Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Religious Identity: Prayer Discussion Series Continues

On Wednesday, December 26, the Religious Identity team met once again to discuss prayer. Since last discussion used sources in Tanakh as the basis for a talk about prayer, the jumping off point this time was prayer in the Talmud. Ben, Marni and Rafi moderated the talk, with Ben supplying examples of prayers of Alexandrine Jews and Marni and Rafi preparing the following source sheet:

Talmudic source sheet on prayer

RS Member Jamie summarized her impression of the discussion:

When we pray in the Jewish religion, we do so as a community, with a minyan [quorum], and in a set place of worship. There are sources that say that God’s presence is stronger in a group of ten or more. This is not to say that smaller groups of prayer or individuals are not counted, but they do not hold as much weight as does the prayer of a community. Likewise, it is preferred that modern prayer take place in a synagogue and not be subject to whim.
This seems to contradict the idea that God is omnipresent and omnipotent. If He is everywhere and anywhere, why should it matter where we pray or with how many people? This community emphasis in prayer could perhaps be one of the many methods instated in Judaism to keep the community strong, because the community is what keeps religious awareness strong. While people can attain spirituality alone, in the locations they choose, there is a certain power in a group of people coming together to make requests and to plead as a unit for the needs of the community.