Monday, October 31, 2016

Worship of the Heart

The Rav’s Worship of the Heart, as the title implies, explores the emotive elements of Jewish prayer. The Rav examines the general aspects of prayer in such essay as “Prayer and the Medium of Religious Experience” and “The Human Condition and Prayer.”  He also explores specifically Jewish prayer themes in essays like "Intention (Kavvanah) in Reading Shema and in Prayer," and "Reflections on the Amida."

The Rav’s writings are always heavy on halakhah.  As the first sentence of the introduction explains  “[a] hallmark of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s approach is his insistence on elucidating Judaism from within the sources of Halakhah.”  And indeed he does.  So, this is not an easy read.  He is an analytical writer, completely at home in the world of the intellect.  That said, there are passages where the Rav waxes on the love of G-d as any good mystic or Chasid would do (often while explaining passages from the Rambam):

“It is not a coincidence that Judaism, in describing the relationship between man and God, has taken advantage of a very rich reservoir of sexual symbolism, similes, and metaphors…. Man’s love of God [is compared] to a love-sick individual whose mind is at no time free of his passion for a particular woman… God fascinates and charms, beckons and whispers like the fairest of lovers.”

But such rhapsodies are rare in this collection  This is a religious inspired analytical examination of prayer.  The reader must bring a forcused mind and steady attention to this book.

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