A Jewish Time Machine: Connecting Past, Present and Future

 

The siddur is not just a prayerbook.  It is really a Jewish time machine, but one that actually works. A regular time machine, like in the movies, transports you to different eras. A Jewish time machine brings different eras through you.

Allow me to explain. This may take some time. The siddur that we use today contains prayers that Jews have said for over a thousand years. The two essential prayers, the Shema and the Amidah (Shemoneh Esrai) are over two thousand years old.

When we say these prayers we are saying the exact words that Jews throughout our history have said. I like to think that we are giving voice to all our ancestors. We are bringing their spirit into our own time. I think they would have been thrilled to know that Jews pray in a way that would still be largely recognizable to them.

This is why I think there is value in praying in Hebrew even if you do not necessarily understand the words. Prayer is about the heart, and the heart understands. The translation certainly helps with the content, but I love the fact that Jews from all generations could get together in one place, and even if they could not have a conversation, could at least pray together.

The siddur is about the future, too. I believe that if we really could travel through time, and go into the future, we may not recognize a lot of what we see, but we could go into a synagogue, and immediately respond to what was happening.

In many ways, what we do today creates that future. I know it is not easy sometimes to connect to the words, or that the Hebrew can feel distant. In reality, though, it is those words that really connect our people across every country and throughout all time. Just being at a service brings together all ancestors and our future generations to come.

The siddur is not just a prayerbook.  It is really a Jewish time machine, but one that actually works. A regular time machine, like in the movies, transports you to different eras. A Jewish time machine brings different eras through you.

Allow me to explain. This may take some time. The siddur that we use today contains prayers that Jews have said for over a thousand years. The two essential prayers, the Shema and the Amidah (Shemoneh Esrai) are over two thousand years old.

When we say these prayers we are saying the exact words that Jews throughout our history have said. I like to think that we are giving voice to all our ancestors. We are bringing their spirit into our own time. I think they would have been thrilled to know that Jews pray in a way that would still be largely recognizable to them.

This is why I think there is value in praying in Hebrew even if you do not necessarily understand the words. Prayer is about the heart, and the heart understands. The translation certainly helps with the content, but I love the fact that Jews from all generations could get together in one place, and even if they could not have a conversation, could at least pray together.

The siddur is about the future, too. I believe that if we really could travel through time, and go into the future, we may not recognize a lot of what we see, but we could go into a synagogue, and immediately respond to what was happening.

In many ways, what we do today creates that future. I know it is not easy sometimes to connect to the words, or that the Hebrew can feel distant. In reality, though, it is those words that really connect our people across every country and throughout all time. Just being at a service brings together all ancestors and our future generations to come.

 

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