Category Archives: Tefila


Jewish prayers to recite on Thanksgiving


(A) “Thanksgiving Day” “Gates of the House: The New Union Home Prayerbook”, p.79, CCAR, 1977, Ed. Chaim Stern.

(B) Some rabbis have proposed this order of tefilot: Page numbers are from “Siddur Sim Shalom” (Ed. Jules Harlow, 1985). Most of these readings can also be found in the Rabbinical Assembly’s “Weekday Prayer Book” (Ed. Gershon Hadas), the “Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book” (Ed. Morris Silverman.), “Siddur Hadash” (Ed. Sidney Greenberg) and the newer versions of Siddur Sim Shalom.

a) Pslam 100 (Mizmor L’Todah) [p.60]

b) Prayer for Thanksgiving. p.816. One version has verses from Psalms, Ben Sirah/Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah

c) “America: Founded on Biblical precepts”, p.821-823. Verses from the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and Biblical verses which inspired these documents.

d) Shulkan Orekh: The Thanksgiving meal

f) End with the traditional grace after meals (Birkat HaMazon)

Also see:

A Seder for Thanksgiving, by Reform Rabbi Phyllis Sommer
A Prayer for Thanksgiving By Rabbi Rick Jacobs (URJ)


Many in the right-wing Orthodox Jewish hold that there are theological and halakhic issues with Jews observing Thanksgiving as a holiday – as “observing a holiday” is a specific theological and halakhic issue within Judaism. This isn’t an issue of fundamentalists attacking secular culture; they are asking some deep questions about (a) what does it mean when the government asks us to observe a holiday, (b) especially one involving prayer, and (c) does accepting this annual celebration as obligatory become tantamount to adding a new holiday to the Jewish calendar?  The great majority of religious Jews in Modern Orthodoxy, Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism accept Thanksgiving as valid and meaningful. An overview of the issue is here.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin suggests that Jews should not say tachanun (penitential supplications) during Shacharit (morning prayers) on Thanksgiving.

Question: What would Jews celebrate Thanksgiving, as we give thanks every day in our prayers?

Answer: Jews have three separate Thanksgiving / harvest festivals in Judaism: Shavuot (feast of weeks), Sukkot (feast of tabernacles) and Pesach (Passover). The first Thanksgiving was actually based on Sukkot by the Pilgrims, who were very much influenced by the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible.)

Question: Why commemorate a holiday instituded by Pilgrims, as they were Protestant Christians, who neither shared our faith, nor shared our belief in religious and national freedom?

Answer: It is true that first Protestants that came here were not seeking a country in which to have religious freedom, but rather to have religious freedom for themselves only. All other religions, including all other forms of Christianity were anathema to them. Their thanksgiving was on July 8, 1630, and marked the first Thanksgiving of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. However – and this is not well known – this was only the beginning of an evolutionary process. That event is actually _not_ the Thanksgiving festival that we observe today.

Over a century later, the first issue of the First Continental Congress as they met at Carpenters Hall was “Can we open the business with prayer?” Despite their diversity of religions, after fierce debate, inspired by delegate Sam Adams, their first official act was prayer. The First Prayer Proclamation of 1775 asked the whole continent to set aside a day to pray and fast together. It had an electric effect, uniting the American people in spirit, a year before the Declaration of Independence.

The next act in the evolution of Thanksgiving was from the era of President George Washington. A few months after his inauguration, he issued “Presidential Proclamation Number One”, his Thanksgiving. He voiced his personal conviction that “it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God.” His last Thanksgiving in 1795 captures a nobility never exceeded by any president when he asks God to: “…impart all the blessing we posses, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.”

Thanksgiving was celebrated by Americans for a number of years, but eventually fell into disuse. Then in 1863 president Abraham Lincoln wrote, “We have been recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven…we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown, but we have forgotten God.” He restored the neglected Presidential proclamations of prayer and thanksgiving during the tragic years of Civil War. “Intoxicated with unbroken success,” he wrote, “we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and reserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” Lincoln issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation in many years; since then every President has issued at least one a year. And it is _this_ which is the root of the modern Thanksgiving.

Some material quoted and adapted from the Thanksgiving Square homepage:


America’s Biblical Heritage

From Siddur Sim Shalom

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Constitution of the United States
Justice, justice shall you pursue,
That you may thrive in the land
Which Adonai your God gives you.
– Deuteronomy 16:20
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
– The Bill of Rights
Proclaim liberty through the land for all of its inhabitants.
– Leviticus 25:10
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
– The Declaration of Independence
Have we not all one Creator? Has not one God created us?
– Malakhi 2:10
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.
Abraham Lincoln – Second Inaugural Address
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not lift sword against nation,
and they shall not again experience war.
People shall dwell under their own vines, under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid.
– Micah 4:3-4.
Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays

Friday Night Shabbat service

Temple Beth Abraham
Friday Night Shabbat service for Kitah He  ה (grade 5)
Teacher מוֹרָה Wasylyshyn

Temple Beth Abraham

Kabbalat Shabbat (קַבָּלַת שַׁבָּת)

Shalom Aleikhen p.13

Yedid Nefesh p.14

Pslam 95 / L’chu Niran’nah p.15  L’chu Niranina melody

Pslam 96 / Shiru Ladonai p.16 Shiru Ladonai, B’nai Jeshurun style

Pslam 97 / Adonai Melekh Tagel Ha’aretz p.17

Pslam 98 / Shiru Ladonai Shir Chadash p. 18 Shiru Ladonai, B’nai Jeshurun style

Pslam 99 / Adonai Melekh p.19

Pslam 29 / Havu Ladonai p.20

L’kha Dodi p.21 L’kha Dodi (one of the classic upbeat tunes)

Pslam 92 /  Tov Lihodot p.23

Pslam 93 / Adonai Melekh p.24

Kadish Yatom (Mourner’s Kadish) p.27

Ma’ariv (מַעֲרִיב)

Blessing one’s children p. 310

Bar’khu p.28

K’kriat Sh’ma p.30

Emet Ve’emunah p.32

Mi’chamocha p.32

Hashkivenu p.33

V’shamru p.34

Hatzi Kadish p.34

Amidah for Shabbat p.35

Shalom Rav Al Yisrael p. 38

Va-y’khulu Hashamayim p.47

Magen Avot p.47

Kadish Shalem (Full kaddish) p.48

Kiddush for Shabbat p.49

Aleinu p.51

Kadish Yatom (Mourner’s Kaddish) p.52

Yigdal p.53

Adon Olam p.54





Siddur Sim Shalom

Siddur Sim Shalom refers to any siddur in a family of siddurim published by the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. How do they differ from Orthodox siddurim?

Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays

Changes and innovations in “Siddur Sim Shalom” (1985) and in “Siddur Sim
Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals” (1997)

Birkhot HaShakhar – Morning Blessings: Three of the early morning berakhot were modified to praise God for having created each individual in God’s image, a free person and a Jew, rather than the conventional version which express gratitude for not having been created a woman, a slave or a non-Jew.

Birchot Hashachar morning blessings

Conventionally Birkhot HaShakhar contains a number of passages describing sacrifices in ancient times which can only be recalled, but not carried out. This section on sacrifices is much shorter in Conservative siddurim; In their place is the Talmudic teaching that deeds of loving-kindness now atone for sin; they draw upon rabbinic tradition to emphasize teachings about atonement and necessary behavior. [Harlow]

Texts that have been added to this part of the service include Leviticus 19:2, 14-18, Avot de Rabbi Nathan, 11a and Tractate Sukkah 49b.

An innovation in Conservative prayer books is a liturgical response to the creation of the modern State of Israel. It was felt that this should be made in a manner which is integral to the fabric of the service; Such a liturgical model already existed: Al HaNissim, which is added to the service on Purim on Chanukah. Thus a new, third Al HaNissim was composed, adapting the language and style of the standard Hebrew text to produce a text that is used on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. A Torah and Haftarah reading for this day is also indicated.

Recalling Sacrifices in the Musaf Amidah: “Siddur Sim Shalom” presents multiple alternatives for the Shabbat Musaf; the Orthodox version which explicitly prays for the resumption of animal sacrifice in a rebuilt Temple is not one of them.  Siddur Sim Shalom changes the phrase na’ase ve’nakriv (we will present and sacrifice) to asu ve’hikrivu (they presented and sacrificed). The petition to accept the “fire offerings of Israel” is removed from the Amidah.

“Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals” does not present multiple
services; it presents one musaf for Shabbat, for festivals, and for Rosh
Hodesh. Within each service, the reader is offered a traditional text, as
well as an alternative text which eliminates mention of sacrifices. The
traditional Y’hi Ratzon meditation (“May it be your will, Adonai our God,
and God of our Ancestors, that the Temple be restored in our day…”)
following the Musaf Amidah is restored.

Other changes in Musaf: Following the view of Rav Saadiah Gaon, the Hebrew word ba-olam (in the world) is added to the daily prayer for peace at the end of the Amidah, making explicit the traditional Jewish concern for universal peace.

Tahanun – supplications following the weekday morning Amidah. The earliest
sources about saying Tahanun is from the Tosefta in Berakhot; The Geonim
viewed this section as optional, the contents were flexible as well. In his
Siddur Maimonides also makes it clear that there are various customs and he
is merely citing his own custom. [Golinkin]  Originally this point in the
service was considered appropriate for the personal supplications of each
individual, and it still is. Over the years, however, certain stylized
passages were printed as the fixed text; these contain references to the
physical desolation of Jerusalem and statements of extreme self-abasement.
To reflect present reality, such statements have been deleted, other
passages have adapted or abridged, and brief portions of supplications by
Rav Amram and Rav Saadiah Gaon have been added. These are closer to us in
spirit than many passages of later origin which were canonized by the
printing press. One’s own prayers are appropriate, and traditional.

Egalitarian Hebrew formulations: The language of liturgical formulas in
Siddur Sim Shalom reflects the reality that in many congregations both men
and women participate in the service. Some prayers include references to
both the patriarchs and the matriarchs. Passages designed for use on Simchat
Torah include texts appropriate for formally designating women as well as
men as honorees on that occasion.  The prayer on behalf of the congregation
(recited after the Torah reading on Shabbat) has been emended to reflect the
fact that women as well as men are members of the congregation. The Mi
Sheberakh prayers contain forms for both male and female readers. The
meditations prior to putting on the tallit and tefillin provide masculine
and feminine forms. [Harlow and Rubenstein]

Some Hasidic influence appears in Siddur Sim Shalom. The blessing for the new moon (kiddush levanah) appears at the end of the Sabbath liturgy. Another mystical element is the Raza DeShabbat, the “Vision of Shabbat”, which precedes the Sabbath evening service. Taken from the Zohar, this passage depicts the enthronement of the Shekhinah. [Raza DeShabbat is only in the 1985 edition ]

Several of the alternative meditations which follow the amidot stress joy, and request freedom from atzvit (sorrow) in classic Hasidic fashion. In fact, a number of these passages are based on the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. Some benedictions for mitzvot are preceded by kavanot (meditations) which were introduced into the liturgy by the Kabbalists. [Rubenstein]


David Golinkin “Siddur Sim Shalom – A Halakhic Analysis”_Conservative
Judaism_ Vol.41(1) Fall 1988 p.38-55

Jules Harlow “Introducing Siddur Sim Shalom” _Conservative Judaism_
Vol.37(4) Summer 1984 p.5-17

Isaac Klein “A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice” JTSA, New York, 1992

Jeffrey Rubestein “Siddur Sim Shalom and Developing Conservative Theology”
_Conservative Judaism_ Vol. 41(1) Fall 1988 p.21-37

Jeffrey Rubestein “Ethics and the Liturgy of the Conservative Movement”
_Judaism_ Winter 1991 Vol.40(1) p.95-114



A Blessing for the Images from Pluto

A Blessing for our awe of what we are discovering at Pluto
– What a great article from Coffee Shop Rabbi 🙂

Coffee Shop Rabbi

Today the NASA spaceship New Horizons will fly past Pluto and snap the closest images ever taken of that heavenly body. I thought some of you might like to learn the appropriate blessing for seeing natural wonders.

Baruch atah Adonai, Elohaynu Melech ha’Olam, she’ka’kha lo b’olamo.

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of Time-and-Space, who has such creations in Your world.

(The image featured with this article is in the public domain. It was taken by the New Horizons ship on its approach.)

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The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל

The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל.

Shulamit Magnus writes that:
The organization known as “The Women of the Wall” has radically shifted gears and has a different goal than the one for which this group (the original Women of the Wall) was founded and for which it fought– and won. What they are now after is egalitarian, mixed prayer at a five-star Robinson’s Arch, at which the Reform and Conservative movements will have recognition. For this, they have given up the goal of women’s pluralistic, inclusive tefilla at the kotel [the Western Wall]. They are using this cause to advance different goals; they have given up the independent, autonomous women’s movement and are allied with those movements.

We warmly support, the right of Jews who wish to make a new prayer site at Robinson’s Arch, or anywhere else. While we think it would be a terrible, short-sighted, mistake to cede the Kotel, the historic holy site of the Jewish people, to any segment of Jewry to run as its private preserve, with the right to exclude other Jews, if Conservative and Reform Jews wish the deal, outlined above, for themselves, we wish them well.

What we reject is the right of anyone, in those movements, in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) establishment, or in the Government of Israel, to trample our legally recognized rights as Jewish women to full, religious expression at the Kotel.

Religious coercion is not what we normally associate with those movements, with “progressive” Judaism in general—or with feminism. But that is an intrinsic part of this deal and those negotiating it are party to that. Efforts to dismiss our position as that of a “few” individuals is a knowing distortion among many being asserted, amid patronizing, paternalistic mischaracterizations.

Basic principles are not negotiable. Upholding them is about integrity, vision, and fundamental commitments. Jews know this well. We have done it for thousands of years, which is why we are still around. We are about fresh, new visions of and for Judaism and for Jews, women and men, and respect for historic legal pronouncements that recognize the religious rights of Jewish women at the Kotel. These must be enacted fully on the ground, becoming the base for holy, new possibilities for the Jewish people in Jewish sacred space—for true wholeness– shelemut—literally, “integrity.”  To this path, we are committed, and on it, we proceed.

via The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל.

Why This Orthodox Woman Wears a Tallit

from the JOFA Journal, Fall 2014
The Road To Wearing A Tallit: Why This Orthodox Woman Wears a Tallit, By Bat Sheva Marcus

Photo courtesy Women of the Wall

Photo courtesy Women of the Wall

I will never forget the first time I saw a woman wearing a tallit. I was twenty-seven years old, living in Israel, and attending the first International Conference on Women and Judaism. I came early, stumbled into the “wrong” room, and came upon a room full of women praying. Many had on tallitot, tefillin, and kippot. I thought I was going to throw up. To me, it looked awful. It looked like a mockery of everything I loved. It seemed to me a caricature of the pictures I held close to my heart of my father standing in a faintly lit room in the early morning, wrapped in tallit and tefillin. I backed out of the room and went into the ladies’ room to calm down. Even then, I was rational enough to be annoyed at myself for my violent overreaction.

So here I am, twenty-five years later, a tallit wearer. I often marvel at the transitions we go through in our lives.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when my feelings began to change. When my sense of disgust transformed itself into an indefinable longing. When I began to look over the mehitzah at my husband wrapped in his white tallit and find that I too wished I could be wrapped in white, feeling cool cotton transport my existence into a space of holiness. But somewhere and somehow my feelings had changed. Maybe it was partly that as I got older, the “right way” to do something often seemed less clear. Meeting different people, discussing issues openly, somehow I found out that in so many areas of my life, right and wrong were not quite as black and white as I had originally assumed them to be.

Maybe it was also that I couldn’t “seem to get myself into a good space” for tefillah. I grew up in the day school system, praying daily. I grew up in a home where tefillah was expected to be a part of my daily life, even on vacation days. But I never really davened. Usually I daydreamed. Often I moved my lips to mimic the prayers. And then I found myself an adult, no longer praying to fulfill someone else’s expectations, and unable to sustain regular, daily, ongoing prayer.

The agonizing fact was that, philosophically, I believe prayer to be critically important in our lives. It’s a chance, amid the chaos and the self-centeredness of our generation, to stop and thank God for all of the everyday miracles: for our children, our community, and our health. So there I was, thirty-five years old, still struggling with daily prayer and full of frustration and guilt because of it.

And then my daughter was born. If I knew one thing as a parent, it was that if she didn’t see me davening daily, it would be hard, if not ridiculous, to expect her to do so. In my heart of hearts, I knew that if I didn’t want her to grow up with the same struggle, it was time for me to resolve the issue once and for all……

read the rest here:

New Siddur and Machzor from the Rabbinical Assembly

The Lev Shalem series includes
Mahzor Lev Shalem, published in 2010;
and Siddur Lev Shalem for Shabbat & Festivals, to be published in 2015.

Mahzor Lev Shalem has sold over 250,000 copies.  Lev Shalem seeks to embrace the diverse backgrounds and expectations in each of our communities and open doors for every congregant. For the congregant who is familiar with the t’fillah, the mahzor’s running commentary presents both a historical overview and insight into the meaning of prayers. For the congregant who doesn’t know Hebrew, the English translations are close to the meaning of the original and the transliterations are plentiful. For the seeker who comes to services looking for meaning and direction, the mahzor’s rich ­assortment of readings includes classic piyyutim that appear in Conservative publications for the first time; Hasidic stories and reflections; and quotes from Abraham Joshua Heschel, Martin Buber, contemporary Israeli and American poets, and leading rabbis in the Conservative movement and beyond. And with abundant readings that focus on spiritual issues and tikkun olam,Mahzor Lev Shalem speaks to the contemporary concerns of our congregants.

Siddur Lev Shalem follows on the heels of Mahzor Lev Shalem. Like the Mahzor, it includes a new translation in contemporary language, a commentary providing both historical context and conveying the spiritual meaning of the text and kavannot, poetry and prose enlarging our relation to the text. As an RA member remarked, Mahzor Lev Shalem “stretches us in two directions: it is both more traditional and more contemporary than any previous Conservative mahzor.” The new siddur continues with this approach: we’ve looked at each service, thinking through how it was put together, how the tradition around it developed, what customs were dropped that can be reincorporated, and what contemporary ideas can respond to the text. – Rabbi Ed Feld, senior editor, Siddur Lev Shalem