Foto: Matthias Friel
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In this course we shall focus on the various varieties of genres present in Jewish liturgy. What difference does it make if the genre is blessing, praise of poetry? To answer the question we shall look closer at examples of these genres. What is a blessing? We shall look at literary features, matters of practice, and theological implications. Similar exercises in analysis and interpretation will reveal the rich heterogeneity of liturgical practices, inside and outside the Siddur.
Ehrlich, “When You Pray, Know Before Whom You Are Standing”
Langer, “Sinai, Zion, and God in the Synagogue”
R. Nahman of Braslav, Teachings
Petuchowski, “Speaking of God”
Scholem, “Tradition and New Creation in the Ritual of the Kabbalists”
The course will be taught in English. Primary texts will be available in Hebrew and English. This course is partially based on lectures and therefore (virtual) attendance and note taking is crucial. We will read primary sources (the Siddur) as well as secondary, scholarly texts. The text of the Siddur in Hebrew and English will be made available digitally. This feature will also ensure that we are on the same page, literally speaking (at least!). Students are expected to participate in class discussions based on the reading assignments. There will be some brief writing exercises and presentations. A five page final essay is to be submitted at the end of the course.
The course draws attention to the rich variety of literary forms present in the siddur and in Jewish liturgy beyond the siddur. Different forms exemplify different modes of understanding the act of prayer. Attention to these dimensions may reveal theologies of prayer that range from philosophical to theurgic. The seemingly simple and common word ‘prayer’ opens up to a multiplicity of discourses, practices, and theologies.
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