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The How & Why of Jewish Prayer

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The How & Why of Jewish Prayer

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The How & Why of Jewish Prayer
A Guidebook for Men and Women
The Mechanics of Jewish Prayer Including Its Laws, Customs, Rituals & Instructions
By Israel Rubin
Arba Kanfot Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-965-91618-0-5

Reviewed by Boris Segel - February 1, 2012

The How & Why of Jewish Prayer is an essential guidebook on the halachos (laws) of Jewish prayer. It is a guidebook that not only explains how we are suppose to prayer, but how to go about doing it. For example, if you are late in arriving at shul and the prayers have already started, do you always know what prayers you need to say and when? After studying this book, you will! Encyclopedic in scope, this book covers just about everything from advice on how to enhance your concentration during prayer to the organization, history, and the minhag (customs) that are followed in the various types of Siddiurim (prayerbooks).

Written by Israel Rubin, The How & Why of Jewish Prayer is written in a clear and concise style that is accessible to not only those who are already familiar with the Jewish liturgy, but those who are just beginning to embrace Jewish prayer and related rituals, such as the laying on of Tefillin and wearing a Tallit. Rubin was meticulous in researching and writing this book, and he adheres throughout to orthodox traditions. Rubin has worked with Ba'alei Teshuva (returnees to Judaism) for more than 20 years, he attended Mesivtah Chaim Berlin, and is the author of four other books, including A Stone Speaks and Who Were the Krymchaki?

The information in this guidebook is organized into twelve main sections covering: As you can see from the above list of categories, the information in this text is both comprehensive and encyclopedic in nature - even so it does not cover all the Halachic issues related to the prayers - nor is it meant to. (A book that covered all the Halacha related to Jewish prayer would require many volumes to complete. As it is, this book is more than 730 pages in length.) According the book's preface, this text is intended to "... give the reader a basic familiarity with the synagogue service and with the movements and actions associated with Jewish prayer." To this end, the Rubin has more than succeeded in meeting the stated purpose of the book. He has crafted a wonderfully adroit and informative text that admirably explores the 'how' of Jewish prayer, while also providing information of the 'why' aspects, as well.

Throughout, the text is present in English and fully accessible to adults who are new to study and application of Jewish prayer. At the same time, this text is also detailed enough to provide keen, and sometimes even new, insights to those who are already familiar with the prayers and the Jewish way of praying. In addition, Rubin has included a plethora of appendices and additional information that makes this an excellent education tool for educators and students alike. Some of the appendices include an overview of the Jewish calendar and Jewish life cycle events, a look at women's obligation to pray, the structure and nature of the Berachah (blessings), and many more. Rubin has also included handy glossary and list of abbreviations used in the text, along with a bibliography.

The How & Why of Jewish Prayer is an amazingly informative and inspirational text. It is obviously a work of love and great scholarship, and is an ideal text for anyone who wishes to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Jewish prayer.

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