאֲלִי: (תהלים יט:טו)‏
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You Adonai my rock and my redeemer.[10]Psalms 19:16

טוב מעט תחנונים בכוונה, מהרבות בלא כוונה.‏ (שלחן ארוך אורח חיים א׳ ד׳)
Better a little supplication with kavana than lots of it without kavvana.[11]Shulḥan Aruch Orakh Ḥayim 1 Se’if 4.

קהילה
Community

Whoever does not include in their heart the pain and hurt of their fellow – their prayer will go unanswered – that is why the prayers are in the plural. (Sefer Ḥasidim)

All the crises that I have endured along the way – one thing has never broken. I never stopped being a believer. Even in the greatest of my crises the solid ground of my faith never shook. Faith – labor at its center. It’s soul- prayer. There is no true singing that isn’t in actuality prayer.

During my first week in the land of Israel I stood besides the Western Wall. I stood a few paces away from the Wall, from the stones. I felt like I didn’t belong, like I was part of another reality. Then someone tugged at my sleeve and asked me to be the tenth person to complete their minyan, prayer quorum. I covered my head and joined the minyan. I joined in the afternoon mincha prayer. I had arrived.

This is so Jewish, the most uniquely Jewish thing – to be one of a minyan. To know that nine need the tenth and one needs nine others. This may be the most meaningful thing in Judaism.

My prayer is that I should always be one of the group. May my finest words be incorporated into the words recited by the community. Life has no meaning if they are for the individual alone. The individual has meaning only if the individual is connected to community.


I have added source texts and citations corresponding to Rabbi Kelman’s translations where I could locate their source. — Aharon Varady.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. Psalms 65.2-3.
  2. Mishnah Berachot 5.1
  3. Genesis 2.7
  4. Psalms 150.6
  5. Proverbs 20:27
  6. Psalms 150
  7. Bereshit Rabah 14.9.
  8. Isaiah 42.10, Psalms 33, 66, 88 and 149.
  9. Zohar Va-Yelekh
  10. Psalms 19:16
  11. Shulḥan Aruch Orakh Ḥayim 1 Se’if 4.

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