Moses is said to have prayed to HaShem 515 times-the numerical value (gematria) of va’eschanan-to be allowed to enter the Promised land. (Midrash Rabbah)
According to Rashi, there are 10 words for prayer. The Midrash Rabbah lists them as:
(Tefillah must be the 10th? I count only 9 there.)
Tefillah (prayer) is derived from the Hebrew l’hitpalel, meaning to judge oneself.
Yiddish daven (to pray) id derived from the same root as divine.
What does this say about the nature of Jewish prayer? (discussion)
What makes Jewish prayer Jewish?
Prayer is an obligation, a mitzvah. Not only is there the traditional obligation to pray three times a day, but we are constantly praying! There is a bracha for everything, from putting on new clothes to seeing a rainbow! This takes us out of ourselves for a moment and reconnects us with something greater in the universe.
Discussion: How does prayer as a mitzvah differ from ordinary prayer?
Prayer is said aloud and at least partially in Hebrew. Even the Shemonah Esreh, the so-called Silent Prayer is actually said in a whisper. Though the Talmud states that the vernacular is acceptable for prayer, most Jews know at least one prayer in Hebrew. Even in the most Reform Temples, prayers are now said partially in Hebrew, then translated into the vernacular.
Discussion: What was the first Hebrew prayer you learned (or if you don’t know one, would like to learn)?
Prayer is done communally and formally. Traditionally, a minyan (a quoron of 10) is needed to daven, when praying communally. Why 10? Several answers: derived from the first verse of psalm 82:
“God stands in the congregation of God.” Also comes from the 10 spies sent into the Promised Land. And, 10 was considered an auspicious number in ancient Judaism.
Discussion: What are the benefits of communal prayer?
What are the benefits of formal prayer?
End of class general discussion: what does it mean YOU to pray as a Jew?