Undercurrents of Jewish Prayer by Jeremy SchonfieldUndercurrents of Jewish Prayer by Jeremy Schonfield

Undercurrents of Jewish Prayer

byJeremy Schonfield

Paperback | November 8, 2007

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Traditional Jews encounter the prayer-book - the Siddur - more often in their daily lives than any other text, yet it is mysteriously absent from their otherwise nearly comprehensive curriculum of study. In addition, they tend to recite it mantrically, more for its sound than its meaning. Theneglect of meaning is so complete that no edition of the prayer-book has yet appeared with a comprehensive range of commentaries. The present work, the first to examine this paradox, explains it as a reluctance to engage with the intellectual and emotional questions that lie just beneath the surfaceof the text. An analysis of the opening sequences of the daily ritual reveals that the prayer-book, far from representing one side of a deferential dialogue with an attentive deity, actually challenges God to allow access to the revelation on which human safety depends and to keep his side of thecovenant. Confronting the chaotic unpredictability of the human condition, this undercurrent of protest allows Jews to question why God's urgently needed intervention seems absent. Anger at this apparent absence is qualified only by gratitude at being alive.The core of this book consists of a novel examination of the opening sections of the traditional daily morning liturgy according to the Ashkenazi rite. The analysis is based on mostly untranslated medieval and later commentaries identifying the biblical and rabbinic echoes from which the liturgy iswoven, and employs analytical methods of the kind traditionally applied to talmudic and midrashic texts. It shows how each citation and echo imports aspects of its original context into the new composition, forming a countertext to the words on the page. It examines each textual layer, as well asthe surface meaning that is usually the only one to be noted, and relates these to the speaker's actual location - home and later the synagogue - as well as to the time of day when the prayers are recited, as the worshipper faces the dangers of the day ahead. The resulting chorus of ideas - linkingeveryday life to the sacred narrative from creation to exile - demonstrates the philosophical sophistication of rabbinic spirituality in offering poetic insight into an ultimately tragic vision of reality.
Jeremy Schonfield, who was born in London and is the son and grandson of rabbis, studied comparative literature and worked in archaeology in Israel and in publishing in London before becoming involved in Jewish education. He received a PhD from the University of Cambridge, and is now both Mason Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew ...
Title:Undercurrents of Jewish PrayerFormat:PaperbackDimensions:414 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:November 8, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1904113729

ISBN - 13:9781904113720

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Editorial Reviews

"Schonfield asserts his undeniable right to be accepted into the first rank of Jewish liturgical scholars ... no-one who completes this superb book will be able to look at a prayer book in the same way again." --Charles Middleburgh, Jewish Chronicle