• September 20, 2020
  • 2 5781, Tishrei
  • פרשת האזינו

Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer

Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer

Join Rabbi Jeffrey Saks for a survey of Jewish prayer as discussed in Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s thought and religious philosophy.

October 23, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 1
Class description

INTRODUCTION: This semester we’ll be exploring some of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s teachings on Jewish prayer. I strongly recommend getting the book Worship of the Heart.  For the first session we’ll look at the Rav’s grandfather, Reb Chaim Brisker’s well-known teaching on the meaning of kavvana (intention in prayer), which serves as a groundwork for much of what we’ll be learning over the next number of weeks. For anyone that would like a general intro to the Rav’s biography and thought, listen to THIS archived shiur.

October 30, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 2
Class description

REB CHAIM ON PRAYER: Thanks to all of you who have joined us for the new series on Rabbi Soloveitchik and Prayer. Next time we will get into the analysis of the Rav’s grandfather Reb Chaim zt”l, who examines the dual nature of kavvana. Please consider the questions I laid out at the end of the previous session – I’d be glad for your thoughts by email in advance. Attached is a chapter from Worship of the Heart, which I had suggested you get hold of. While I’m unlikely to get to it in the coming session, attached is a chapter on Shema and kavvana, but that should give you at least 2 weeks to read it yourselves. I neglected to mention the publication of the Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur, which is an English-Hebrew prayer book containing the Rav’s commentary anthologized on the prayers. I’m not likely to make direct use of it in our series, but bring it to your attention. Finally, here are links to some of things I mentioned last night:

My intro lecture to the Rav’s life and thought.

My essay on the Rav’s presentation of the Brisker Method.

R. Yonason Hughes’ book Understanding Reb Chaim.

Handouts
November 6, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 3
Class description

THE RAV RESPONDS TO REB CHAIM: In the next session we will explore the Rav’s position on the teaching of his grandfather, Reb Chaim, which we studied in our last class.

November 13, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 4
Class description

PRAYERFUL LIFE: Take a look at the attached short passage from the end of the first section of Halakhic Man – how does it fit in with the Rav’s concept of prayer we have been sketching until now.

November 20, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 5
Class description

KAVVANA & SHEMA: Attached (once again) is the chapter on Shema from Worship of the Heart, which I hope will occupy us over the next couple of weeks.

Handouts
November 27, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 6
Class description

KAVVANNA (CONT.): We’ll continue in this essay. Please try to read ahead (we left off on p. 93).

Handouts
December 4, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 7
Class description

MORE ON SHEMA VS. TEFILLAH: We’ll continue comparing Shema vs. Tefillah in this essay (from p. 97 and on). The pdf of Aryeh Kaplan’s “Jewish Meditation” is linked in the resources. Anyone interested in and needing a quick tutorial on Buber’s “I and Thou” should see THIS page and the links there.

December 18, 2012 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 8
Class description

This week we will finish our discussion of Shema vs. Tefillah in this essay.

January 15, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 9
Class description

We will be continue our study of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s teachings on tefillah (Jewish prayer), with another essay from the volume Worship of the Heart entitled “Reflections on the Amidah”.

Handouts
January 22, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 10
Class description

SOURCES OF PRAYER:  As we continue in this essay “Reflections on the Amidah” please try to read ahead (at least through p. 152). Again, this is a translation of an essay first published in 1978 entitled רעיונות על התפילה which appears in THIS Hebrew volume.

January 29, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 11
Class description

SOURCES OF PRAYER (2): Continuing with “Reflections on the Amidah”  – you may wish to review Berakhot 26b about the origins of the Amida.

February 5, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 12
Class description

PRAYERFUL STANCE: Continuing with “Reflections on the Amidah”  – on the “Prayerful Stance Before God”. Try to read at least through p. 155 and also first 2 halakhot of Rambam’s Hilkhot Yesodei HaTorah chapter 2 – HERE in English and Hebrew.

Handouts
February 12, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 13
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GEVUROT: Continuing in this essay with an analysis of the 2nd blessing of the Amida.

Handouts
May 7, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 14
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OPENING STRUCTURE OF AMIDAH: I’m looking forward to resuming our study of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s teachings about prayer – we’ll be picking up in the middle of this essay starting from section starting on p. 163.  You might be interested in THIS essay I wrote in the Jerusalem Post on Rav Soloveitchik and the 2013 elections for Israel’s Chief Rabbi.

Handouts
May 21, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 15
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PRAYER AND LIFE: Continuing from page 164 in this essay.

May 28, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 16
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PRAYER AND SURRENDER: Continuing from p. 168 in this essay on the real meaning of “sacrifice” and how it relates to prayer. Re: items mentioned last time – see attached for Berakhot 26b (should you need to review), and here’s the Tevya clip. The other essays I mentioned where the Rav expands on some of the themes we’ve been discussing – “Redemption, Prayer, Talmud Torah”; “Catharsis”; and “Majesty and Humility” can all be downloaded HERE. For those interested in doing further reading I recommend R Ziegler’s book, Majesty and Humility.

Handouts
June 4, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 17
Class description

DEPENDENCE AND PETITION: Continuing from p. 172 in this essay – what does it mean to be dependent on God and to ask Him to fulfill our needs?

June 18, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 19
Class description

WHY PRAISE AND THANKS?: Continuing from p. 175 in this essay – why does petition prayer need to be “sandwiched” between praising God at the outset and thinking Him at the end? — Regarding the topic we’ve been discussing until now – the centrality of petitionary prayer, see: “Destiny, Freedom and the Logic of Petition” by R. Shalom Carmy. What is the purpose of petitionary prayer? Is it coherent to pray for that which God has already promised? How do we deal with the thorny issue of prayers which seem to go un-answered? Rabbi Carmy builds upon Rabbi Soloveitchik’s idea that petition enables us to realize our true needs. This starting point helps us understand the “prayer of destiny” where a person prays for something already divinely promised. When the avot and imahot (biblical patriarchs and matriarchs) prayed for children, they internalized the significance of offspring and of passing on the mesorah. Of course, the same applies to the “prayer of freedom” where a person prays without any prior guarantees. How does a person learn about the worth of a specific personal need if Hashem does not clearly answer the petition? Rabbi Carmy explains that a person must sometimes proceed without clear answers. There exists no “unambiguous formula” for existence. Hannah did not give up her desire for children nor did Avraham despair of losing Yitzhak on the way to the akedah. These goals retained their validity even as other religious duties called. In Rabbi Carmy’s words, “Life is not treated as a problem requiring a solution, but as a mystery summoning the individual to an encounter with God.” Tradition 24:2 (1989): 17-37 at this link: http://www.atid.org/resources/carmy/destiny.asp

Handouts
June 25, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 20
Class description

CONCLUSION – PART 1: We will conclude our reading of “Reflections on the Amida” – last chance to finish reading it if you haven’t.

July 2, 2013 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Soloveitchik on Prayer: Lesson 21
Class description

CONCLUSION – PART 2: In our final session we will summarize the themes we’ve explored over this series and will also come back to the theme of petitionary prayer as discussed in R Shalom Carmy’s essay available HERE or his other essay HERE.

Rabbi Jeffrey Saks is the founding director of ATID – The Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions in Jewish Education, in Jerusalem, and its WebYeshiva.org program. He is the Editor of the journal Tradition, Series Editor of The S.Y. Agnon Library at The Toby Press, and Director of Research at the Agnon House in Jerusalem. A three-time graduate of Yeshiva University (BA, MA, Semicha), Rabbi Saks has published widely on Jewish thought, education, and literature (see www.webyeshiva.org/rabbisaks).