A new six-session course by the 
Rohr Jewish Learning Institute
 

THE JEWISH ART
OF PRAYER
AND SPIRITUAL
EXPERIENCE

 

The Jewish art of prayer and spiritual experience

 

More than half (55%) of Americans say that they pray every day while 21% say they pray weekly or monthly, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey.  This course aims to make prayer more personally meaningful by addressing some of the philosophical, emotional, and practical barriers that make it difficult to pray. Some of the questions we will be adrressing are; What is the purpose of prayer? Can we cause G‑d to change His mind? Is He in need of incessant praise? This course also examines the history of how the Jewish prayers developed, as well as the meaning of the most notable prayers.

 

WHEN

SIX WEDNESDAYS
7:00-8:30 P.M.
BEGINNING MAY 8

LOCATION

LOCATION TO BE PROVIDED UPON RSVP.

MORE INFO

951-222-2005 | INFO@JEWISHRIVERSIDE.COM

 

FEE: $99 | BRING YOUR SPOUSE OR A FRIEND AND BOTH RECEIVE 15% DISCOUNT!


 

JOIN THE FIRST CLASS FREE (WITH NO OBLIGATION TO CONTINUE)

 

COURSE OVERVIEW

 

  LESSON 1  

THE POINT AND PERSONALIZATION OF PRAYER

We have degrees to earn, bills to pay, and diapers to change. Amid the rapids of life, many feel that prayer simply does not earn itself a timeslot. Others find speaking to an unseen being too ethereal for realistic consideration. Some have it all and see no need for appeals to the heavens. Others need and believe, but are bored or turned-off by the liturgy, the congregational elements, or the ritualistic nuances of formal prayers; they simply do not find it meaningful.

 

This lesson explores the ultimate purpose of prayer, which is to foster a deep and meaningful connection with G‑d, and it demonstrates the ways in which prayer facilitates this remarkable goal. Prayer emerges as beneficial for all people—spiritual seekers or otherwise, and those with or without particular requests. The lesson also provides tips on personalizing the liturgy for a deeper, more meaningful experience.

 

  LESSON 2  

PRAYING FOR PRACTICAL RESULTS

Prayer is commonly seen as synonymous with petitioning G‑d for things we need or desire. This raises a storm of questions: If we believe that G‑d determines precisely what we should have, is it not insolent or heretical to ask G‑d for something different? Why should G‑d pay attention to our appeals for alterations to the divine plan? Do we have the power to influence that plan?


This lesson dives into the illuminating wisdom of Jewish mysticism to discover how prayer works. It delineates a complex process through which G‑d interacts with the world and its inhabitants—including a method of overriding that system to influence practical change. Key to this endeavor is praying with the appropriate approach and frame of mind, which are also explored in this lesson. In addition, we discover that the apparently self-serving act of praying for our needs is pivotal to fostering an intimate relationship with G‑d.

 

  LESSON 3  

A LADDER TO HEAVEN: THE STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION OF THE PRAYER BOOK

Stereotypically, Jews lovingly open a prayer book and instantly sway into the heavens—words flowing, emotions soaring, faces radiant and relaxed. In reality, many stare in dismay at a confusing jumble of verses without detecting rhyme or reason to the structure of the prayers. Some do not bother to open it to begin with, preferring to be guided by their own hearts rather than one-size-fits-all printed texts.


This lesson explores the history, function, structure, and goals of the Jewish prayer book. Viewed as a critical tool in building a relationship with G‑d, the prayer book must bow to the dynamics of any genuine relationship. It demands time and patience, and unavoidably, the process is gradual. It is structured as a ladder, leading from distant to close, from distracted to united, and from hard ground to the soft outpouring of the soul. The prayer book is designed as a step-by-step guide to real conversation and genuine bonding with G‑d. This lesson discusses the first two steps of this process and offers a fresh appreciation of the world around us.

 

  LESSON 4  

THE SHEMA: REACHING BEYOND CREATION

There are moments when spontaneous wonder evokes a sense of connection with G‑d. It may be the birth of a child, a splendid sunrise, a landscape, or the intricate marvels of G‑d’s world unveiled by modern science. All of these, however, are akin to grasping at G‑d’s hand that is present within the confines of our universe. But is G‑d not greater than the universe? Is there not more to G‑d than His voluntary service as the Creator? And if we assume that G‑d is infinitely beyond Creation, can a miniscule mortal dare to claim a meaningful relationship with G‑d?

 

This lesson transforms these questions into a springboard into the heart of the next stage of Jewish prayers, climbing beyond G‑d-the-Creator to explore deeper aspects of G‑d’s Self. The tool for this heightened awareness is the celebrated Shema prayer and its preparatory liturgy. We ponder the concept of a G‑d who utterly transcends the universe while paradoxically remaining intimately involved and accessible. The lesson’s profound insights empower our relationship with G‑d with new understanding and enthusiasm, inspiring us to venture beyond the confines of our own inner universes.

 

  LESSON 5 

THE AMIDAH: SYNTHESIZING DIVINITY AND MATERIALITY

It is widely assumed that we must choose between spirituality & self-refinement, and swimming further into a murky sea of materialism. If we choose the more ascetic option, then a brief examination of our prayer book contains bewildering dissonance. Prayer is supposed to foster spiritual refinement and a soulful bond with the Divine, yet our prayers are replete with pleading for materialistic needs—money, health, success, and the like. The paradox seems inescapable.

 

This lesson examines the frontlines of the dissonance: the extensive Amidah prayer. The Amidah sits squarely at the pinnacle of the service, representing the peak of angelic holiness—the ultimate connection point with G‑d. Its content, conversely, reads like a list of material demands. This lesson compels us to reconsider all we knew or assumed about the relationship between spirituality, G‑d, and our tangible needs. This seeming contradiction gives way to a brilliant appreciation of prayer, G‑d, and our purpose on planet Earth.

 

  LESSON 6  

IT TAKES A VILLAGE: THE DYNAMICS OF COMMUNAL PRAYER

Judaism’s prioritization of communal prayer is perplexing. If prayer is to provide individual hearts and souls with a voice to communicate personally to G‑d, to facilitate contemplation and reflection and to advance a relationship with the Divine, then private settings seem more appropriate than clustered halls.

 

This lesson scrutinizes the function of communal prayer. It identifies critical elements missing from praying solo, thus making group praying indispensable to achieving our ultimate goals in prayer. It also examines practical approaches for balancing the profoundly personal aspects of prayer with the critical communal elements, allowing a worshipper the best of both approaches.